Posted January 01, 2014

Johnny Manziel leads A&M to stunning comeback victory over Duke in Chick-fil-A Bowl

Johnny Football, Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M Aggies
Johnny Manziel, whose team was down 38-17 at halftime,  finished 30-of-38 passing for 382 yards and a bowl-record four touchdowns.

Johnny Manziel, whose team was down 38-17 at the half, finished 30-of-38 for 382 yards and four touchdowns.

ATLANTA – Julien Obioha watched intently as an animated Johnny Manziel marched back and forth on the sideline during the first quarter of Texas A&M’s game against Duke in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. Moments after the Blue Devils had prevented the normally prolific Aggies from reaching the end zone for a third straight series, a fiery Manziel got in the face of several teammates as A&M stared at a 14-3 hole early in the contest. Obioha, a sophomore defensive end, could tell Manziel wasn’t pointing fingers. Instead, the electric quarterback, playing perhaps his last game in a Texas A&M uniform, was demanding accountability.

“Johnny’s always been a leader,” Obioha said, “and it was basically him saying, “We’re not going to go out like this. We need to come back. This has to be a team effort.’”

Just as he’s done for the entirety of his remarkable career, Manziel lit a fire under his fellow Aggies. The redshirt sophomore made a handful of Manziel-like plays and a much-maligned defense stepped up with two late interceptions to help Texas A&M overcome a 21-point halftime deficit and stun Duke 52-48 in the Georgia Dome. In what many expect to be the final chapter for one of the most exciting players to ever play college football, Manziel refused to close his storied career with three straight losses.

“I just said, ‘Don’t quit.’” Manziel said of his sideline plea. “We got down, but I kept stressing to everybody – offense, defense, special teams – not to look at the scoreboard. ‘Don’t even do it. There’s no reason to do that.’”

Speaking to reporters after the game, Manziel, who finished 30-of-38 passing for 382 yards and a bowl-record four touchdowns along with 73 rushing yards and another score, couldn’t put his team’s season-ending performance into words.

“It’s unreal,” he said. “I know the way these guys fought. I can’t tell you how proud I am of them.”

The Aggies looked poised for an upsetting end to their season early in the Georgia Dome. Texas A&M’s offense, which came in ranked sixth in the country in scoring (43.6 points per game) and fourth in total offense (538.2 yards per game), was stuffed on a third-and-19 try on its opening drive. The Aggies missed a 55-yard field goal only to watch the Blue Devils march downfield and reach the end zone on an 11-yard pass from quarterback Anthony Boone to Josh Snead.

A&M’s next two drives resulted in a field goal and a punt. Meanwhile, Duke coach David Cutcliffe and offensive coordinator Kurt Roper had the Blue Devils ripping through the Aggies’ porous defense. Duke scored a touchdown on its first five drives of the half, converting two fourth downs on the fifth possession en route to the end zone. In all, Texas A&M allowed the Blue Devils to reel off 10.1 yards-per-play in the first half. By all accounts, this was not the same Duke squad that suffered a 45-7 loss to Florida State in the ACC title game.

Manziel and the Aggies faced a 38-17 hole as they headed into the locker room at intermission. They’d already lost two straight games – at LSU and at Missouri — to close the regular season. This time, they’d make the necessary adjustments.

“We had a discussion at halftime about doing your job,” Aggies head coach Kevin Sumlin said. “Don’t try and do everything. Do your job.”

Thanks in part to the sideline plea from its Heisman-winning leader, Texas A&M was a different team in the second half. The Aggies’ defense stuffed Duke on fourth down on its first possession in the third quarter. A&M then kicked off the first of three straight scoring drives with a wild 19-yard pass from Manziel to wideout Travis Labhart. The play was vintage Manziel as the quarterback bumped into his own linemen in midair, escaped to the left and dumped the ball off to the former walk-on for the score. “I guess the way things go,” Manziel said of his free-wheeling style, “I like to make things a little bit harder.” Joked Sumlin: “That’s coaching.”

