COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) -- Mike Gillislee ran for 83 yards and two touchdowns and No. 24 Florida shut down Texas A&M's offense in the second half in a 20-17 win on Saturday in the Aggies' first Southeastern Conference game after moving from the Big 12.
Florida trailed 17-10 at halftime after a first half where Texas A&M's offense under new coach Kevin Sumlin pretty much did what it wanted. Things changed in the second half as the Gators clamped down and forced punts each of A&M's six possessions after the break.
Caleb Sturgis helped Florida cut A&M's lead to 17-13 with a 25-yard field goal early in the third quarter.
Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel looked indecisive most of the day and was sacked eight times. But he made a play when he had to, finding Omarius Hines on a 39-yard completion to propel a drive early in the fourth quarter.
Gillislee finished it off, evading a couple of defenders and then tight-roping the sideline on a 12-yard touchdown run to put Florida up 20-17. Gillislee had a 4 yard score in the first quarter.
Driskel also came up big late in the game with a 21-yard run to give the Gators a first down and allow them to run out the clock.
Texas A&M freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel threw for 173 yards and ran for 60 more, but he couldn't move A&M's offense after halftime.
Saturday was Texas A&M's opener after the Aggies and Louisiana Tech postponed last week's game until Oct. 13 because of Hurricane Isaac.
The Aggies' second half offensive woes ruined a great day for their defense. Jonathan Stewart finished with 17 tackles and Damontre Moore had three sacks.
Manziel, who was the first freshman quarterback to start a opener for the Aggies since 1944, looked great early.
A&M's first drive ended with a 27-yard field goal on their first drive.
The Gators soon took a 7-3 lead on a 4-yard touchdown run by Gillislee on their opening drive.
Manziel really heated up on the second drive, using his arm and his feet to move the Aggies down the field. His 11-yard touchdown scamper put A&M back on top 10-7 early in the second quarter.
Then the defense went to work. The Aggies collected three sacks on Florida's next possession and quickly forced a punt.
Texas A&M used a bit of trickery en route to their next score. They went with an end-around receiver pass from Kenric McNeal to Mike Evans to gain 27 yards on second-down. Christine Michael finished off the drive when he took the direct snap and bulled into the end zone for a 1-yard touchdown to extend the lead to 17-7.
Texas A&M's fifth sack of the game forced Florida to attempt a 51-yard field goal in the second quarter. Sturgis missed it, but A&M called a timeout, giving him another shot -- and he nailed the second one to cut the lead to 17-10. It was the seventh field goal of 50 yards or more in his career to set a school record.
Driskel was 13 of 16 for 162 yards and Jordan Reed had five receptions for 59 yards.
- Today's game marked Texas A&M's first-ever game in the Southeastern Conference, Kevin Sumlin's debut as A&M head coach and the playing debut of the Aggies' newly-designed adidas uniforms.
- The Aggies racked up 8.0 QB sacks for a loss of 48 yards. Texas A&M led the NCAA in sacks with 51 in 2011, and had eight sacks twice during the season (vs. SMU and Northwestern)
- Today's game marked the first time A&M has played a conference opponent in a season-opener since 1967 (20-17 loss to SMU).
- It was a strong statistical game for punter Ryan Epperson, who averaged 49.8 yards on six punts, with a long of 61 yards and two boots downed inside the 20.
- Middle linebacker Jonathan Stewart was the game's top tackler with a career-high 17 tackles, including 11 solo hits. His previous best was 13 vs. Missouri in 2011.
- In his first start at defensive end, junior Damontre Moore had a game-high and career-high three quarterback sacks and 10 tackles. The last time an Aggie had three sacks in a game was last year's season-opener with Tony Jerod-Eddie had three sacks against SMU.
FIRST STARTS --- Making their first starts at A&M were Mike Evans (Fr-RS) at WR, Johnny Manziel (Fr-RS) at QB, Julien Obioha (Fr-HS), Kirby Ennis (Jr-2L) at DT, DeShazor Everett (So-1L) at CB, De'Vante Harris (Fr-HS) at CB. Manziel is the first Aggie freshman QB to start a season-opener since 1944. He had a strong debut with 23-of-30 passing (76.7 percent) for 173 yards and a team-high 60 rushing yards on 17 carries.
