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Texas A&M Football

Manziel, Aggies deliver statement in Dallas

January 5, 2013
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ARLINGTON, Texas — Everyone should be convinced now. There’s no longer room for intelligent debate.

Regis Philbin, Dick Vitale, Mike Golic and all those Notre Dame proponents should humbly acknowledge that Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel did indeed deserve the Heisman Trophy.

And those who doubted A&M’s ability to compete in the Southeastern Conference must at least acknowledge the Aggies would have won the Big 12 championship had they remained there.

Texas A&M’s convincing, 41-13 Cotton Bowl victory over Big 12 co-champion Oklahoma on Friday night at Cowboys Stadium settled both those issues once and for all.

"I think tonight was really indicative of our season. It’s one of the teams I thought in the country that truly got better every week. We didn’t always do everything right all the time, but I don’t think there was ever a game this year where these guys didn’t play with tremendous effort." - Kevin Sumlin {"Module":"quote","Alignment":"right","Quote":"\"I think tonight was really indicative of our season. It’s one of the teams I thought in the country that truly got better every week. We didn’t always do everything right all the time, but I don’t think there was ever a game this year where these guys didn’t play with tremendous effort.\"","Author":"Kevin Sumlin"}
“I think tonight was really indicative of our season,” first-year A&M coach Kevin Sumlin said. “It’s one of the teams I thought in the country that truly got better every week. We didn’t always do everything right all the time, but I don’t think there was ever a game this year where these guys didn’t play with tremendous effort.

“We were excited to play tonight. Fortunately, in big-time situations these guys have handled that all year. Like I said, this game is really indicative of how we played all season.”

Texas A&M clinched its fourth 11-win season in its football history and could finish in the top five of college football’s final polls.

And the Aggies did it largely behind Manziel, the amazing freshman quarterback who rose from second team status in August to national phenomenon in November. Manziel was just the fifth player ever to rush for 1,000 yards and pass for 3,000 yards in the same season. He also led the Aggies to a stunning upset of Alabama.

Yet, Notre Dame advocates campaigned for Irish linebacker Manti Te’o to win the Heisman. When Manziel became the first freshman in history to win the trophy, Notre Dame fans complained the Heisman was just for offensive players.

Actually, the Heisman goes to the “most outstanding player. Once again, Manziel proved worthy of that title.

He rolled up 516 yards in total offense against Oklahoma, including 229 rushing yards a bowl record for a quarterback. He threw for 287 yards to outgun OU’s proficient passer Landry Jones, who threw for 278 yards and a touchdown.

Like an annoying fly, Manziel was inevitably too quick, too fast and too out of reach as he dashed and darted through the Sooners' beleaguered defense.

“He’s not only throwing the football, but what he does with his feet is incredibly difficult to handle,” an exasperated Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. “Even when guys are in position he’s so incredibly quick and strong that he’s hard to get to. You get an angle on him, he stops and goes the other way. If you don’t, he outruns you. The way he changes direction it’s tough to deal with in the open field.”

TexAgs Even when the Sooners cut off Manziel's passing options, he prolonged numerous drives by reverting to his legs. {"Module":"photo","Alignment":"left","Size":"large","Caption":"Even when the Sooners cut off Manziel\u0027s passing options, he prolonged numerous drives by reverting to his legs.","MediaItemID":26637}
Manziel was especially difficult to deal with in the third quarter, when A&M turned a 14-13 halftime struggle into a blowout. He rushed for 60 yards and threw a 33-yard touchdown pass to Ryan Swope as the Aggies exploded for a 34-13 lead.

Manziel added a 34-yard touchdown pass to Uzoma Nwachukwu in the fourth quarter. He would have had another touchdown pass, but a perfect throw deflected off Malcome Kennedy’s hands for an interception.

He did all that without offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury, who left A&M last month to accept the head coaching job at Texas Tech. Running backs Clarence McKinney stepped in to call the plays and Manziel didn’t miss a beat.

It was an amazing performance, made more amazing by the fact that Heisman Trophy recipients have historically struggled in bowl games.

“There is too much talk about how you perform after the Heisman and about the layoff and all that,” Manziel said. “There wasn’t anything holding us back. No rust, there was no nothing. We played as a unit and that’s all you can ask for.

“I couldn’t be more proud of the seniors and what they’ve done this year. To go out and win 11 games and do what we’ve done is impressive.”

Even the spurned Big 12 should be impressed.

A&M was derided and ridiculed when it left the Big 12 for the powerful SEC. But then the Aggies defeated Alabama en route to a 10-2 regular season, and the jokes stopped.

Next, they landed here at Cowboys Stadium to face 12th ranked Oklahoma, which shared the Big 12 championship with Kansas State. The Sooners lost 24-19 to Kansas State in a hard-fought contest that wasn’t decided until the final minutes.

A&M didn’t allow that much suspense. By the end of the third quarter jubilant Aggies were already giving the “S-E-C, S-E-C” victory chant.

TexAgs After letting OU march methodically down the field in the first half, A&M's defense locked down and helped engineer the blowout. {"Module":"photo","Alignment":"right","Size":"large","Caption":"After letting OU march methodically down the field in the first half, A&M\u0027s defense locked down and helped engineer the blowout.","MediaItemID":26639}
So dominant were the Aggies that they set a Cotton Bowl record with 599 yards of total offense. That allowed A&M to become the first SEC team to exceed 7,000 yards of total offense in one season.

The defense even brought back memories of the Wrecking Crew years. Oklahoma boasted one of the nation’s highest-scoring offenses, but was held to a season-low 13 points.

And frankly, the Sooners were lucky to get that.

Midway through the first quarter, the Aggies held strong on the goal line and stonewalled OU’s burly backup quarterback Blake Bell on fourth-and-goal at the 1-yard line.

However, a pre-snap false allowed the Sooners a second chance to kick a 23-yard field goal. OU managed just 152 yards in the second half.

“We started heating up (Jones) a little bit more,” A&M defensive coordinator Mark Snyder said. “They were prepared and they did a great job. (Jones) had a really good first quarter and a half. We had enough bullets in the holster when we came back out (after halftime) to keep giving him different looks.”

A&M has the look of a team that could challenge for a national championship if there were a college football playoff. The question now is whether it can look like one in 2013.

Next, the Aggies return to College Station and soon will begin the process of building for next season. Some believe the Aggies could mount a serious challenge for the SEC championship. Perhaps they could win the national title.

But that would have to be accomplished without star seniors like Swope, linebacker Sean Porter, center Patrick Lewis and linebacker Jonathan Stewart who completed their careers on Friday night.

The Aggies will also be without All-American defensive end Damontre Moore, who has declared for early entry into the NFL draft. They may also be missing All-American tackles Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews, who will also consider entering the NFL draft.

Yet, the Aggies will still have Manziel.

And after his showing in the Cotton Bowl, can anyone really debate what he’s capable of?
 
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