TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- It was as if top-ranked University of Alabama warmly welcomed Texas A&M into the Southeastern Conference with open arms -- and then promptly wished it would go back to where it came from.
Any hopes the Crimson Tide had of repeating as BCS national champions were dashed by Aggies freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel. In fact, Manziel may have knocked the SEC out of the title game for the first time in six years.
The 19-year-old freshman put on a spectacular performance, and senior wide receiver Ryan Swope grabbed 11 passes for 111 yards as the No. 15 Aggies jumped out to a 20-point lead in the first quarter and held on for a 29-24 upset win at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
It was only the second time that Texas A&M defeated a No. 1 (Oklahoma in 2002, 30-26), making it arguably the biggest victory in program history, especially after the Aggies left the Big 12 for the Southeastern Conference this season.
Although No. 1 Alabama (9-1, 6-1 SEC) can still clinch a spot in the Southeastern Conference Championship Game with a win against Auburn on Nov. 24, the loss made it highly likely that the league's run of six national titles is over.
After last week's win over LSU, fans were already talking about a national championship game between Alabama and potentially Oregon. Texas A&M pretty much put an end to that likelihood on Saturday.
"I am happiest for the seniors and the experienced players that have been through a lot in their career," Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin said. "You think about it, they came to Texas A&M and probably never thought about playing at Alabama for a regular-season game, and being a conference football game. To come in here and play them with them being No. 1 in the country, and us being a part of the conference, it is just a tribute to those guys.
"They bought into what we ask them to do and then they went out and executed and led our football team. I am happiest for them because they have been through a lot with coaching changes and close football games. To go on the road and win like that for those guys, it will be moment they will never forget."
Unlike the previous Saturday, when AJ McCarron was able to lead a game-winning drive against LSU, this time his last gasp came up short when he was picked off in the end zone by Deshazor Everett. The Crimson Tide subsequently stopped A&M with 40 seconds remaining, but on the punt made an uncharacteristic neutral-zone infraction penalty that gave the Aggies a first down.
"You have to really congratulate Texas A&M," Alabama coach Nick Saban said. "They played a tremendous game and certainly outplayed us in the game today. Their offense is a very difficult offense to stop. We didn't start out very well defensively, giving up 20 points the first three times they had ball. We probably dug a ditch that we couldn't quite dig out of."
Manziel, who switched his commitment from Oregon to A&M two years ago, completed 24 of 31 passes for 253 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions, to go with 92 rushing yards.
"The guy is very good, just created a lot of plays for his teammates," Alabama defensive end Damion Square said.
Early on, the game was so lopsided it was like a crank for water well, with one side just turning it and the other letting it go.
Alabama goes three-and-out; Texas A&M went 73 yards on nine plays and runs in a Christie Michael 1-yard touchdown.
The Crimson Tide runs four plays, with wide receiver Kenny Bell getting drilled and the ball going to Sean Porter for the first interception of a McCarron pass this season; the Aggies needed just four plays to score on a Ryan Swope 10-yard touchdown reception.
Alabama goes three-and-out again; A&M drives 73 yards on 14 plays with Michel getting another 1-yard plunge.
Before Alabama even realized it wasn't still in LSU, it had given up 172 yards or more points than it had to any opponent all season, and the lone highlight was a missed extra point by Taylor Bertolet.
But down 20-0 to the Aggies (8-2, 5-2, SEC), that's when the Crimson Tide started to muscle up and, led by its offensive line, put together a 13-play, 75-yard drive with freshman running back T.J. Yeldon scoring on a 2-yard run.
With the defense finally stopping the A&M offense, including junior linebacker C.J. Mosley shoving Manziel out of bounds short of the marker on fourth down, 'Bama closed the deficit to 20-14 with a 10-play, 67-yard drive, capped by junior running back Eddie Lacy landing on the goal-line just before halftime.
Alabama threatened to take control of the game in the third quarter, but could only muster a 28-yard field goal by Jeremy Shelley, which was quickly matched by the Aggies to make it 23-17.
Its last gasp occurred after Bertolet missed a 29-yard field goal with 10:06 remaining, and McCarron hit freshman Amari Cooper for a 50-yard completion. But on the subsequent snap, Yeldon was stripped of the ball by defensive back Steven Terrell, with senior cornerback Dustin Harris recovering.
Manziel only needed two plays to all but put the game away, a 42-yard sideline completion to Swope and 24-yard touchdown pass to Malcome Kennedy. McCarron countered with a 54-yard touchdown pass to Cooper, and a 54-yard bomb to Kenny Bell gave Alabama first down at the A&M 6, only to have McCarron's throw into the end zone picked off.
"(We're) down, but we don't have time to be down," McCarron said. "We lost one last year and got back in the national championship. We just have to finish out strong. Texas A&M played a great game.
"We have to get back to business, finish strong, win the SEC Championship and maybe some teams will fall off."
NOTES: Alabama trailed at halftime for the first time since at South Carolina on Oct. 9, 2010. ... McCarron's 309 passing yards were a career high. However, his team record streak of passing attempts without an interception was snapped at 291. The only other time McCarron has had two interceptions in a game was his first as a starter, against Kent State in the 2011 season opener. ... With his ninth catch of the game in the third quarter, Swope overtook Jeff Fuller's Texas A&M school record of 233 receptions. ... The Alabama women's golf team received its national championship rings between the first and second quarters. Alabama also held a special reunion of Paul W. "Bear" Bryant's players from Texas A&M, and its first gathering of Crimson Tide All-American players.