- Sam Khan Jr., ESPN Staff Writer
Texas A&M closed out its regular season with a dominant 59-29 win over Missouri on Saturday at Kyle Field. Once again, the Aggies shined on both ends of the ball en route to taking a commanding 42-0 lead. They've been a quick start team all year and Saturday was no different. They took a 21-0 lead to 42-0 in the second quarter with several big plays. Here's a look at three of their second quarter plays that were indicative of not only their success on Saturday, but why they've been successful all season:
Situation: Missouri ball, third-and-3 at its own 32. (10:58 left, second quarter
Score: Texas A&M 28, Missouri 0
Breakdown: Strip drills have been part of an emphasis on creating turnovers from Texas A&M defensive coordinator Mark Snyder and you can see it pay off on this play.
Freshman cornerback De'Vante Harris covers Lucas on the play and Lucas does a good job of getting inside position quickly to make the catch on an accurate pass from Berkstresser. Lucas goes upfield for a 16-yard gain, but senior safety Steven Terrell does a good job of closing in to help on the tackle. Harris is with Lucas step-for-step and before Terrell even gets there, he swipes his right arm violently into the chest of Lucas in an effort to pull the ball out. As Lucas spins away, Harris keeps a firm grip.
Terrell comes in to secure the tackle and Harris is able to pull the ball loose as Lucas falls toward the turf. The ball bounces on the turf and no fewer than five maroon jerseys go for the ball before Hurd ends up falling on it. The play was initially ruled as down by contact but reviewed by officials and overturned.
Eleven plays later, the Aggies had turned it into seven points and a 35-0 lead.
Situation: Texas A&M ball, third-and-goal at the Missouri 5 (7:47 left in second quarter)
Score: Texas A&M 28, Missouri 0
Breakdown: If you want to know why Manziel has won over so many fans in Aggieland and put himself in consideration for the Heisman Trophy, it's plays like this one.
The Aggies are in a four-wide receiver set in a 3x1 look with Uzoma Nwachukwu on the left side of the formation and running back Ben Malena to Manziel's left. This play is designed to strike quickly as there are short, quick routes run, but Missouri appears to do a good job of confusing the Aggies' offensive line with its blitz. The Tigers have a three-man front, fake a blitz from defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson, who is standing up near the line of scrimmage, and drop him instead while sending two other linebackers late, just before the ball is snapped.
Defensive end Kony Ealy breaks free and has a clean shot at Manziel, but Manziel turns and spins away, evading the potential sack. Defensive lineman Michael Sam and linebacker Zaviar Gooden also have a shot at Manziel, but left tackle Luke Joeckel gets in Gooden's way while Manziel sidesteps Sam, who tries to arm tackle Manziel unsuccessfully. With five Missouri defensive players in the backfield and Manziel having escaped, there's now open field for him to run, but Richardson and safety Braylon Webb are standing in the middle of the field and begin pursuit. But by this time, it's been too long for the Tigers' secondary to cover and Evans finds an open space. Manziel fires a strike on the run right into the hands of Evans, who snags it for the touchdown reception and a 35-0 lead.
Situation: Missouri ball, first-and-10 at its own 25 (7:23 left, second quarter)
Score: Texas A&M 35, Missouri 0
Breakdown: Head coach Kevin Sumlin has continuously praised Nealy, his senior defensive tackle, this season for his play on the defensive interior. On Saturday, Nealy showed why his coaches have praised him so much.
The Aggies spent a lot of the night playing a three-man defensive front, rather than a four-man front, as they have usually throughout the year. The most frequent combination in that setup had Nealy lined up directly across the center at the nose tackle spot and flanked by defensive ends Damontre Moore and Julien Obioha, which is the case on this play.
There's nothing fancy about this play, just pure effort and quickness on Nealy's part. The run is going to the left, so the responsibility of blocking him is not on Missouri center Brad McNulty, but rather right guard Max Copeland. At the snap, Copeland moves to his left to try to block Nealy, but Nealy explodes on the snap and beats him to the spot and gets into the backfield virtually unblocked.
By the time Lawrence gets the handoff at the 19, Nealy is already at the 20 and drags him down at the 21. Then he does some nifty dance moves, moves that he joked afterward were a tribute to the Saturday Night Live skit with Chris Farley and Patrick Swayze as Chippendales dancers. But Nealy's play was no laughing matter, as he finished with seven tackles, two for loss, a quarterback hurry and a pass breakup. He has been a catalyst for the Aggies all year long.
8hSam Khan Jr.