COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Unable to stop Johnny Manziel, Alabama answered Texas A&M the only way it could: The top-ranked Crimson Tide kept scoring, hoping to have the ball last.
When AJ McCarron took a knee to end it, Alabama was finally safe. There was nothing more Manziel could do.
McCarron threw four touchdown passes, Vinnie Sunseri returned an interception 73 yards for a score — sidestepping Johnny Football on the way, too — and Alabama paid back No. 6 Texas A&M with a 49-42 victory Saturday.
Manziel threw for a career-best 464 yards with five TDs and ran for 98 yards. His 562 total yards is the second-most in SEC history, ranking only behind the 576 he had against Louisiana Tech.
"We knew we were going to have play this way on offense to have a chance in this game," Tide coach Nick Saban said. "I didn't think they were going to score 42 points, but I kind of thought they would score some points and they did."
Alabama spotted the Aggies a 14-0 lead, shades of last season when A&M led 20-0 on the road en route to a victory that all but won the Heisman Trophy for Manziel.
McCarron and the Tide didn't take as long to respond this time, ripping off the next 35 points. McCarron tossed three touchdowns in the first half to put Alabama up 28-14. Sunseri's interception and score made it 35-14 less than three minutes into the third.
"I'm so proud of our players for the resiliency they showed getting behind 14-0," Saban said. "Just slowly and methodically coming back in the game and building up the lead."
The Manziel magic moment came in the second quarter, when he retreated 25 yards behind the line of scrimmage, pulling away from one pass rusher who had a handful of jersey and launching a deep ball down the middle with another Tide player in his face. Edward Pope came down with the alley-oop for a 12-yard gain. But a couple of plays later Manziel was picked off in the end zone and the momentum swung.
"I will take that one on me," Manziel said.
His third-quarter pick and whiff on the tackle put the Aggies in a deep hole.
"I thought his play was Johnny-like," Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin said. "Anybody who's seen him play, that's about right."
Alabama's best defense was its offense. The Tide gained 568 yards and kept Manziel on the sideline with long drives.
"With the type of offense A&M has, you have to eat up some clock and pound the ball," said McCarron, who passed for 334 yards.
Manziel was one of many Aggies reminding everyone what happened to the loser of this matchup last year.
"This wasn't the Super Bowl," Manziel said. "Alabama lost a game last year and still went on to win the national championship. Our season isn't over."