Catches: Mike Evans, Thomas Johnson, Trey Williams, Gaston Lamascus
Passes: Johnny Manziel and senior WR Kenric McNeal
Field Goals/PAT: Taylor Bertolet
Deep snaps: Jake Matthews
FRESHMAN IMPACT --- A bevy of true and redshirt freshmen made significant contributions in the Aggies' 2012 season opener. Seeing their first action in the Maroon & White were: QB Johnny Manziel, RB/KOR Trey Williams, WR Thomas Johnson; DE Julien Obioha, CB De'Vante Harris, WR Mike Evans, PK Taylor Bertolet, LB Jordan Richmond, WR Sabian Holmes, LB Cody Johnson and OL Joseph Cheek.
The Aggies were led by freshmen in passing (173 yards by Manziel), rushing (60 yards by Manziel), receptions and receiving yards (7-60 by Evans), kickoff return yards (58 by Williams) and all-purpose yardage (104 by Williams)
GAME CAPTAINS, 12TH MAN --- Game captains were seniors Patrick Lewis, Ryan Swope and Sean Porter and junior Ben Malena. … 12th Man was linebacker Justin Bass, a sophomore from Plano, Texas and younger brother of 2011 Aggie senior Ben Bass.TODAY'S CROWD --- The attendance was 87,114, which marks the largest season-opening crowd in school history. It is the No. 9 largest crowd in school history. It was A&M's ninth straight sellout dating back to the Nebraska game dating back to the 2010 Nebraska game.
Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M Head Coach
"What we failed to do today was penalties. We talked about it last week - penalties and turnovers making a difference, and they're things that we can control. It's disappointing the number of penalties we had. It set us back, offensively we couldn't get moving and right before that we jump offside, we lose a timeout for the ten-second runoff. And in the second half, it was basically the same tale. Florida did an excellent job in the second half. We didn't make enough plays in the second half to be effective offensively and penalties also got us behind the chains. Those are things that we have to address that we've been addressing. Obviously that point was not taken. We talked about it after the game and we've got to spend time, as we have, but more time on us, in doing the things that we need to do to win the game. That's not to take anything away from your opponent. Florida played very well. You look at a game like that where it's a tight game, there are no turnovers, the ball security was very good on both sides, you start looking at where the difference is. Penalties were a big factor in this football game today."
On whether he left the
running game too early in the second half.
"No, we looked at it. There are lot of things that basically because of how they were playing in the first half, we were able to we were able to run the football a bit more effectively. They made some adjustments to kind of show that up and make us do some other things. It's not that we left the run game. We ran it. We just didn't get anything. We've got to change and we've got to throw it and we're off the field. I'm not sure the number of runs that we had in the second half, but I know obviously that the production of the running game was nowhere near the first half."
quarterback Johnny Manziel's debut
"It's hard. I did the same thing after the scrimmage. You have to go back and look at video. What you see from the sidelines is different than what you see in where he is in the breakdown with his protection, did he screen and did he go through the reads. Obviously he's a young guy and he made plays in the first half, but they contained him in the second half and took away the other part of his legs, really, in the second half. This is a real learning situation for him, as it will be every week. I'll have to look at. The first thing that you start to look at with a young quarterback is did he give the ball to the other team? That didn't happen. From a game management standpoint he did that. That's the first thing that you want to look at with a young guy. As I go back and look at video I'll be able to give you a better answer. The thing about quarterbacks is that they're like me, they get too much credit when they win and all of the blame when they lose. There are 10 other guys out there that have to do their job, too. From a game management standpoint, to go through his first football game against a ranked opponent, an SEC opponent, and not turn the ball over - that's a real plus for him and for us."
On the Aggies' SEC
"It was great energy. I'm disappointed, obviously, like anybody else that we didn't win the game. We've got some things that we have to fix that we're working to fix. We talk about all the time that there are no excuses. In any game like that, when things are that close, execution becomes key. We didn't make enough plays during the game. Florida did. You've got to give them credit. They made the plays that they needed in the second half to win the game. Coming out, I thought that the energy level of the crowd was fantastic. It's the reason I wanted to be here and the reason that Kyle Field is such a great place. I'm disappointed that we didn't win.
