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The Alabama-Texas A&M Running Diary: Part I

Johnny_Manziel_in_Kyle_Field

Saturday’s rematch between Alabama and Texas A&M drew the highest television ratings for a regular season college football game in seven years.  To be sure, it felt like we waited seven years to actually see it played.  Ever since Johnny Manziel rose to superstardom by upsetting the Crimson Tide last November, September 14, 2013 had been circled on the calendar, dissected throughout the college football world, and mentioned as the main event for an entire season.

To commemorate this historic event and Alabama’s thrilling 49-42 victory, I decided to keep a minute-by-minute diary…

3:30 – You are looking LIVE at Kyle Field in College Station, Texas for the much-anticipated rematch between Alabama and Texas A&M.  Thank goodness it’s time for some actual football.  The build-up to this game could only have been more suffocating if CBS let Tim Brando opine on gay marriage.

3:34 – Verne Lundquist welcomes us to the broadcast.  Nice to be with you again, Uncle Verne.  Believe it or not, this is the maiden CBS college football telecast of 2013.  For this special occasion, the network supposedly has a camera following Johnny Manziel at all times just for good measure.  Pretty neat of CBS to give us a glimpse at what Gary Danielson watches when he’s not in the booth.

3:42 – At long last, a kickoff!  Texas A&M receives the ball and immediately hands it to Johnny Manziel on a running play designed to remind everyone he’s not suspended.

3:42:20 – Slow down, guys!  Kevin Sumlin is going with a full-on NASCAR offense here.  After two long passes to Mike Evans, A&M is already down to the Alabama 10-yard line.  Nick Saban’s inevitable rant on the dark future of football should be exciting.

3:47 – Good lord, a touchdown already?  Manziel hits Cameron Clear for a one-yard TD.  We’re officially on pace for 168 points.  Honestly, I can’t type this quickly.  This is like a hidden level of Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing.  A&M leads 7-0.

3:55 – Alabama just had its chance to answer and went three-and-out with two rushes, one completion and two penalties.  Kyle Field is electric and A&M’s defense is buzzing, but they’ll need to maintain this intensity throughout to have a chance.  A&M has a hole along its defensive line and Saban knows it.

4:00 – What just happened?  A&M is now up 14-0 thanks to Johnny Scramble, Johnny Long-Ball-To-This-Evans-Guy and Johnny Handoff-To-Ben-Malena.  This game is starting off exactly like last year’s.  Paul Finebaum just broke the tip on his No. 2 pencil.

4:02 – Dan just tweeted that Johnny Manziel is making Nick Saban look like Carl Handratty from Catch Me If You Can.  I couldn’t agree more.  The first seven minutes of this game have been college football’s equivalent of Frank Abignail walking directly through an army of federal agents at Miami International Airport.

4:06 – Watch out!  Amari Cooper and Jalston Fowler have this Alabama offense in a rhythm.  It’s pretty amazing—just when you feel like Alabama is dead, it surges back to life.  I remember feeling the same way during the BCS Championship Game back in January until Alabama ran its second play from scrimmage.

4:08 – WHAT A THROW!  WHAT A CATCH!  It’s 14-7 after a perfect strike from McCarron to Kevin Norwood’s back shoulder for an Alabama touchdown.  Danielson just exploded in the booth.  His pulse has to be about 320 right now.  Hopefully, CBS didn’t blow its entire budget on in-game promo reels and can still afford an assistant to towel him off on scoring plays.

4:13 – CBS drew up a flowchart on how to stop Manziel?  This reminds me of Tom Smykowski’s “Jump To Conclusions” mat from Office Space.  I love the idea here, but they forgot to add the squares about letting him play for Mack Brown or date Miley Cyrus.

(Come to think of it, why hasn’t Manziel dated Miley Cyrus yet?  These two are more alike than they are different.  It’s only a matter of time before the thing with Liam Hemsworth is officially off.  Can’t Uncle Nate overnight a few autographs to Billy Ray and hook this up?)

4:20 – After surrendering 213 total yards, Alabama has its first defensive stop of the first quarter.  Hell would’ve frozen over if A&M managed to score on a third straight drive.  Speaking of which, Cody Kessler has started 11-for-12 with two touchdowns in the USC-Boston College game.

4:29 – And just like that, it’s a tie ballgame at 14-14.  Saban, that sly little fox, dials up a flea flicker to DeAndrew White for a 44-yard touchdown.  You get the feeling he’s been setting that one up since last November.

4:34 – In a strange twist, a wide-angle blimp shot reveals dark streaks of grime underneath the giant “Kyle Field” lettering along the upper rim of the stadium.  Wait until Sports Illustrated finds out that A&M’s power washers were suspended in place of Manziel.  THERE WILL BE HELL TO PAY.

4:39 – Get this… A&M Just converted on third-and-eight after Manziel pinballed around the pocket, avoided several defenders and threw a ball 45-yards off his back foot for a 12-yard gain.  Danielson calls it “magic”.  Let’s be honest, that play was total bullshit.  If Tommy Rees throws a pass like that, it’s intercepted ten times out of ten.

4:42 – I should mention that I’m watching this game with my girlfriend and mother.  Actually, listening to them debate Manziel’s looks is more exciting than the actual game.  So far, “I don’t like his face” and “I think he looks like an old man” are my personal favorites.  Turns out that Johnny Football is Johnny Ugly to these ladies.  This, of course, doesn’t matter because he’s a star quarterback and, well, this

4:44 – Manziel just threw a pass directly to Alabama’s Cyrus Jones in the corner of the end zone.  It really was directly to him.  Danielson says that Johnny was “too cocky” and “too cute” with that one.  Passes like that are usually the result of accidental button-mashing in NCAA 14.  That was really bad.

4:49 – Well, that escalated quickly.  Kenny Bell just took a screen pass 51-yards for a 21-14 Alabama lead.  Don’t look now, but A.J. McCarron is 10-for-15 for 220 yards and three touchdowns.  Texas A&M is about to re-recruit Manziel as a defensive back.

4:57 – Twitter just erupted as Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was flagged for targeting and booted out of the game.  It’s not a coincidence that the hand signal for this penalty is a referee punching himself in the head.  College football has its heart in the right place with this rule, but all it’s going to take is a few ejections like this for SEC fans to stage mutiny against the NCAA.  Thankfully, the booth just overruled the ejection and Clinton-Dix will live to see another play.

5:07 – So, status check… with 5:00 left in the first half, Alabama is averaging 7.3 yards per passing attempt and slowly, methodically moving down the field.  Remember that hole along A&M’s defensive line I mentioned earlier?  Alabama’s offensive line has occupied it all afternoon.  Unless A&M figures something out, this could get out of hand.

5:13 – Another Alabama touchdown makes it 28-14 and 28 unanswered points.  Kudos to Alabama coordinator Doug Nussmeier for the brilliant play-calling on that long, clock-killing drive.  T.J. Yeldon celebrates with a double throat slash and a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.  Lundquist and Danielson are thoroughly appalled.  This is going to be fun.

5:16 – Does anyone know if the Clay Travis drinking game had a stipulation for a holier-than-thou rant by Danielson?  This should be worth at least 10 sips.  Poor Gary is about two minutes from going all Joe Buck on Yeldon.

5:18 – The first half draws to a close with Manziel scampering around the pocket and throwing against the grain and across his body.  Mama Hildenbrandt is still hung up on Manziel’s face.  “He really is goofy looking, isn’t he?”

SECOND HALF COMING TOMORROW…

Ty Hildenbrandt co-hosts The Solid Verbal college football podcast. Follow him on Twitter.