Texas A&M Aggies: WAC

Instant Analysis: A&M 59, La. Tech 57

October, 14, 2012

After a wild game with dramatic twists and turns, including a furious comeback attempt, Texas A&M outlasted Louisiana Tech 59-57 and escaped Independence Stadium in Shreveport, La., with a win to improve to 5-1 overall and give the Bulldogs (5-1) their first loss.

It was over when: Texas A&M running back Ben Malena recovered a Louisiana Tech onside kick attempt with 37 seconds remaining. The Bulldogs already had recovered one onside kick to set up their final touchdown, but Malena stepped in front of the ball and secured it for the Aggies to take a knee and leave with a win.

Game ball goes to: Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel. The redshirt freshman continues to shine and broke the Texas A&M and Southeastern Conference records that he set against Arkansas earlier this season, compiling 576 total offensive yards. Manziel was 24-of-40 passing for 395 yards and three touchdown passes while rushing 19 times for 181 yards and three scores, including a 72-yarder that gave the Aggies their final points.

Game ball, Part 2: Louisiana Tech receiver Quinton Patton deserves a game ball for his tremendous effort for the Bulldogs. The Biletnikoff Award watch list member showed why he's considered one of the best receivers in the country, catching a whopping 21 passes for 232 yards and four touchdowns. The Aggies rarely had an answer for him, and Patton played a huge role in the Bulldogs' late rally to narrow the Aggies' lead.

Rising star: Louisiana Tech true freshman running back Kenneth Dixon. He had 18 carries for 111 yards (an average of 6.2 per carry) and had two touchdowns. He broke plenty of tackles on his second scoring run of the night. Texas A&M redshirt freshman receiver Mike Evans also was impressive and continues to produce for the Aggies as perhaps Manziel's favorite receiver, catching four passes for 137 yards, including a 75-yard touchdown catch.

What it means: For the Aggies, it sets up a huge showdown with 6-1 LSU next week at Kyle Field. Texas A&M saw some issues that existed in its season-opening loss to Florida (penalties and missed tackles among them) and after a strong first four games on defense, allowing 57 points certainly won't be comforting for coach Kevin Sumlin and defensive coordinator Mark Snyder.

For Louisiana Tech, it means its BCS-busting hopes are all but dashed. The Bulldogs likely will drop out of the rankings, but Sonny Dykes and Co. have nothing to be ashamed of. They showed tremendous fight and gave an SEC team a run for its money. The Bulldogs are still the favorites to win the WAC, and should they run the table the rest of the way, they'll jump back in and move up the rankings.

And depending how he fares next week against LSU, Manziel might start hearing the word "Heisman" mentioned in connection with his name pretty soon.
Texas A&M steps out of Southeastern Conference play for a week to take on their originally scheduled season opening foe, Louisiana Tech. The game was postponed from Aug. 30 because of Hurricane Isaac, and both teams enter ranked in the national polls (the Aggies are no. 22, the Bulldogs are no. 23). The Aggies (4-1) have won four straight while Louisiana Tech is undefeated.. Let's take a look at five storylines for the Aggies as their next game approaches:

[+] EnlargeSonny Dykes
Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-US PresswireLouisiana Tech coach Sonny Dykes is very familiar with Kevin Sumlin and the members of his staff who were at Houston last year.
1. Fear the BCS busters?
Louisiana Tech comes into the game with a national ranking, an undefeated record and hopes of being the latest BCS buster. The Aggies are the only ranked team left on the Bulldogs' schedule (their final six games are WAC opponents). Head coach Sonny Dykes said on Monday, "I do not even know how to spell BCS. That is like miles and miles away from our thoughts." But there's no denying the possibility of running the table if Louisiana Tech were to pull off the win. You can bet the players are well aware of that and if they needed any more motivation than a non-automatic qualifying conference team needs playing an AQ conference foe, it can be provided by that.

2. Bounce back day for Manziel?
Last week's 30-27 comeback win over Mississippi was Texas A&M redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel's first truly rough day as the Aggies starter. He turned the ball over three times and the team turned it over six. Still, they were able to pull out the win, but it's worth watching to see how Manziel bounces back from last week's performance.

3. Familiar foes
The last time these two teams met was 2010, but Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin, offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury, running backs coach Clarence McKinney and offensive line coach B.J. Anderson faced the Bulldogs last season when the quartet was coaching at Houston. The group is well aware of the quality of Louisiana Tech after the Bulldogs had the Cougars down 34-7 late in the third quarter before Houston rallied to win 35-34 in the final minutes. Likewise, Dykes and his staff are plenty familiar with the offensive concepts the Aggies run after facing Houston a year ago. It should make for an interesting chess match.

4. Missing players on defense
The Aggies will be without the services of starting weakside linebacker Steven Jenkins and reserve safety Howard Matthews. Both were suspended this summer by Kevin Sumlin for a "violation of team rules," a suspension that was originally slated for the season opener. When the game's date was moved after Hurricane Isaac, so was the pair's suspensions. Also, sophomore defensive back Deshazor Everett left the Ole Miss game early with an injury. Sumlin didn't discuss his status for the game this week, so it's unknown whether he'll be available. Donnie Baggs will start in Jenkins' place.

5. Plenty of confidence for Aggies
The Aggies should come into this game with plenty of confidence after their win over Ole Miss. They didn't play well overall, considering the turnovers they committed and their third-down defense, yet still came away with an SEC road win. So after facing that adversity and still winning, they should be riding high coming into the showdown with Louisiana Tech.

First glance: Breaking down La. Tech 

October, 8, 2012
Campus location: Ruston, La.
Nickname: Bulldogs
Conference: WAC
Record: 5-0
Record vs. Texas A&M: 0-9* (Louisiana Tech has lost all 10 meetings it has had with the Aggies but Texas A&M vacated a win in 1998 because of use of an ineligible player).


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