College Station, TX – A.J. McCarron put on his own Heisman- worthy performance, and Alabama exacted a measure of revenge on Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M with an action-packed 49-42 victory at Kyle Field.
McCarron completed 20-of-29 passes for a career-high 334 yards and four touchdowns, helping the top-ranked Crimson Tide (2-0, 1-0 SEC) gain some payback from last November's 29-22 loss to the Aggies in Tuscaloosa that nearly derailed Alabama's BCS title hopes.
T.J. Yeldon did his part as well for the two-time reigning national champions, who scored 35 straight points after spotting sixth-ranked Texas A&M a 14-0 lead and held off a late comeback attempt. The sophomore back accounted for 149 of Alabama's 234 rushing yards and had a touchdown among his 25 carries.
"The offense did a great job of bailing us out," said Crimson Tide linebacker C.J. Mosley.
Manziel, whose outstanding effort in last year's meeting helped win him the Heisman Trophy, put on another terrific display in the rematch, racking up personal bests of 464 yards and five touchdowns through the air and adding 98 rushing yards. He also threw two costly interceptions, one of which was returned 73 yards for a score by Vinnie Sunseri, that helped seal the Aggies' (2-1, 0-1) fate.
"Well, he played "Johnny-like", that's about the way to put it," Aggies head coach Kevin Sumlin remarked. "He, like a number of other players, gave us an opportunity to stay in the ball game. We just couldn't make enough plays to close it out."
Mike Evans also delivered a prolific day for Texas A&M, hauling in seven Manziel throws for a school-record 279 yards, 95 of which came on a touchdown grab in the fourth quarter. Malcome Kennedy had three TD catches -- all in the second half -- in the loss.
Manziel put Alabama at an early double-digit deficit by leading the Aggies to touchdowns on their initial two possessions. It was McCarron's show over the remainder of the first half, however.
The steady senior fired touchdown passes on each of Alabama's next three drives, then orchestrated a mammoth 11-play, 93-yard series near the end of the second quarter that sent the Crimson Tide into the locker room owning a 28-14 advantage.
McCarron hit on 4-of-5 throws totaling 60 yards as Alabama pulled within 14-7 with a 6-play sequence he culminated with a perfectly placed back-shoulder throw to Kevin Norwood that resulted in a 22-yard touchdown with 5:24 left in the first quarter.
He struck again on the Tide's subsequent trip, executing a play-action fake as receiver DeAndrew White got behind the Aggie defense to haul in a 44-yard deep strike that knotted the score 45 seconds into the second quarter.
Manziel answered by moving Texas A&M back into scoring range, highlighted by a 12-yard hookup with Edward Pope in which the Heisman Trophy recipient eluded a rush and heaved a jump ball that his receiver came down with in a crowd.
The Texas A&M field general committed his first major mistake of the afternoon shortly afterward, though, as his off-target fade attempt for Ja'Quay Williams in the end zone was caught by Alabama's Cyrus Jones to halt a drive that had gotten down to the Crimson Tide 4-yard line.
Less than two minutes after Jones' pick, Kenny Bell took a McCarron screen toss near midfield, side-stepped an A&M defender and raced untouched down the left sideline for a 51-yard score that put Alabama in front.
Texas A&M's next offensive set fizzled as well, and the Tide widened the margin by embarking on a backbreaking 11-play, 93-yard jaunt that consumed over six minutes off the game clock.
Yeldon and fellow running back Kenyan Drake did most of the heavy lifting on the drive, combining for 63 yards on eight attempts. Yeldon finished it off with a 4-yard run off right tackle that staked Alabama to a 28-14 lead 45 seconds prior to the intermission.
The Crimson Tide defense then got in the act in the third quarter, with safety Jarrick Williams deflecting Manziel's over-the-middle attempt intended for Evans on A&M's opening drive of the second half. Sunseri snared the ball out of the air and weaved his way downfield for a 73-yard touchdown that put the Aggies at a 21-point disadvantage.
Texas A&M closed the gap some when Manziel hit Kennedy on a slant for a 14- yard score on the ensuing possession. However, Alabama countered with a 10- play, 83-yard march in which most of the damage again came by its punishing running game.
Sixty-one of those yards were produced on the ground, with Yeldon rushing four times for 44 yards and Drake putting the Tide up 42-21 with a 3-yard burst with 4:16 to go in the third quarter.
Kennedy's second touchdown catch of the day, a 12-yarder with 1:40 elapsed in the final period, brought the Aggies within two scores, though Alabama appeared to have the game salted away with around nine minutes to go. However, Yeldon was stripped by Steven Jenkins at the Aggies' 4-yard line to give Texas A&M new life.
Just 38 seconds afterward, Evans caught Manziel's bomb down the near sideline, shook off Jones with a stiff-arm, and outraced the Crimson Tide defense for a startling 95-yard touchdown that brought Texas A&M within 42-35 with just over eight minutes to go.
"In my eyes, Mike Evans is the best receiver in college football," Manziel said. "I see him every day, and every week I get to see how he works against defenders and it's just amazing.'
However, the Aggie defense failed to come up with a much-needed stop on the following drive. Yeldon ripped off two more big runs and McCarron was again on point, completing the 9-play, 65-yard spree with a 5-yard delivery to Jalston Fowler on third down that gave Alabama a two-touchdown cushion once again, this time with only 2:28 left to play.
"T.J. sealed the game for us," said Bell. "He had a costly fumble, but he stuck with it and kept running."
Manziel and Kennedy connected for another touchdown, this one a 4-yarder with 15 seconds remaining, but the Aggies couldn't recover the resulting onside kick.
The Aggies had the Crimson Tide on their heels early on, with Manziel connecting with Evans on two long pass plays on the game's opening drive, the last a 35-yard completion to the Alabama 5. Three plays later, Manziel found tight end Cameron Clear from a yard out to give A&M a 7-0 edge less than three minutes in.
Evans made his mark on the Aggies' next series as well, burning Jones for a 34-yard gain to the 1-yard line before Ben Malena punched it in midway through the first quarter to cap a 5-play, 59-yard drive.
Evans' 95-yard touchdown was the longest pass play in Texas A&M history, bettering an 89-yard completion from Manziel to Uzoma Nwachukwu against Sam Houston State last season, while his 279 yards surpassed the Aggies' single- game record previously held by current Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who had 210 receiving yards against Kansas State on Oct. 11, 2008 ... McCarron's four TD passes matched a career high set in January's win over Notre Dame in the BCS Championship Game ... The Crimson Tide improved to 52-0 since the start of the 2008 season when rushing for 140 yards or more ... White finished with 82 yards on four catches ... Texas A&M retired the No. 44 jersey of 1957 Heisman Trophy winner John David Crow at halftime.