Aggies finish job after near-misses
TUSCALOOSA | Redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel is the spark plug that ignites the fast-paced Aggie offense, but when Kevin Sumlin accepted the head coaching job at Texas A&M, his first recruiting effort centered around senior wide receiver Ryan Swope and the rest of the upperclassmen.
Saturday afternoon at Bryant-Denny Stadium, Manziel, Swope and the rest of the determined Aggies stunned the top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide with a resounding 29-24 victory that cemented Texas A&M's move to the Southeastern Conference.
After close losses earlier this season to Florida and LSU, Texas A&M played fearless and aggressive against Alabama.
"Let me say this, and not to take away from Johnny, but for us to come in to Alabama and win, that's a complete team effort," Sumlin said. "We had to get some stops on defense, which we played very well early in the game.
"We answered on special teams and we forced turnovers defensively. That's a team effort."
Even though "Johnny Football" kept the Alabama defense off balance with 253 yards passing and 92 yards rushing, Sumlin was just as proud of players such as Swope, who caught a game-high 11 passes for 111 yards and one touchdown.
"(Swope) made big plays," Sumlin said. "There were some good throws, but he made some catches in traffic and took some hits. You're proud for him. There's a kid that was our No. 1 recruit when I got here to come back.
"All of those seniors, those are the guys that sat down and believed in a vision. They've led this football team."
Swope caught a 10-yard touchdown pass from Manziel as the Aggies bolted to a 20-0 first-quarter lead that had the Bryant-Denny Stadium crowd in disbelief.
After the Aggies withstood a second-half charge by the Crimson Tide, Swope celebrated in the stands with fans.
"It was a great feeling," Swope said. "This will definitely be up there in the top highlights of my career here at Texas A&M. It was a very emotional game. Back and forth. We knew what we were capable of doing."
Although Manziel and the offense garnered most of the pregame attention, the Aggie defense also responded in the final minutes to preserve the upset.
After watching the Crimson Tide drive to the Texas A&M 2 late in the fourth quarter, the Aggies faced a pivotal fourth-and-goal situation. Sophomore defensive back Deshazor Everett stepped in front of Alabama receiver Kenny Bell and intercepted the pass to end Alabama's comeback hopes.
"For Deshazor on the goal line to get that interception, I mean that was remarkable," linebacker Johnathan Stewart said. "They were driving, had all the momentum, their crowd was going crazy.
"You could look at guys and everybody wanted to make a play. We weren't worried about last year (when the Aggies blew several second-half leads) or any other thing. We were just worried about making the stop. Nobody was tired. Everybody had their adrenaline running."
The game-saving play left junior linebacker/end Damontre Moore in tears. He finished with five tackles and one sack.
"Words can't describe how I feel," Moore said. "This is one of those meaningful experiences. You reflect back on your college career and you say, 'We did something great.' I think I speak for a lot of the team and especially the upperclassmen, this is probably the best we've felt."
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