On the game's biggest stage in the most difficult stadium for a visiting team to win, Johnny Manziel not only held up to the immense pressure, he thrived in it. His 350-yard performance on the surface seems like another day at the office for the Kerrville product until you realize the opposing defense rarely gives up 300 yards to any team much less an individual player. Also, he played a clean game free of turnovers and major mistakes which is critical when slaying the No. 1 Crimson giant. Look, I can go on-and-on with his bobble-in-the-pocket TD throw to Swope or the wobbling fade pass to Malcolme Kennedy for the eventual winning TD, but y'all know it. The nation's media knows it. Heisman voters now know it. Johnny is a playmaker and time to give him the ultimate Scooby snack.
There weren't many big gainers, but I thought the goal line runs by Christine Michael and his ability to get underneath the tacklers waiting for him at the line of scrimmage were critical to converting touchdowns early in the game. If he goes in any higher, A&M doesn't get those touchdowns and who knows what happens in this game.
Johnny Football is getting all of the national headlines, but he isn't going to New York City on his own. You must give these receivers credit. Early in the season, they were dropping balls and seemed a little confused on what to do when their quarterback started extending plays and scrambling in the offensive backfield. Now they have a canny ability to find the open spots. They get the extra yards to the first down marker. They are willing to absorb the big hit and hold on to the ball in critical situations. Little-used Kenric McNeal catches a pass with his fingertips on a crucial post pattern on Saturday.
The offensive line faced the biggest challenge in college football tasked with blocking the most physical defensive line in college football. While the line didn't spring the running backs for many long runs, they were able to neutralize the line of scrimmage and allow the backs to consistently pick up positive yardage and giving the offense reasonable down and distance scenarios on 2nd and 3rd downs.
OVERALL GRADE – OFFENSE A+
The decision to move Spencer Nealy over Alabama center Barrett Jones was a stroke of genius as the senior gave him fits all day. Alabama's physical run game had its moments as Lacey rattled off a couple of 10-15 yard runs, but in the end the Crimson Tide finished with just 122 yards rushing and a 3.9 yard/carry average. Not bad for an undersized and thin defensive line against a very good rushing attack.
Five years ago, A&M offered and signed an unremarkable three-star linebacker prospect named Sean Porter. Now as a senior, Porter has been instrumental in making huge plays for this defense that has played far above where anybody predicted. He made an opening statement on Alabama's first offensive play by stuffing Lacey in the offensive backfield. Whenever there's a big play made by the A&M defense, odds are pretty good that No. 10 is involved. Jonathan Stewart also made several key stops as well.
The defensive secondary was well on its way to an A-plus performance until Howard Matthews lost containment with nine minutes to play allowing Alabama to get back in the game with a 54-yard TD strike. That A-plus looked to be turning into a C or a D when the Crimson Tide hit another long strike down to the 6-yard line with three minutes remaining. But then there was redemption, and the secondary aced the final exam when Dustin Harris made the biggest stop of his career when he popped A.J. McCarron at the two yard line when it appeared he was going in for the go-ahead TD. On the next play, Deshazor Everett stepped in front of McCarron's pass at the goal line to all but secure the victory over No. 1 Bama. I'm not going to completely forget about those two long passes in my final grade, but those last two plays bumped them back into an A-minus.
OVERALL DEFENSIVE GRADE A
Special Teams B
Coverage teams were solid as usual. Field goal kicking was shaky as usual. Punting was about average as usual.
Do I really need to explain why this coaching staff gets a perfect test score of 100 after getting these players ready to play the best team in America at the end of a grueling three week SEC road trip. Give them all some Scooby snacks and a nice little raise.
OVERALL TEAM GRADE A+
Hop's Final Report Card - Alabama
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