But the defense also turned around its sorry first-half effort. The Aggies had clawed back to a 48-45 deficit with just over three minutes to play when defensive back Toney Hurd Jr. picked off Boone at the A&M 45-yard line and returned it 55 yards for the go-ahead score, the team’s first lead of the game. A&M coaches could hardly keep the team’s sideline off the field as they burst into celebration. Yet on the Blue Devils’ next series, Boone moved the offense into A&M territory before being pressured into a second interception – this time to Nate Askew – to seal the game.

Just as Manziel demanded, the second-half surge was a team effort, with contributions from Hurd and wideout Derel Walker (six catches for 113 yards). Even Labhart, a former walk-on who used to practice on the scout team for the A&M women’s basketball program, chipped in three touchdowns on only seven catches. But Cutcliffe’s been around the block long enough to know who really sparked the Aggies’ New Year’s Eve turnaround.

“I can’t imagine [Manziel] could play much better than he played today,” the Duke coach said. “He was special, and just like we know, he was able to create plays.”

Manziel notched three of his team’s touchdowns in the second half and shook off the prospect of ending his career on a sour note. The redshirt sophomore lost his shot at a second straight Heisman thanks to forgettable performances against LSU and Missouri at the end of the regular season. But Manziel managed to put those losses in the past and write another potential ending to his story in the Georgia Dome. He didn’t become the second two-time Heisman winner, but he refused to end the year as a loser.

On Tuesday, Manziel wouldn’t address whether he’ll leave school early to pursue the NFL. That decision will come at a later date. But when asked to describe his career – if the bowl victory indeed marks the end — Manziel was blunt.

“Unreal,” he said. “…It’s unreal how things have played out in my career so far at A&M. It’s been a blessing to have guys like Coach Sumlin and Coach [Kliff] Kingsbury and the entire offensive staff that do such a great job.

“More than anything, I’m just extremely proud to have played with this offensive line… just everybody on offense the last three years. They’ve helped me get to where I am today. Without them, I wouldn’t be anything.”

Manziel’s affect on A&M has been palpable. His emergence as a starting quarterback with the Aggies formed a perfect storm with Sumlin’s arrival and the program’s move to the SEC. Now, the university is fundraising at record levels and making monumental changes within athletics, such as the $450 million renovation to Kyle Field. None of that would be possible without Manziel. For the program, he’s been a game-changer both on and off the field.

If he departs for a pro career, Texas A&M will miss Manziel, but so will college football. Few players could match his unique wizardry between the hashes as he took the SEC by storm. But his relatively short career would have been just long enough to leave a lasting impression on the sport.

“He’s the best college football player ever, I believe,” Obioha said. “That’s what he’s been, the best college football player ever. Texas A&M’s been lucky to have him.”

72 comments
friendly--neighborhood--scrawler
friendly--neighborhood--scrawler

I can not believe i just read an article comparing Manziel to Farve... yes he parties, but during the week he will work his butt off.. a loose quote of the article......  i am thinking if Manziel was black he would get a label as having "character issues" funny how that works.... Also Manziel needs to stay in school and work on his pocket passing ... very weak.. i have not seen Manzeil make one "NFL throw"

i had to turn off the broadcast of last nights game... the entire time the announcers were trying to convince me Manzeil can throw... If you have to keep showing highlights to prove a guy can throw.... HE CAN NOT THROW .... PERIOD !!!!   no one is showing me hightlights of guys like Bridgewater, Bortles or Carr and trying to prove they can throw.... Just saying... It reminded me of Announcers and Tebow in his last years at Florida... Also Every photo i see of Manziel , it seems like its all about him... A ME GUY.. Guys like Cam get killed for seeming to be a me guy... but its ok to promote Manzeil... as an all about me guy... I did it alone ... very interesting how that also works.......

Lohikaarme
Lohikaarme

Wow, so many already know how JF is going to perform in the NFL. Can't we just wait until he plays at least one season?

