- Brandon Chatmon, ESPN Staff Writer
It's hard to imagine a more disappointing end to Oklahoma's season. The Sooners got hammered by Texas A&M, 41-13, in the Cotton Bowl on Friday as Aggie quarterback Johnny Manziel showed the world why he was the first freshman to win the Heisman, accounting for 516 yards and four touchdowns. Here's a look at some of the key moments that resulted in OU's third loss of the season.
Manziel’s first third-down conversion
This play was a early sign the Sooners might not have an answer for Manziel’s unique ability. Their coverage was excellent but Manziel’s improvisation turned it into a big play for the Aggies.
On third-and-3 at their own 31-yard line, TAMU lined up in a four-wide formation. OU was in man-to-man defense with Tony Jefferson spying Manziel. The Heisman winner initially dropped back to throw and had plenty of time but no open receivers. As Jefferson and Geneo Grissom closed in on him, he scrambled to his left and galloped for 24 yards and a first down.
Jefferson’s biggest mistake was probably weaving through traffic in an effort to go sack Manziel when he was still in the pocket. Had Jefferson been less aggressive and simply mirrored Manziel, he would have been better prepared to make an open field tackle when Manziel scrambled left.
Critical sequence: OU’s red zone troubles on its first drive
The Sooners cruised down the field, a terrific answer after the Aggies’ opening drive touchdown, yet had to settle for a field goal. It took all the air out of a superb drive and gave the Aggies momentum heading into their second possession.
*1st-and-goal at A&M 5: Damien Williams almost scored with a tough four-yard run. The Aggies were offside on the play, OU could have accepted the penalty and lost yards but gained another down but chose to keep the play.
*2nd-and-goal at A&M 1: The Belldozer package entered the game led by quarterback Blake Bell. It was a designed run right but Aggie defensive back Howard Matthews knifed through the Sooners offensive line and was three yards deep into the backfield before OU could react. Fullback Trey Millard tried to block him but couldn’t and Bell was forced to go left to try to score. He ended up running through Matthews but Sean Porter was there to stop him at the one-yard line. Basically the Aggies flooded every gap with zero regard for a potential pass and overwhelmed OU’s blocking scheme. They were willing to take their chances if OU tried to pass. And it paid off.
*3rd-and-goal at A&M 1: This time the Sooners tried to pass but fullback Jaydan Bird was the lone receiving option and he was well covered. As Bell tried to roll right, Porter got immediate penetration and forced him toward the sidelines. Bell eventually threw the ball away.
OU was poised to go for it on fourth-and-goal but a false start by tight end Brannon Green forced the Sooners to kick a field goal. But the fact OU was set to go for it shows the Sooners understood they would have to score touchdowns, not field goals, to beat the Aggies.
A disappointing end to a 16-play drive that would have been the ideal answer after Manziel and the Aggies’ first score.
A critical play because the Sooners were in the midst of their third straight impressive drive against the Aggie defense, although they settled for field goals on the first two drives. It was also key because OU had the momentum at the time after Javon Harris’ end-zone interception of Manziel. This turnover hurt because the Aggies scored a touchdown three plays later.
After a 4-yard loss on first down, OU faced second-and-14 at TAMU 45. The Aggies showed man coverage early in the play clock then bailed to a zone look with three seconds left on the play clock. Jones had a nice pocket, wasn’t under pressure as he tried to find Sterling Shepard on an out route. With nobody in the flat in front of him, Harris read Jones' eyes and dropped into the passing lane for an easy interception. Quite simply, Jones didn’t see Harris or thought he was covering Stills, thus wouldn’t drop into the passing lane.
A critical error by the fifth-year senior but it happens sometimes against good defenses.
30-yard touchdown run by Trey Williams
This play is pretty much sums up the game.
The Aggies ran a simple off tackle run with Williams out of a trips-right formation. Harris was in the hole but Williams ran by him, Gabe Lynn fought off a block but missed the open field tackle and good blocking by the Aggies receivers paved the rest of the way to the end zone.
Two Sooners had a chance to make the play but did not. And it wasn't the first or last time that happened in the Cotton Bowl.
OU never seemed to be a threat to win the game from that point forward as TAMU reeled off 27 unanswered points in the second half.