Saturday, September 15, 2012
Johnny Manziel impressive in win over SMU
By Sam Khan Jr.
DALLAS -- He juked tacklers. He threw on the run. He launched a pass off one foot and made throws from awkward body positions that some wouldn't dare try.
Johnny Manziel did about everything one could ask of a redshirt freshman quarterback and then some. The growth of Texas A&M's new starting quarterback appeared to take a significant leap on Saturday in the Aggies' 48-3 domination of SMU at Gerald J. Ford Stadium.
The young man who is often called "Johnny Football," may be emerging with new nicknames already.
"He's 'Captain Amazing' back there," senior receiver Uzoma Nwachukwu said. "'Johnny Football,' 'Captain Amazing,' I'm pretty sure next week we'll have another one for him. It's a growing legend."
Johnny Manziel threw for four touchdowns and ran in two more in Saturday's win over SMU.
The Kerrville (Texas) Tivy product had a hand in six touchdowns, throwing for four on 20-of-36 passing for 294 yards and dazzling with his legs, rushing for a game-high 124 yards on 13 carries, which included two more scores. He set an A&M freshman single-game passing record with his yardage and tied the freshman record for touchdown passes in a game.
But it wasn't just the sheer production of Manziel that impressed, it was the manner in which he did it. His first touchdown run was of the 48-yard variety, one in which he used a slight juke move to make a pair of would-be SMU tacklers miss before outsprinting the rest in pursuit.
When he found Nwachukwu for a 26-yard touchdown late in the second quarter, he did so on the run, moving to his right yet throwing back across the middle of the field, firing a strike to the senior receiver.
The one that best personified the day, however, was his 42-yard touchdown pass to senior Kenric McNeal in which Manziel spun out of the grasp of SMU linebacker Taylor Reed, rolled to his left and threw an off-balance pass on one foot while leaning forward, hitting McNeal right in the stomach.
"Wow," senior linebacker Jonathan Stewart said of Manziel. "Some of the things that Johnny does are amazing. You would have thought that he was back at Tivy High School again, running around."
Perhaps the best stat for Manziel through two career starts? Zero turnovers and zero fumbles.
Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin preached patience in judging his young quarterback.
"It's Game 2," Sumlin said. "A quarterback gets way too much credit when we win and all the blame when we lose. I think he's handling it very well."
And while Manziel was dazzling, he was far from the only one who impressed on Saturday. For the second straight game, the Aggies' defense turned in a good performance, this time holding SMU without a touchdown and showing a knack for getting off the field on third down as the Mustangs converted just three of 18 attempts in those situations.
Junior defensive end Damontre Moore picked up two more sacks, giving him five on the year, and the Aggies held the Mustangs to just 309 offensive yards. By comparison, Texas A&M almost doubled that offensively, netting 605.
While last week there was frustration from the Aggies' defense over penalties and missed tackles, both of those things were reduced on Saturday.
"[We're] a team that's improving," Stewart said. "Last week, we made critical errors and they cost us a game. In college football, the game comes down to a handful of plays. Last week, Florida made those plays and we didn't. This week it was the opposite. We just have to keep doing it, keep improving and keep getting better."
Joining Manziel on the offensive side was redshirt freshman Mike Evans, who had six catches for 123 yards -- all in the first half. Senior Ryan Swope (five catches, 70 yards and a touchdown) got going after being limited to just 16 yards receiving a week ago, and Nwachukwu caught two touchdowns after not being targeted last week. Freshman Trey Williams got his first career touchdown while netting 68 offensive yards.
"We had a number of receivers who made plays," Sumlin said. "Swope and EZ [Nwachukwu] both got in the end zone. That's good because they've been working hard. Mike had a big day. Any game that you score that many points, it's a lot of people playing well, not just the quarterback and the receivers."