Tide bend but don’t break against Ag­gies

Top-ranked team staves off rally, stays un­de­feated

Houston Chronicle Sunday - - COLLEGE FOOTBALL - By Brent Zw­erne­man brent.zw­erne­man@chron.com twit­ter.com/brentzw­erne­man

COL­LEGE STA­TION — Texas A&M had made a habit of sec­ond-half come­backs through the first half of the sea­son.

Alabama cares noth­ing about op­po­nent’s habits.

The top-ranked Crim­son Tide de­feated A&M 27-19 on Satur­day night at Kyle Field be­fore 101,058 fans, many of whom hung thin hopes on the Ag­gies pre­vi­ously turn­ing sec­ond­half deficits into late leads.

This time, Alabama (6-0, 3-0), which had de­feated its two pre­vi­ous South­east­ern Con­fer­ence op­po­nents by a com­bined score of 125-3, didn’t let a 21-point third quar­ter lead slip away, although the Ag­gies did ev­ery­thing they could to make it hap­pen.

“It’s tough, just to know that if a cou­ple of more things would have went your way, you would have had a closer shot to win the game,” A&M re­ceiver Christian Kirk said. Higher-cal­iber foe

Alabama, how­ever, is not Louisiana-Lafayette, Arkansas or South Carolina — and save for per­haps No. 2 Clem­son — no one is close to Alabama half­way through the reg­u­lar sea­son.

A&M en­tered the game nearly four-touch­down un­der­dogs, but eclipsed the 26½-point spread by 18½ points.

The Ag­gies eas­ily played Alabama closer than any­one this sea­son, with the prior clos­est game 24-7 over Florida State in the opener.

“There’s no moral vic­tory,” A&M coach Kevin Sum­lin said. “When you play that hard and play that long, no one is happy (in the locker room).”

The Ag­gies (4-2, 2-1 SEC) can note they cre­ated the Crim­son Tide’s first turnover of the sea­son, when re­ceiver Robert Foster fum­bled af­ter a catch in the third quar­ter, and A&M took over at Alabama’s 36yard line.

That A&M drive led to a wild 2-yard touch­down pass from fresh­man quar­ter­back Kellen Mond to Kirk, in which Mond of­fered up his best twist­ing, turn­ing im­pres­sion of 2012 Heis­man Tro­phy win­ner Johnny Manziel.

Mond eluded one Alabama de­fender af­ter an­other prior to con­nect­ing with Kirk, who man­aged to skim a foot on the edge of the grass in stretch­ing out for the catch.

Not long af­ter, Kyle Field got as loud as it has been all year early in the fourth quar­ter when Cullen Gil­laspia, who wears the cher­ished No. 12 at the home of the 12th Man, blocked a punt in the end zone for a safety, tight­en­ing Alabama’s lead to 24-12.

The Crim­son Tide held tight from then on, as Alabama’s Andy Pap­panas­tos added a 44-yard field goal with 2:09 re­main­ing, and Mond scored from a yard out with 17 sec­onds left.

The Crim­son Tide re­cov­ered the on­sides kick and col­lec­tively ex­haled. Sa­ban un­happy

Alabama hasn’t lost since fall­ing to Clem­son on the fi­nal play of last sea­son’s na­tional cham­pi­onship game.

“We were ahead 24-3, and we didn’t fin­ish the game,” said an irate Alabama coach Nick Sa­ban, re­fer­ring to glow­ing earl­y­sea­son ar­ti­cles about his team as “rat poi­son.”

A&M led ever-so-briefly early, af­ter Daniel LaCam­era con­nected on a ca­reer­long field-goal kick of 52 yards to lift the Ag­gies to a 3-0 lead five min­utes into the game. Thir­teen sec­onds later, how­ever, Alabama run­ning back Damien Har­ris broke through the A&M de­fense for a 75yard touch­down run, and the Crim­son Tide never trailed again.

“They cap­i­tal­ized on a cou­ple of plays where we lost our gap,” A&M de­fen­sive end Lan­dis Durham said. “Other than a cou­ple of big runs they had, we did a pretty good job of (fill­ing the gap).” Up­set bid foiled

That was A&M’s last gasp at top­pling a topranked team for the third time in his­tory, with the last time Manziel lead­ing the way five years ago in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

The Ag­gies will lick their wounds from their most rugged game of the sea­son and pre­pare for their first true SEC road game next week­end at Florida.

Mond fin­ished 19-of-29 for 237 yards with a touch­down pass and in­ter­cep­tion, and his Alabama coun­ter­part Jalen Hurts of Chan­nelview fin­ished 13-of-22 for 123 yards and a touch­down.

Har­ris led all rush­ers with 124 yards, while A&M’s lead­ing rusher was Trayveon Wil­liams (38 yards).

“He wants to be great,” Kirk said of the per­pet­u­ally bud­ding Mond. “He wants to be the leader of this team.

“He wants to win.”

David J. Phillip / Associated Press

Alabama quar­ter­back Jalen Hurts, left, rushes for a first down as Texas A&M de­fen­sive back Der­rick Tucker gives chase dur­ing the sec­ond quar­ter Satur­day night.

Bob Levey / Getty Im­ages

Texas A&M’s Kellen Mond scram­bles away from pres­sure in the first half Satur­day night at Kyle Field. Mond av­er­aged a yard per carry.

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