SHREVEPORT, La. (AP) — Louisiana Tech coach Sonny Dykes wasn't deterred with his team trailing Texas A&M by 23 points at halftime on Saturday night.
He believed they could win.
And these scrappy Bulldogs almost did.
Johnny Manziel accounted for six touchdowns, including two to fend off a late rally, and No. 22 Texas A&M held on for a 59-57 win over 23rd-ranked Louisiana Tech to hand the Bulldogs their first loss.
Louisiana Tech mounted a furious second half rally capped by a 13-yard touchdown reception by Ray Holley to cut the lead to two points with 38 seconds left. But Colby Cameron's throw to Quinton Patton fell incomplete and the Aggies had the win.
"I just didn't make a good pass," Cameron said. "It was on me. I needed to give (Patton) a chance to compete for the ball and I didn't."
Dykes told his team at halftime that they simply had to make more plays in the second half to get back into the game.
"Our guys did exactly that," Dykes said. "It's a shame we couldn't make a play right there at the end of the game."
Louisiana Tech had cut the lead to 2 earlier in the fourth quarter before Manziel answered with a 17-yard touchdown pass to Thomas Johnson to extend the lead to 53-44 with seven minutes left.
Texas A&M forced a punt and Manziel scored on a 72-yard run with about two minutes left and the kick failed.
The Bulldogs wouldn't go away though, and Quinton Patton scored on a 62-yard reception seconds later. They then recovered an onside kick which led to their last touchdown.
"I was proud of the way they fought," Dykes said. "But we came here to win. There are no moral victories here."
Manziel ran for 181 yards and three touchdowns and threw for 395 yards and three more scores. These teams entered the game averaging more than 1,000 yards between them, and as Saturday night crept into early Sunday morning, they outdid even those outlandish standards.
A&M finished with 678 yards of offense and Louisiana Tech had 615. Tech's output is even more impressive considering the offense sputtered in the first quarter and had just 33 yards.
"We just didn't get off to a very good start obviously," Dykes said. "We had a hard time getting into a rhythm early. I think we were probably a little nervous. We had a hard time adjusting to Manziel's speed."
The Bulldogs, who entered the national rankings this week for the first time since 1999, saw their nation-best 12-game regular-season winning streak snapped. It was their first regular-season loss since Oct. 1, 2011 against Hawaii.
The Aggies led by 23 in the third quarter before the furious comeback attempt by Louisiana Tech. The Bulldogs reeled off 21 straight points capped by an interception return for a touchdown to cut the lead to 46-44 with 12 minutes left.
A 21-yard touchdown run by Kenneth Dixon, which he finished with a defender hanging off of him, cut A&M's lead to 46-36 early in the fourth quarter. The first 2-point conversion attempt failed, but a pass interference call gave the Bulldogs another shot and Cameron ran it in.
Shakeil Lucas intercepted a pass from Manziel seconds later and returned it 5 yards for a touchdown, but Cameron's 2-point conversion attempt was intercepted to leave A&M with a 46-44 lead.
Texas A&M controlled the game until halftime, but had trouble defending Patton in the second half and were also hurt by penalty after penalty. They finished with 19 for 165.
Patton finished with school-record-tying 21 receptions for 233 yards and four scores.
He scored on a 2-yard touchdown reception with about nine minutes left in the third quarter to cut Texas A&M's lead to 39-23. Manziel answered with a 2-yard run before Patton did it again, scoring on a 5-yard pass from Cameron to make it 36-30 later in the third quarter.
The teams played at Independence Stadium in Shreveport, La., which is about 70 miles from Louisiana Tech's campus in Ruston, La. But the crowd of more than 40,000 was pretty evenly split between A&M and Louisiana Tech fans.
Louisiana Tech entered the game averaging 53 points a game, which are the third most in the country. But early on the Bulldogs looked nothing like the team that had been doing that kind of damage.