Turnovers, miscues doom Texas A&M
COLLEGE STATION, Texas — He was still a little short of breath.
So, too, were many of Ryan Swope’s teammates.
On a warm Saturday afternoon at Kyle Field, well after Texas A&M ran out of laterals and out of time on its wild last-ditch play, and even after all the handshakes that followed LSU’s 24-19 win over the Aggies, Swope walked toward the south end zone tunnel. His eyes were wide, his arms dangled, and his lungs were still pumping quickly.
The Aggies’ final play began with a pass from quarterback Johnny Manziel, the superstar freshman who sparkled as his team took a 12-0 second-quarter lead.
The final play then continued with no less than seven laterals. As the crowd yelled and action unfolded, A&M linebacker Jonathan Stewart watched on the sideline, hoping for an Aggie miracle.
“We were hoping that, for once, the ball bounced our way. ... We all still had faith that they were going to make a play,” Stewart said. “Unfortunately, they didn’t, and that’s what it came down to.”
That play ended when Swope absorbed a vicious blow from LSU cornerback Tharold Simon, then fumbled in the process. Barkevious Mingo recovered the ball with no time left.
It was Texas A&M’s fifth turnover.
It was a fitting end to the Aggies’ day.
Against an LSU team that started slowly, Texas A&M dominated much of the first half and outdid the Tigers in a host of categories, including offensive snaps (94-74), first downs (26-18), passing yards (276-97) and yards from scrimmage (410-316).
And although LSU’s defense slowed them down in the second half, the Aggies largely had themselves to blame for falling short.
“I think the story of the game is obviously how we responded between the points off of turnovers,” first-year coach Kevin Sumlin said. “That’s a two-way street. ... We’ve got a disappointed bunch in (the locker room) — a team that played very, very hard.”
Indeed they did.
In taking that 12-0 lead, A&M’s no-huddle offense left the Tigers looking confused and exhausted during much of the first half; at one point, the Aggies had run 47 plays to LSU’s 17.
Manziel, who is off limits to reporters this season, completed 29 of 56 passes for 276 yards. But he also finished with three costly interceptions.
The first one, snared by Jalen Collins at the LSU 39, sparked the Tigers and led to their first touchdown with 1:49 to go in the second quarter.
Moments later, LSU’s Ronald Martin used his helmet to jar the ball out of the grasp of A&M tailback Ben Malena. The Tigers responded with another touchdown — and suddenly, the Aggies found themselves down at halftime, 14-12.
Still, A&M had opportunities to retake the lead — none more golden than midway through the fourth quarter, when the Aggies trailed 17-12 and Trey Williams’ 76-yard kickoff return gave them the ball at the LSU 16.
Manziel threw two incomplete passes, and kicker Taylor Bertolet missed a 33-yard field goal.
A&M regained possession with 4:55 left and another chance to pull ahead — but Manziel’s on-the-run pass landed in the hands of Simon, who returned his interception to the Aggies’ 47.
Jeremy Hill then put the Tigers ahead on the next play, breaking loose to give LSU a 24-12 lead.
Manziel led A&M to a late touchdown and got the ball back with 10 seconds left. But the Aggies’ last-ditch effort failed — and although Manziel had dazzled fans (and LSU) at times, he left the field a little short of breath, and a little short on the scoreboard.