On how the loss
affects the players' psyche after losing a first-half lead
"We were winning at halftime, 17-10, so that's a close game. That's something that we've been addressing. It's the elephant in the room. When you have a game that is that close, the first thing that you have to fix is yourselves - from a penalization standpoint, and an execution standpoint. Then the other part of winning or closing up games become a little bit easier. That's a good question about the psyche of this team. I've said it before - walking in this spring, you could feel it. It's something that, based on this game today - which is the only game I've coached here, I didn't feel that. I felt like we just couldn't close or make plays in the fourth quarter. We're still there. We have the chance to win the game. Drive the ball and score, or tie it up at the end. We failed to do that and our defense really gave us an opportunity two-or-three times. And it really turned into a punting game. I thought our kicking game, with the exception of the fake to keep them on the field, obviously. I thought we traded with them. Coverage was good on both sides. We just didn't make enough plays to close it out."
On Johnny Manziel
"Anyone who's watched him play knows he's not a normal freshman. That is a big job to start at home in front of that crowd, against a ranked team. You can watch his play and anyone who saw him play knows he's not timid. He's very, very confident in his actions and I think as we review the video with him, I think he's going to be able to see, 'Alright, here's where I need experience and where I can get better.' The thing that created some more offense for us in the first half was his legs. In the second half, without looking at video, I don't think he felt comfortable doing that. There are fast guys in this league. You're not the fastest guy on the field anymore. That became evident in the second half."
Ryan Swope, Senior Wide Receiver
"I mean, they were fast and had a good defense...those guys run around. We've just got to take a look at the film and try to improve on it."
second half performance
"I think we came out in the first half and we felt good, we felt confident. I really can't vouch for the second half. It's just doing your job, and the coach talked about that all week. We do our job, do our assignment and we'll win the game. I think we beat ourselves, just with penalties and assignments that we missed. We've just got to stay positive and look at the film and just go on to next week. "
On this loss compared
to last year
"Yes, in a way. I flashed back. It's hard. This is a whole new year, so I've just got to put that behind me. It's one game. I know we've got a great group of guys and a great group of coaches. We've just got to accept it, prepare, and put that one behind us."
effects of the loss on the fans
"That's probably the biggest disappointment...myself, my team. You know, as a whole, just let down Kyle Field today. We let down the great fans. It's so electric in that stadium. I don't think they ever sat down today. Like I said, we have the best fans in college football and it's tough. We don't really know why. And just knowing how many people we let down, I think that's the biggest thing for me. We let down this university. Not just that, but we let down each other. But the good thing is that we've got 11 football games left to play. We've just got to stay positive and we're going to need those fans behind us the whole year."
performance in the game
"I think Johnny played a great job for us. Just played smart and making plays. He's a tough guy and you could just tell today that Johnny was going to throw the ball right for us. I think he did a great job today. I think that he's obviously got some improvement. Everyone does, including myself. We can all get better from watching this film and just carry it over to next week."
team's future in the SEC
"It's way too early. We just go out there and play football. We don't look at what conference we're in. When we're playing, if we go out and play football, then that's all we have to worry about. We put all the rest behind us. We watch the film on the other team and we prepare just by ...We're just going out there to have fun and play football."
Jonathan Stewart, Senior Linebacker
On the Aggies' defense
"It's a very tough loss. We had opportunities, we had ample opportunities out there today in the first half and the second half and we didn't capitalize. We made too many mistakes, too many missed tackles, too many penalties. If we cut those down, we would have come out with a victory but unfortunately we didn't do what we needed to do to win the game."
On whether the game felt like the 2011 season
"Not really. The result, the end result felt like last year. But overall we were confident, we had plenty of opportunities and unfortunately we just didn't get the job done. The sun will come up in the morning. We have to wake up, move on to the next game, get ready for SMU. That's the great thing about football, it's twelve-game seasons, and we lost the first game, so now we've got to move on. We've still got 11 games left, and we've just got to look forward to SMU. We can't hang our head on losing to Florida and everything that surrounds it."
On the move to the SEC
"The move to the SEC is great, for the school, and the fans, and all the hoorah that goes along with it. As a football team we still go out there. The football field is the same dimensions, and there are still just going to be eleven people on the field. So regardless of if we're playing in the MAC, the Big 12, the Big 10, high school football or whatever, we've just got to go out there and compete no matter what conference we are in."
On Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel
"Jeff Driskel did a heck of a job getting them out of tough situations. He really used his legs today. Whenever we had coverage sags and he'd break a tackle and get out of there, he did what Jonny did some of the time. We just didn't wrap him up enough and missed tackles. That's what this game came down to. They made more tackles than we did. And we missed more tackles than they did."
