TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Johnny Football took down Alabama football, and the Southeastern Conference's streak of national championships could be over.
Texas A&M redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel earned the biggest victory of an already brilliant career Saturday by guiding the No. 15 Aggies to a shocking 29-24 defeat of No. 1 Alabama at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Manziel repeatedly befuddled the nation's top scoring defense, throwing for 253 yards and two touchdowns and rushing for 92 yards and 5.1 yards a carry.
"That was him doing what he does," Crimson Tide linebacker C.J. Moseley said. "That's why he's got the Johnny Football name. He made the plays when he had to."
A former three-star recruit, Manziel staked Texas A&M to a 20-0 lead in the first quarter and finished 24-of-31 passing. With the Aggies nursing a 23-17 lead with 9:10 remaining, Manziel delivered a two-play drive that consisted of a 42-yard pass to Ryan Swope down the right sideline and a 24-yard touchdown throw to Malcome Kennedy.
Alabama, which rallied for a 21-17 win at LSU last week, started another comeback with a 54-yard touchdown pass from AJ McCarron to Amari Cooper with 6:09 to play. McCarron had another 54-yarder, this time to Kenny Bell, to set up a first-and-goal at Texas A&M's 6-yard line, but the Aggies stiffened.
Facing fourth down from the 2 with 1:36 left, McCarron threw over the right side to Bell in the end zone, but Texas A&M cornerback Deshazor Everett stepped in for the interception.
"It was a pick play, and they were in man-to-man," Alabama coach Nick Saban said. "We didn't execute the pick well enough and didn't get the play executed. I'm not going to criticize the call, and I'm like everyone else -- when it doesn't work, I wish we had done something else."
Alabama had a chance to get the ball back with half a minute to play but jumped offside on a hard count as the Aggies were in punt formation on fourth-and-1 from their 13.
The Crimson Tide (9-1, 6-1) can still win the SEC West by defeating hapless Auburn on Nov. 24. Alabama, which hosts Western Carolina this week, began Saturday atop an undefeated first four that included Oregon, Kansas State and Notre Dame.
"Two of the three national championship teams that I've coached lost a game," Saban said. "This team still has an opportunity to win the West, go to the SEC championship game and have a chance to win the championship game. So there is still a lot for this team to play for and a lot for them to set their mind to and commit themselves to."
Said Tide center Barrett Jones: "We can still win the SEC, and that's a big deal. It feels like somebody just died, but we do have a chance to win the SEC, so there's a lot this team can still accomplish."
The Aggies (8-2, 5-2) should clinch a 10-win season in their SEC debut with closing contests against Sam Houston State and Missouri.
"I am happiest for the seniors and the experienced players that have been through a lot in their career," first-year Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin said. "You think about it, they came to Texas A&M and probably never thought about playing at Alabama for a regular-season game and it being a conference game. To go on the road and win like that for those guys, it will be a moment they will never forget."
Texas A&M was close to flawless in the opening quarter, racking up nine first downs and 172 yards while holding the Tide to one first down and 34 yards. The Aggies didn't experience any misfortune until Taylor Bertolet missed the extra point following the third touchdown to keep the score at 20-0.
Manziel had a 29-yard run down the middle of the field to Alabama's 14-yard line to set up Texas A&M's touchdown on its first possession, and he had a 32-yard completion down the middle to Kenric McNeil to the Tide 9 to set up a second touchdown. On the third scoring drive for the Aggies, Manziel ran around left end for 32 yards to Alabama's 27.
Alabama pulled within 20-7 with 10:04 left in the first half on TJ. Yeldon's 2-yard run that capped a 13-play, 75-yard drive. McCarron directed a 10-play, 67-yard scoring drive to get Alabama within 20-14 just before intermission, the first halftime deficit for the Tide since the 2010 loss at South Carolina.
Manziel was 15-of-16 for 118 yards and a touchdown in the first 30 minutes, and he had 82 yards on nine carries.
"I could see that Johnny had a different emotion about him today," Swope said. "We knew what was at stake for us. We knew that we had to take over and start making plays."
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...