Aggie81
Aggie81

The top 10 reasons Manziel comes back for another year:

10. Doesn’t want to play for the Cleveland Browns.

9. He might actually have a defense that can stop someone.

8. He doesn’t need the cash, family is rich and he drives a Mercedes AMG.

7. He can graduate in December 2014.

6. Shoot for 15,000 combined yards in three years.

5. Debut (national spotlight & prime time) of SEC network on August 21 (A&M vs. South Carolina).

4. Take another 5 years of life from Nick Saban.

3. Chance to win a second Heisman.

2. 12th Man.

1. New playing surface and renovations to Kyle Field.

y.woodman.brown
y.woodman.brown

I disagree entirely.  Johnny football led the team alright--like as does a cheerleader...on crack.  But, quite literally any QB could have tossed those TDs...neither team was playing defense--I mean, at all.


Duke had it wrapped-up, but just plain self-destructed.  They mishandled the clock just before half-time, could have easily punched through those two yards for their sixth straight TD.  But coach blue dude lost his nerve and communicated mortality, vulnerability and stoic acceptance to the Aggies.


This, of course, was how Duke began their own unraveling--and came-out in the 3rdQ lackluster to the tune of two straight 3 & outs.  And I can't stress this any stronger: neither team presented a defense that could even have stopped pre-school girls from pouring pretend tea and playing with dollies.  It was disgraceful.


The two interceptions that sealed Duke's death were 100% gift balls...like gravy spilling into your lap off an over-stuffed plate on Thanksgiving Day.  It was anxiety that finally killed Duke QB Boone.  His mind just couldn't cope with the notion that every single series of downs was a predestine TD...it was too easy and unnerved him like surely expecting the cops to show-up the 8th, 9th or 10th time he stole candy from that baby.


As for Manziel?  He'll never--NEVER--make it in the pros.  The kid is a clown who has almost no control whatsoever over his emotions...he is nothing more than a raw nerve allowed by A&M to hold the football and run around with it like a live wire until he either flips it to an open man or scrambles like an escaped mental patient down field.  Yeah, it boggles the minds of college players...but it won't flinch the pros.

ElvisHitler
ElvisHitler

Wow good job beating that football powerhouse that is Duke.

Cane87
Cane87

The enemy of my enemy is my friend.


Congratulations, Johnny Football.  The Hokies also went down.  All that is left is for Auburn to shock the world.  I can't wait...

rogersmith
rogersmith

If Manziel indeed rallied his indolent troops to victory tonight to avoid going out with 3 straight losses, why did he not do the same in their 2 previous games?

Aggie81
Aggie81

A lot of fans hate or despise Manziel while some love him; however, they still tuned in to watch him play.The same comparison can be made to those fans who tuned in to Monday Night Football to listen to Howard Cosell and the ensuing train wreck.

Without Johnny Heisman Football Manziel playing the last two years, A&M would have finished in the basement of the SEC just as everyone predicted PERIOD

Congrats to Mac Brown and a very distinguished coaching career at University of Texas.Maybe if you could go back three years, you might have offered the kid from Kerrville a scholarship that wanted to play for Texas.

Thanks to Johnny for the 2 incredible years of exciting football and bringing A&M to the forefront of College Football.

Gig’em

SculptorDad
SculptorDad

Manweasel didn't win it, Boone lost this Homophobia Religious Creep Bowl with those two handoffs to the wrong team.

summuklee
summuklee

Johny, thank you for what have done to TAMU & the A&M football. Wish you the best in the NFL.

6marK6
6marK6

"One for the ages"? Beating Duke in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl? Has this really what the 24/7 news cycle has brought us to? 

dudedadesq
dudedadesq

Always a pleasure seeing Duke lose in any sport, even at the hands of an immature, yet talented, QB.  If he can grow up a bit, he may make it in the NFL.  Maybe....

davedeemcc
davedeemcc

The Cleveland Browns are on the clock!

rskins09
rskins09

Manziel .. One of the best QB I've ever seen play .. Arm strength , pocket presence and his sense of balance is unbelievable ....Impossible to knock down ...He has eyes in the back of his head ... 

MarcoZ
MarcoZ

We watch the game to be entertained. No one, no one was more fun to watch than Johnny Football, win or lose.

