LSU's defense holds off Manziel, A&MLSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger (8) throws against Texas A&M during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 20, 2012, in College Station, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Kayne)
COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) -- LSU's play-making defense saved the Tigers again.
Jeremy Hill rushed for a career-high 127 yards and a touchdown, and the sixth-ranked Tigers rallied from an early deficit to beat No. 20 Texas A&M 24-19 at Kyle Field on Saturday.
Michael Ford also had a touchdown run and Zach Mettenberger threw a TD pass to Kadron Boone for the Tigers (7-1, 3-1 Southeastern Conference), who scored 21 points off four Texas A&M turnovers.
A&M (5-2, 2-2) outplayed the Tigers for much of the first half and led 12-0, LSU's largest deficit since the national championship game against Alabama in January. But the Aggies gave away two costly turnovers just before halftime, and Boone's diving catch in the end zone with 11 seconds left put LSU up 14-12 at the break. Hill finished off A&M with a 47-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
Johnny Manziel, A&M's dual-threat redshirt freshman quarterback, completed 29 of 56 passes for 276 yards, but threw three interceptions and was sacked three times. He was the SEC's leading rusher coming into the game and was held to 27 yards on 17 carries.
A&M started strong, though, moving the ball easily on its opening drive and taking a 6-0 lead on Christine Michael's short touchdown run. LSU hadn't given up a first-quarter score in four games.
LSU went three-and-out on its initial series, and the defense looked a step slow again when A&M got the ball back. Manziel got plenty of protection from the Aggies' offensive line and threaded a 21-yard pass to Mike Evans for a first down at the LSU 34. Taylor Bertolet kicked a 32-yard field goal to put A&M up 9-0.
LSU's defense generated better pressure on Manziel as the half wore on. The Tigers, meanwhile, sputtered for most of the half against the same Aggies' defense that gave up 615 yards in last week's 59-57 win at Louisiana Tech.
The LSU offense got the kick-start it needed when freshman cornerback Jalen Collins intercepted Manziel at the LSU 39. Ford gained 13 yards on a fourth-and-1, then raced 20 yards down the sideline for the Tigers' first touchdown with 1:49 left before halftime.
Ben Malena fumbled at the A&M 41 with just over a minute left in the half. The Aggies looked as if they might escape, but Boone made a diving, over-the-shoulder catch in the end zone with 11 seconds remaining.
Mettenberger went 5-for-16 and the Tigers mustered only 147 yards in the first half. The Aggies amassed 256 yards in the first half - 45 more yards than LSU allowed against South Carolina last week.
LSU started a drive early in the fourth quarter with eight straight running plays, gaining at least five yards on seven of them. Hill ran 18 yards up the middle to the A&M 9 before Jarvis Landry lost yardage on a pass by Mettenberger toward the sideline, and Drew Alleman's 28-yard field goal put LSU up 17-12 with 8:35 remaining.
Trey Williams returned the ensuing kickoff 76 yards to the LSU 16. Linebacker Kevin Minter nearly sacked Manziel on second down and Manziel's throw to Uzoma Nwachukwu fell incomplete on third down. Bertolet shanked a 33-yard attempt and LSU regained possession with 7:28 left.
LSU junior cornerback Tharold Simon put it away when he intercepted Manziel's pass and returned it to the A&M 46. Hill then burst up the middle and sprinted to the end zone, going over 100 yards for the second straight week. He rushed for a career-high 124 yards against South Carolina last week.
Malena finished a quick A&M drive with a 5-yard touchdown run with 1:17 left. But Odell Beckham, Jr. cleanly fielded the onside kick, and the Tigers held on.
The announced attendance was 87,429, the fifth largest crowd in Kyle Field history. The Tigers and Aggies were meeting for the 51st time - they played each other from 1960-75 and from 1986-95 before the series was discontinued. LSU beat Texas A&M 41-24 in the Cotton Bowl after the 2010 season.