Magic Manziel: Heisman winner leads A&M in Cotton Bowl rout


010412_Cotton_Bowl_04web
Texas A&M freshman quarterback Johhny Manziel, a Tyler native, scores a touchdown in the first quarter of Friday's Cotton Bowl win over Oklahoma. (Sarah A. Miller | Tyler Morning Telegraph)

ARLINGTON — Tyler native Johnny Manziel spent much of December traipsing across the country from New York to Los Angeles, a whirlwind tour that included appearances with David Letterman and Jay Leno, as well as courtside seats at Mavericks and Rockets games.

Back in the Lone Star state, Manziel did a little more traveling — up and down the turf at Cowboys Stadium.

Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Football set Cotton Bowl records for total offense (516) and rushing yards for a quarterback (229) as Texas A&M crushed former Big 12 rival Oklahoma 41-13 on Friday, putting an emphatic exclamation mark on the Aggies’ first season in the SEC.

Between the third and fourth quarters an acapella singing of the Aggie War Hymn echoed through Cowboys Stadium, drowning out anything the Sooners fans could counter with.

There was still a quarter to play, but Texas A&M had made its statement.

The Aggies (11-3) had already broken the SEC record for total offense in a season while Manziel had set the aforementioned Cotton Bowl marks.

Manziel’s rushing total, on 17 carries, was also an FBS record for rushing yards by a quarterback in a bowl game. Texas A&M’s 633 total yards were a Cotton Bowl record. The Aggies finished the season with 7,261 yards.

“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.

“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.”

The twinkle-toed, gun-slinging Aggies signal caller completed 22 of 34 passes for 287 yards. Manziel threw for two touchdowns and ran for two more. He became the fourth player in FBS history to rush and pass for 20 touchdowns in a season, joining Tim Tebow, Cam Newton and Colin Kaepernick.

Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said Manziel, who added the Cotton Bowl Outstanding Offensive Player award to his trophy cabinet, was the best college quarterback he’s ever faced.

“Absolutely (he is) because of not only throwing the football, what he does with his feet is just incredibly difficult to handle,” Stoops said. “Johnny Manziel is everything he was billed to be.”

Ryan Swope caught eight passes for 104 yards, including a 33-yard TD haul on fourth-and-5 late in the third quarter to give the Aggies a 34-13 lead. Manziel passed Texas Tech’s Graham Harrell for total offense in a Cotton Bowl game on the play, which prompted chants of S-E-C from the maroon-clad fans.

Landry Jones had 278 yards on 35 of 48 passing for the Sooners (10-3), who were shut out in the second half. Jones, in his final game for OU, was denied a fourth bowl victory.

Leading 14-13 at halftime, Texas A&M outscored Oklahoma 21-0 in the third quarter to pull away for its first win in Cowboys Stadium, having been 0-4 prior.

The Aggies made it 21-13 on their first possession in the second half. After Manziel’s arm and legs marched Texas A&M down the field, the quarterback pitched it to Ben Malena on an option run for a 7-yard score. After an OU punt, freshman Trey Williams, playing in Cowboys Stadium for the first time since leading Spring Dekaney to a state championship last year, ran in from 30 yards as the Aggies began to pull away. Swope’s touchdown was set up by a third straight three-and-out.

“It was obvious tonight that we didn’t play the way we should have,” Jones said. “We couldn’t run it. We couldn’t throw it.”

The Sooners tried to keep Manziel on the sideline by controlling the clock to start the game. Oklahoma, sixth in the Big 12 in time of possession averaging 30:34, held on to the ball for 20:19 in the first half. The Aggies came in averaging 29:28 of possession, 10th in the SEC. Despite that, Texas A&M outgained OU 258-249 on 19 fewer plays.

“We really don’t care about time of possession; what we do care about is third-down conversion,” Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin said.

After Manziel’s cross-country December, it was the Sooners who were exasperated on his first series back on the gridiron. Manziel scrambled to convert a third-and-4 to spark a blazing 8-play, 75-yard drive in 2:39 of game time. Manziel capped the drive with another scramble on third-and-9, a 23-yard TD scamper down the left sideline, the 18th straight game the Aggies scored first.

After Oklahoma’s Javon Harris picked off Manziel in his own end zone, Texas A&M’s Dustin Harris responded with an interception of Jones. Dustin Harris, a senior defensive back, finished with a game-high 10 tackles to be named Defensive Outstanding Player.

On the ensuing possession, Manziel kept it himself, rolling out left to stroll in for a 5-yard score and a 14-6 lead.

The Aggies set the SEC record for total offense in a season, becoming the first league team to surpass 7,000 yards and setting the mark in one fewer game than Cam Newton’s Auburn team in 2010-11.

Malcome Kennedy, a Cayuga native, caught three straight passes for 28 yards midway through the third quarter. He finished his redshirt sophomore season with 26 receptions for 285 yards and two scores, including the game-winning touchdown in the Aggies’ upset of then-No. 1 Alabama.

Notes: Whitehouse native and Oklahoma receiver Trey Metoyer finished his freshman season with 17 catches for 148 yards and one TD. Metoyer spent last season at Hargrave Academy. ... The attendance of 87,025 was second most in Cotton Bowl history behind the Ole Miss-Texas Tech game in 2009. ... Jones’ 23 completions in the first half was a Cotton Bowl record, eight more than the previous mark. His 30 attempts were also a first-half record. ... Texas A&M won back-to-back bowl games in consecutive season for the first time since winning the 1940 Sugar Bowl 14-13 over Tulane as part of the 1939 national championship season and Fordham 13-12 in the 1941 Cotton Bowl. ... The next college football game at Cowboys Stadium will be TCU vs. LSU on Aug. 31.