Baldeagle
Baldeagle

Vinny..you must be an expert on crap. Go Johnny Go, Johnny Is Good.

ianlinross
ianlinross

I think Manziel should stay another year in college. Win a national championship and be a no-doubter in 2015. You fall behind that much at the half in the NFL, there's no coming back. 

goodguy
goodguy

What an exciting game. And yes, JFF is one of the most thrilling players to watch in person and on TV. Amazing. Against all the odds, I wish Johnny would stay on at A&M another year.

DebbySmith
DebbySmith

SI has always been reliable in correct use of grammar and punctuation.  Disappointing to see "Manziel’s affect on A&M..."

Vinny Cordoba
Vinny Cordoba

Oh for crying out loud. I love Duke, but they have a high school defense. The offense scores 48 points and they still lose, and yet we're supposed to believe this was all about Johnny Manziel? Any average college QB could have done this. What a load of crap this article is.

RickPatrick
RickPatrick

How exactly has A&M taken the SEC by storm? You must have them confused with Big Twelve Co-Defector Missouri—a team that actually played in the SEC Championship. 


By contrast, A&M has achieved very little. No National Championship. No BCS Bowl. No Conference Title. No Division Title. Just two average bowl games—Cotton and Chik-fil-A. Goodbye, Johnny Hype. Good riddance.

Cool
Cool

@friendly--neighborhood--scrawler I have heard your rant about an "NFL Throw" before.  What in the he double toothpicks are you talking about?  I know you couldn't explain it to me when I asked you in a chat... I know you keep repeating it.  Is it a nicer spiral, is it a pass that comes in at a different angle, does it need to be caught between two defenders in order for you to call it an "NFL Throw?"    When watching the NFL, do you call all the unspectacular throws..."College Throws?"   I bet you see a lot of those in the NFL.   

If you cannot recognize a good throw under hard circumstances, than it is you who needs to learn a little more about the game.  It is you who needs to learn that even in the pro's, not every play will look perfect and end up as designed in the playbook.  I would suggest you get your head out of the sand and enjoy a game for once.

Cool
Cool

@Aggie81 One reason he won't return.  The absurd amount of publicity and scrutiny he is under while playing college ball.

ScudAg56
ScudAg56

@y.woodman.brown Yes, every team Manziel plays against (except LSU) seem to have no defense, while every QB who plays against A&M's defense has a career day. All of Manziel's nearly 10,000 yds of total offense have been against stinkers. 

dirkdodson
dirkdodson

@y.woodman.brown- the only 'clown' is you...you sure sound like a fan of one of the many teams that Johnny put a whooping on...

Aggie81
Aggie81

@rogersmithLet me spell it out for you so you can understand... I-N-J-U-R-Y


The former offensive coach was released shortly after the previous game because he was unaware of the stretched ligaments in Manziel thumb on his throwing hand.


I don't mind the criticism, jokes, etc. as long as the poster has the FACTS to form their opinion. 

swededawg52
swededawg52

@rogersmith Man, some people are so insecure that they just cannot enjoy something good.  Must be a miserable life.


docbeerio
docbeerio

@m_arty I guess he *was* jumping around on the sideline like a syphilitic monkey with a repetitive pill rolling motion in both hands... ;-)

Aggie81
Aggie81

@SculptorDadI don't mind reading your post because everyone is entitled to his or her opinion; however, attacking a company founded on Christian beliefs has nothing to do with football.


Also, your facts are wrong!  Boone THREW to two Aggie defenders instead of "handoffs to the wrong team". 


How ironic it would be if your favorite NFL team drafts "Manweasel"

Cool
Cool

@6marK6 I love that you ignore statements and praise from top coaches, Saban being one of them, and decide your cute little snarky comments should hold more value.  

crashtx1
crashtx1

@rskins09 Yep, another QB going to "redefine" the position. Impossible to stop until he finds out NFL DT's run as fast as he does. And I wouldn't recommend that cowardly facemask grab in the NFL.  Hope he has a good dental plan.

ratherbboating
ratherbboating

@Vinny CordobaI agree, JM is not a player that I would want on my team.  He is too much "me" and not enough team.  A&M defense stepped up in the second half, allowing the offense to out score Duke.