Mark Snyder, Texas A&M Defensive Coordinator
On the defensive line
"I thought we played fast and we played with some aggressiveness. We had too many missed tackles, in my opinion. You know we warned them about the first game. I said it after watching the games last week that there was too much ankle biting going on, across the front and in the secondary. But I did think the kids played fast, I did think they played aggressively I think they did show some want-to. I felt no quit in them through the whole game. They want to keep making stops and get the ball back to our offense. That was very, very pleasing because being the first game, you don't know exactly what you're getting, with the exception of five or six plays and after the first drive, I thought we did okay."
On not having any turnovers
"There is no doubt that's frustrating. Driskel frustrated us all day. He's got that ball out there swinging all over the place and we're trying to get him down let alone knock the ball out and that goes to show you some of our athleticism, right now. Those are dangerous plays for a quarter back. There were five or six times I saw him going down - he's got that ball all over the place and we're not going for the ball. We have to create turnovers, there's no doubt."
On young players
"I had to pull Deshazor out of the game for ankle-biting and showed that he's a rookie. He had bad leverage on some things and he's not real strong on the top yet. I'm not discouraged but you can tell that they are really, really raw. They are very, very young. And at times today, they hurt us, there's no doubt."
On Damontre Moore
"Damontre has been showing me through camp, since I've been here in the spring, when he put his hand in the dirt, he had the chance to be pretty good. Unfortunately we're reaching for people. We have three personal foul face masks on defense that changes the field position dramatically. Five yarders, not so bad. Fifteen yarders, absolutely kill you. Damontre had one of them during the very last - we're trying to get off the field and we grab a face mask. We've got to get out and then there's nowhere to go. It's uncalled for, but those are learning experiences for us, and I think as this year goes, Damontre is going to make a lot of noise. I really do."
On the energy of Kyle Field
"It was pretty cool. That was really neat. Our fans got our kids on our side of the ball really jacked up. And we were able to go with a little three-man rotation. We did sub a ton of guys. I think they were feeding off the crowd, it was pretty special. It was really special. And it's just nice to have that. You know, defense is about emotion and when you get the crowd into it like that, that helps tremendously."
Kliff Kingsbury, Texas A&M Offensive Coordinator
On Johnny Manziel
"I couldn't be prouder of the kid, the way he fought. It wasn't perfect by any stretch, but he fought and he's going to win a lot of games here."
On the offensive line
"I thought they battled, and it's an experienced group. I think Johnny is a playmaker. I thought the whole offense fought the whole game. We just made too many mistakes."
"He's just got to get better. It's his first game that he's played here in this offense. Like I said, I couldn't be prouder of the way he fought and he's got a chance to be a really, really good player. He'll get better."
On Florida's defense
"I think we caught them off guard a little during the first half and they were on to it some of the second. I tip my hat off to them. They are a great defense."
On ways to improve
"We've got to be better at completing passes. We've got young receivers out there...we've got to find a way to get Ryan [Swope] the ball because he's a big player. We're just going to do that from here on out."
Head Coach Will Muschamp
"It was a good win for our team. The guys continued to fight hard and play the game for 60 minutes. Third down was an adventure for our team. [Freshman Quarterback] Johnny Manziel is an amazing athlete. He made plays for the team. We did a better job in the second half controlling the line of scrimmage. That was the difference. There is no magic potion. I told my guys to quit running up the field. You get the illusion that these guys are a passing team, but really they are not right now with Johnny [Manziel]. They are a running team. We ran the ball well, stayed balanced in the game, and moved the football. Coming into this solid environment I thought our guys hung in there well and did what we had to do to win the game. This is who we are. We are going to grind it out; we are going to win. That's our mentality as a football team. We are going to grow and mature throughout the year."
Junior Tight End Jordan Reed
How did you adjust in the second half...
"In the second half we got used to their stunts and blitzes. They had a bunch of exotic blitzes that we had to pick up. We opened up our playbook this week. A win is a win. We won the game and we are excited. We are going to get better as the season progresses."
Senior Offensive Lineman James Wilson
How big was the last drive...
"The last drive to kill the clock was huge. The O-Line knew we had to stay on the field to secure a win. We have been practicing that all spring. We played our game and stayed focused.
"Texas A&M was all that was advertised. They were in it the whole game. It's great to come out of here with a win."
The teams feeling at
We were composed at half time. No one hung their head. No one was pointing fingers. We just corrected the things we needed to correct. We knew we had another half to play. Only being down a touchdown is really nothing, especially with the defense playing the way they were."