- Sam Khan Jr., ESPN Staff Writer
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COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- While many eyes were on Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel on Saturday, the Aggies showed they have more than one reliable option on the roster to call the signals.
Junior quarterback Matt Joeckel, who got the start in place of the suspended Manziel, quietly put together a solid half in his first career start, a 52-31 win over Rice. Joeckel went 14-of-19 for 190 yards and a touchdown and -- most importantly -- no interceptions while helping the Aggies to 28 first-half points.
Head coach Kevin Sumlin had come into the game planning to play both reserve quarterbacks, Joeckel and true freshman Kenny Hill, but he stuck with Joeckel because of his performance.
"I thought he was in a rhythm, and I thought he was playing well," Sumlin said. "How he was playing, I think he deserved to keep playing."
The 6-foot-4, 234-pound product of Arlington, Texas, displayed accuracy and the ability to run the Aggies' up-tempo attack at a solid pace throughout the first half.
"I think Matt Joeckel did a really good job of doing exactly what was asked of him to do," senior running back Ben Malena said. "I think the series of plays and playcalling was fit for him. He didn't turn the ball over, which was good. He made all the right reads. I think he did a pretty good job."
The biggest play for Joeckel came late in the second quarter on third-and-1, when Joeckel faked a handoff and found freshman receiver Ricky Seals-Jones, who ran by a Rice defender and found open space. Joeckel hit Seals-Jones right in the chest, and the freshman turned it into a 71-yard touchdown play.
While Joeckel is a more traditional pocket-passer and won't make the highlight reels with his feet like Manziel, he did what he was asked.
"Matt did good," offensive tackle Cedric Ogbuehi said. "He was comfortable, he looked like he had been starting for a while. He's the ultimate game manager. He's not going to do anything outstanding, but he's not going to lose the game for us. I think that he did a really good job."
Sumlin debated putting Hill in late in the game but decided against it. The coaching staff is confident in the true freshman, and with ESPN 300 quarterback Kyle Allen (Scottsdale, Ariz./Desert Mountain) already committed and on the way to Aggieland in the 2014 recruiting class, it appears the future of the quarterback position is in capable hands.
"The big decision at the end of the game was to play Kenny or not, because Kenny's going to play this year," Sumlin said. "I just didn't want to put him in there with two minutes to go and handing off. I want him to be able to run the offense. Matt, I thought, executed our offense. We had a great tempo, he didn't give the ball to the other team and operated and let the people around him execute. He was a distributor.
"I think he gained a lot of confidence out of today, and I think our team gained a lot of confidence out of him today, and that's the way both of those guys have been during camp. We've got confidence in all three of the quarterbacks, and I think today you see why."
2dSam Khan and Greg Ostendorf