ElvisDoc
ElvisDoc

@Vinny Cordoba FAIL  Haters gonna hate.  You are revealed as an idiot.  Manziel is the best CFB has seen in many years and you are too stupid to realize it.

crashtx1
crashtx1

@RickPatrick You know you are correct when the A&M butt kiss crowd can only make personal insults.

ElvisDoc
ElvisDoc

@RickPatrick You should shorten your future posts to 'I am a moron.'  Makes more sense than the crap you wrote.

Cool
Cool

@RickPatrick When the Aggies joined the SEC they were expected, along with Missouri, to be at the bottom of the heap for years to come.  They both have exceeded all expectations and have left a mark in the SEC.  Beating Alabama last year was one of those moments where they got SEC attention.  The phrase "taking the SEC by storm" does not have to mean they won the championship, it merely means they have become noticed.  

I am sorry that you don't understand simple phrases and their true meanings.  Nice try, you failed, good riddance. 

GregJackson
GregJackson

@RickPatrick You must not have seen the game last night.  Definitely the most exciting college football game I've seen in years.  All you can do after that game is criticize A&M for not having won the conference, yet you ignore how exciting the team has been to watch.

chad96
chad96

@Cool  True, but I think there would be less TMZ-like coverage moving forward.  I think the media got burned a little last offseason hoping he would crash and burn as a result of his off-the-field antics.  Now some of the same guys who were criticizing him before the season are back on the Manziel bandwagon (i.e. Mark May).

m_arty
m_arty

@docbeerio Siiiiiigh. I really hope he gets drafted by the Texans, if for no other reasons than that all you haters will hate it! ;)

Cool
Cool

@crashtx1 @rskins09 Did you ever watch a nobody named Brett Favre play?  I bet you still think Russell Wilson is to small to play QB in the NFL.  lol, lets talk again in a couple years.

Cool
Cool

@ratherbboating @Vinny Cordoba Yes, that is why he praised his offensive line and gave them all the credit.. he is all about "me."  That is why he could be seen on the sidelines encouraging them all to keep playing hard, because it was all about "me."  That is why he said he loved each and every player on his team.  You certainly pegged him right, oh wise one.

Vinny Cordoba
Vinny Cordoba

@ElvisDoc,  A word of advice: When you say things like "haters gonna hate," nobody past the age of 13 will take you seriously.

Cool
Cool

@crashtx1 @RickPatrick You do realize people can see all your past comments and know for a fact that you like to resort to as much childish insulting as the rest of us?  Pot calling kettle.... lol.

RickPatrick
RickPatrick

@Cool @RickPatrick I agree with you the Aggies have been noticed. My point is this notice is out of proportion with actual achievement. They have moderately improved in their standings from 7th place (out of ten teams) in the Big Twelve in 2011 to 3rd place (out of seven teams) in the SEC West in 2012 to 4th place (out of seven teams) in the SEC West in 2013. I never expected them to be "bottom of the heap" in the SEC—just "middle of the pack," which is exactly what they are.

RickPatrick
RickPatrick

@GregJackson @RickPatrick Football with lots of offense and no discernible defense is very exciting to watch. I did not argue lack of excitement, but lack of achievement. 

m_arty
m_arty

@docbeerio You know, in an alternate universe Manziel plays for UT and Other Docbeerio is wearing a burnt orange Johnny Football shirt.

docbeerio
docbeerio

@m_arty I doubt it, it's rare you hear much about the practice squad ;-)

Vinny Cordoba
Vinny Cordoba

@HorizontalGophers, well, Pitt scored 58 against Duke behind QB Tom Savage. Georgia Tech scored 38 behind Vad Lee. Troy -- again, Troy -- scored 31 behind Corey Robinson. So let's just say it's not unheard of for QBs to put up a lot of points against Duke this year.