Backs to the wall, Aggies steal win
Published: Monday, October 8, 2012
Updated: Monday, October 8, 2012 01:10
The Aggie offense took the field with 8:35 left in the fourth quarter, down by ten and holding not a sliver of momentum. Following last season’s second half debacles, many Aggie fans would consider a comeback at this juncture to be out of the question.
Led by redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel, however, A&M was able to rack up 13 points on two consecutive drives, pushing the program to a victory during its conference road debut against Ole Miss, 30-27.
“We didn’t play as well as we wanted,” head coach Kevin Sumlin said following the win. “But for us to operate, come in [to Oxford], and turn the ball over like that on the road in the SEC and win is something that I think our team can build confidence in.”
Over the course of the game, the Aggies gave the ball up six times, increasing their season total to seven through five games. Manziel, who before Saturday was turnover-less, was responsible for half of the team’s giveaways, throwing two interceptions and fumbling once inside the red zone.
Despite A&M kicking off the game with a 59-yard Ben Malena score, the Aggies were forced to rely on a defensive touchdown just before the half to tie the game at 17.
Until Manziel’s unprecedented scoring frenzy in the final minutes of the matchup, the Rebels dominated the second half. Sophomore quarterback Bo Wallace racked up 305 yards through the air along with one touchdown against a porous A&M secondary.
“We did not play good football today,” senior wide receiver Ryan Swope said. “These guys are just hungry to win and just didn’t want to give up today.”
The Aggies’ two late scoring drives were reminiscent of the Arkansas blowout A&M engineered the previous week. Short on time, Manziel completed three passes for 64 yards and a touchdown while adding a 29-yard scramble to the end zone during the final minutes.
“Right now, we’re just trying to establish an identity as a team,” junior running back Ben Malena said. “We just kept fighting. We never put our head down and we came out with the victory.”
The A&M defense, on the other hand, was able to shut down the potent Ole Miss offense on consecutive drives. Between A&M’s scores, senior linebackers Sean Porter and Jonathan Stewart single-handedly stopped third- and fourth-and-short conversions, granting the Aggie offense its opportunity to take the lead.
On the Rebels’ final chance to squeeze out a win with only a minute remaining, Toney Hurd Jr. stepped in front of a slant pattern and intercepted the ball, effectively ending the game.
Despite allowing 27 points, Hurd said the A&M defense was satisfied with its overall performance, especially while under pressure in the waning seconds of the matchup.
“All year [the defense] has been playing really well,” Hurd Jr. said. “For us to get this big-time win is really big, not only for the defense but for every aspect of our team. We just stayed together as a defense and kept our heads up and found a way to win.”