Yoesting: Cotton Bowl wraps incredible season for Aggies

Published on Saturday, 5 January 2013 23:18 - Written by Travis Yoesting

It’s amazing what a change in conference can do, isn’t it? Texas A&M had won just two of 13 games against Bob Stoops’ Oklahoma teams in Big 12 play.

Now in the Southeastern Conference, the Aggies used that SEC speed and strength to clobber the Sooners 41-13 in the Cotton Bowl on Friday night.

Texas A&M finished the season 11-2. Those types of seasons don’t grow on Century Trees — not in Aggieland. Only in 1939 (11), 1992 (12) and 1998 (11) did the Aggies reach such a lofty win total.

The whole campaign was remarkable, one for the ages for the Aggies.

For a program that started the year by pathetically trying to claim additional national and conference championships on the side of Kyle Field (A&M was retroactively awarded shares of the 1919 and 1927 national titles by one organization), 2012-13 was a season actually worth celebrating.

Early losses to Top 10 foes Florida and LSU aside, Texas A&M was the hottest team in the country down the stretch. The Aggies beat current No. 2 Alabama in Tuscaloosa and on Friday dismantled an OU team that was tied with No. 1 Notre Dame heading into the final six minutes.

Oh, and there was some kid from Tyler named Johnny Manziel, who became the program’s second Heisman Trophy winner, putting up absurd statistics with mind-blowing highlights along the way.

Anyone who questioned Manziel’s state of mind after hanging out with Megan Fox and LeBron James over the holidays looked silly after another jaw-dropping performance Friday.

Stats alone — 516 total yards (287 pass/229 rush), four TDs — don’t do justice to the 20-year-old who makes video game avatars look slow.

What Manziel is capable of doing — escaping rushes with agile pirouettes, speedily weaving down the middle of the field like a slalom champion or placing inch-perfect passes into the path of sprinting receivers — is nothing short of incredible.

I say this with no reservation: Johnny Football is the Lionel Messi of football. They’re both quick, diminutive and absolute magic.

While writers across the globe struggle to find new ways to express the brilliance of the world’s best soccer player, Manziel too continues to defy description.

Sure, Manziel needs to dazzle for a few more years to be considered an all-time great, but I’d say his 2012 calendar year was just as spectacular as that of Messi, who scored a record 91 goals.

“Johnny is one of those ‘once in a lifetime’ guys,” A&M running back Ben Malena said. “He can throw the ball and he can run the ball. He can make the checks to make our offense succeed.”

But the Aggies weren’t just about Manziel and Kevin Sumlin’s high-flying offense this season.

For all the talk of Notre Dame’s defense, the Wrecking Crew held the Sooners and senior quarterback Landry Jones to fewer yards per play and the same season-low point total of 13.

“I’m just overwhelmed with excitement and joy, just to get such a big win, all the goals that we set for our self at the beginning of the season, to see them be accomplished,” said Aggies junior defensive end Damontre Moore, who announced prior to the game he’d skip his senior season to follow his friend Von Miller into the NFL.

The Aggies soundly defeated the co-Big 12 champs. It’s easy to reason that had Texas A&M not bolted for the SEC, the team could have gone undefeated and played for a national title (although nobody would’ve beaten Alabama and who knows if the Aggies could have garnered better BCS numbers than the Irish).

But the move to the SEC, which I vocally opposed for its destruction of centuries-old rivalries, clearly paid off. I doubt Manziel wins the Heisman putting up crazy numbers against Big 12 defenses, even if RGIII did it a year before. Texas A&M’s national profile right now is bigger than I can ever remember it.

After this season, there’s little doubt that the Aggies have passed rival Texas as the state’s top college football program, with the nation’s top-rated athlete Ricky Seals-Jones decommitting from the Longhorns to go to College Station.

To make matters worse for the struggling — and that term is relative, considering UT went 9-4 and beat No. 15 Oregon State in the Alamo Bowl — Longhorns, Baylor and Texas Tech are building momentum.

The Bears, like the Aggies, ended the season on fire and obliterated UCLA in the Holiday Bowl. Texas Tech just brought Kliff Kingsbury, whose play calling helped Manziel win the Heisman, back to Lubbock, reigniting a fan base that wasn’t all too sad to see Tommy Tuberville slink away to Cincinnati.

But at least Texas doesn’t have to play Texas A&M. There were rumors that had the Cotton Bowl offered the Longhorns a chance to play the Aggies, they would have declined.

Probably a smart move. If college football was horse racing, Texas A&M would beat Texas by 70, based on the scores of the teams’ games on neutral fields against Oklahoma.

The way the Aggies played over the last six games, they will likely be ranked in the Top 5 coming into next year.

There are holes to fill, notably Moore, center Patrick Lewis and possibly Outland Trophy winner Luke Joeckel, but Sumlin has a strong recruiting class to add to a good talent pool accumulated by Mike Sherman.

If the Cotton Bowl on Friday was any indication, these Aggies aren’t going away.

Texas A&M could’ve come into the game fat on praise and comfortable with what they had already accomplished. Instead the Aggies staff outschemed “Big Game Bob” — that moniker is now laughable — and the Aggies players outplayed more heralded recruits.

Now the question is whether A&M does the same heading into its second season in the SEC.

“It depends on how hard people want to work in the offseason,” Manziel said when asked about how good the Aggies can be next year. “I’m going to call the guys up and ask them, ‘How hard to we want this?’

“Do we want to have all this hype and not back it up, or do we want to grind in the summer? I think if we want to put in the work, the sky’s the limit for this team.”