Wow, who would believe that Ole Miss-Texas A&M Part Deaux could surpass the excitement from last year's game, but that's exactly what happened. As usual, the offense marched down the field and scored on its first possession, something this offense has done in 17 of Kevin Sumlin's 19 games as coach of the Aggies. Drive two ended in a missed field goal and drive three ended when Trey Williams zig-zagged through the Ole Miss defense for an 18-yard TD run to go up 14-7. However, it was an inconsistent performance after that first quarter drive until the fireworks of the fourth quarter. In fact, other than A&M's touchdown on its first possession of the 3rd quarter, the offense struggled with the run game, the receivers stopped running routes, and Johnny Manziel committed two uncharacteristic turnovers.
Thus, when you look up at the scoreboard with 10:36 remaining in the game, the Aggies found themselves trailing once again in the closing minutes in Oxford. That's when the competitive nature of Johnny Manziel rose to the task. That's also about the time when stay-in-the-pocket Manziel of 2013 left the field, and the riverboat gambler and scrambler Manziel of 2012 returned. It was out of necessity, really. Mike Evans was dinged up and neutralized with double teams. Travis Labhart, who made several big catches in the first half, was also bruised up and hobbling. So Johnny took the bull by the horns and used his feet in critical situations. None was bigger than the 4th and 7 where "little" Johnny Manziel took off with a couple of defenders between him and the first down marker. He makes the first one miss, but he goes full speed into Serderius Bryant without hesitation or care for his health to move the chains and stay alive. The Aggies went on to tie the game at 38-38. After getting the ball back with over two minutes remaining and looking for a game winning drive on the road and a quick strike to Derel Walker, Manziel immediately rushed for 13 and 12 yards to get the ball into field goal range which resulted in the winning kick by Josh Lambo.
It wasn't always pretty, and the offense has certainly played better and more efficient, but Manziel and the offense delivered in crunch time and snatched A&M's tenth straight road win which ties a school record. That's the bottom-line anytime you go on the road in the SEC. .
I went back and forth with how I would grade Manziel this week. On the one hand he generated 459 yards of total offense which included two rushing touchdowns. But, he had two major mistakes. The biggest one occurred in the red zone when the Aggies had a chance to open up an 11-point lead toward the end of the third quarter. He forced a ball into the middle that was easily intercepted. With the game tied at 24, Johnny took off on first down on the next drive and he fumbled which led to going down 31-24 in the first place. However, Manziel rose to the occasion and made up for those mistakes. Basically, Manziel had A+ statistics and A+ intangibles that's offset by the two turnovers. So I settled for A-. .
Running Back A
Trey Williams has flashed his 5-star talent since his freshman year, but it's been in a secondary role. He's been the specialty option and not the main course. And while senior Ben Malena still received a majority of carries on Saturday, you could see a subtle changing of the guard in the second half as Williams seemed to be on the field for critical drives in the fourth quarter when the Aggies were down a score. Kirk Herbstreit referred to Williams on the ESPN broadcast as Barry Sanders-like on that first touchdown run. I don't disagree with that assessment. Williams is a special player and Coach McKinney has to find ways to get the ball in his hands in space more than the 6-7 times he touches it on offense now. If the second half of Saturday's game is any indication, I think you'll see more Trey Williams. Ben Malena was Ben Malena…methodical, and solid. As one poster mentioned, it did appear he ran out of gas late in the game. Hint: Give Tra Carson and Trey Williams more touches and keep Malena fresh. .
Wide Receiver/Tight End A-
When you see Mississippi receivers drop passes, it makes you appreciate just how reliable A&M receiver are when it comes to catching passes that should be caught. From that standpoint, the Aggie pass catchers had a good night. With Mike Evans hobbled and double covered most of the night, the burden on the outside fell to walk-on Travis Labhart and senior Derel Walker. Both combined for 13 catches for 169 yards. But it was the critical third down hook-ups with Johnny Manziel that made Walker and Labhart so valuable. On the game's opening drive, the Aggies faced a third-and-7 and Manziel threw a back-shoulder pass to Labhart who made a nifty twisting catch for 35 yards that led to the first score and set the tone of the game. In what I think was the game's most critical play, A&M's offense was sputtering and wilting under the loud Rebel crowd down 31-24 midway through the fourth quarter and facing a third-and-9 in their own territory. Manziel and Walker connected on a beautfully-timed back shoulder catch, and Walker juked the defender and gained another 15+ yards to get inside Rebel territory. Not only was that play a third down conversion, but it quieted the crowd and allowed the A&M offense to regain momentum and score quickly after that play to tie the game at 31-31. Walker also had a key catch-and-run in the final scoring drive taking a crossing pattern to the sideline for a 13 yard pick-up on the series' first play.
Malcolme Kennedy made several difficult catches and finished with seven grabs for 87 yards. At times in the second and third quarter when the A&M offense did stumble a few times, the receivers were breaking off routes and giving up on some plays which is a no-no with Manziel back in the pocket. Herbstreit referenced the receivers "standing around" after the initial route is covered. I'm sure the coaches will correct that one negative to an otherwise solid outing for the group that had to overcome the injury to Evans.
Offensive Line B
As you know, I've been very bullish of this A&M line going back to 2011. However, I thought their performance on Saturday was one of the more inconsistent efforts in recent years. Now, a lesser performance by one of the best OL's in the nation is still pretty good by everybody else's standards, so the line did some good things as usual like give Johnny plenty of time in the pocket. But going up against some three-man lines, the OL did have some missed assignments by Mike Matthews, Germain Ifedi, and Cedric Ogbuehi. Ifedi seems to get a holding call every game and it's something he needs to correct. The occasional misses by this trio popped up on a critical third-and-four run by Trey Williams that was blown up in the backfield and forced the infamous fourth-and-7 scramble by Manziel that he converted. Overall, I felt the A&M running game should have been more effective and dominating between the tackles with an undersized Rebel front that dropped eight in coverage quite often on Saturday. A&M running backs accounted for only 128 rushing yards.
OVERALL OFFENSIVE GRADE A-
Hop's Offensive Game Analysis - Ole Miss
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