TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — Johnny Manziel and No. 15 Texas A&M shook up the national championship race by beating No. 1 Alabama 29-24 on Saturday.
The Aggies (8-2, 5-2), playing in the Southeastern Conference for the first season, also might have ended the league’s run of BCS titles at six years.
The Crimson Tide (9-1, 6-1) didn’t go quietly.
AJ McCarron nearly pulled off a second straight scintillating comeback. He threw one touchdown pass and motored the ball downfield before Deshazor Everett stepped in front of his fourth-down pass at the goal line with 1:36 left.
Manziel passed for 253 yards and rushed for 92 and led the Aggies to a 20-0 first quarter lead.
“No moment is too big for him,” coach Kevin Sumlin said of his remarkable redshirt freshman.
Alabama kept coming back, but never caught up with Manziel and Texas A&M.
Alabama, the nation’s top scoring defense, forced a punt with less than a minute left, but A&M never had to kick it waway. The Tide was penalized for offisides, giving Texas A&M a first down and a chance to kneel out the clock.
McCarron breathed life into Alabama with a 54-yard touchdown pass down the left sideline to freshman Amari Cooper to make it 29-24 with 4:29 left.
A quick three-and-out by the Aggies put the ball in McCarron’s hands again. He opened at the 40 with a 54-yarder to speedster Kenny Bell down to the 6. Two scrambles and an Eddy Lacy run left one final shot from the 2 against a Texas A&M defense often overshadowed by its potent offense.
McCarron had rescued the Tide’s national title hopes with a 28-yard screen pass in the final minute for a 21-17 win over No. 9 LSU. The Aggies, nearly two-touchdown underdogs, didn’t let him do it again. Everett made the play on a pass toward the front corner of the end zone.
The Aggies had already lost to top-10 teams LSU and Florida by a combined eight points, proving they’re already challengers in the powerhouse SEC.
Alabama managed a second-shot national title after losing to LSU just over a year ago in the regular season but seems a longshot to do it again. Alabama would have secured a spot in the SEC championship game with a victory and only Western Carolina and Auburn remaining.
Now, the Tide will have to beat the Tigers to clinch the West and get into the SEC title game. As for the national title, Alabama will have to hope for another shakeup in the form of losses by Kansas State, Oregon and Notre Dame. If the Tide wins out, and two of those teams go down, a third national championship in four seasons is still in play — along with a seventh straight for the SEC.
For now though, the SEC is on the outside looking in at the BCS title race.
Manziel picked apart and bedeviled the nation’s top scoring defense. He completed 24 of 31 passes with two touchdowns and ran 18 times, leading three first-quarter touchdown drives to stun the Bryant-Denny Stadium crowd.
The rest of the game was an emotional roller-coaster ride for fans who might have though LSU was the toughest test on the road to another championship.
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