The official list of freshman quarterbacks who have started football games for Texas A&M in the modern era now numbers 12 — obviously an appropriate number for rabid Texas A&M followers — with Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel topping it off in the most dynamic of fashions. Once again my long-time personal motto, The 12th Shall Be First, has prominently come into play in Aggieland. There’s no question that Johnny Manziel is 112% Pure Aggie, and that’s no brag.
After the bowls were picked and the individual awards were announced, I became interested in discovering how many of our “Early Risers” had completed their freshman seasons with starting nods in a bowl game. Whether they had started the full season or only a game was irrelevant, as I was only interested in the end game. It’s how I roll.
While I am the first and youngest of the true
freshmen in this group of former Aggie QBs, I also included those who’d had a previous season of practice squad duty, a full academic school year and an official spring training under their belts before stepping into their starting offensive huddles in their second seasons on campus – yes, the individuals we now call “Redshirt” freshmen.
Because of Johnny Manziel there is no longer an asterisk beside the classification. Either type of “freshman” designation bears the same weight when awards are being handed out, and while not technically identical, we gladly push technicalities aside in accordance with the selections of the nationwide voters. Go freshmen, whichever you are!
As I’ve stated before — and Bucky Richardson and I have both experienced this — you don’t realize what “redshirting” means until everyone in your class is suddenly gone and you’re the only one still playing football. You lose major friends and teammates in this transition. It can be difficult. This I refer to as a player’s second senior season, because it’s exactly how it feels. You’re now the grizzled old veteran on the squad. With it comes one more shot and a truly great opportunity, provided you don’t skip out with your sidekicks and go Pro.
Entering our forty-first season after freshmen had become eligible for varsity sports in 1972, only three freshman quarterbacks had started for the Aggies in bowl games. That’s right; three. I was eliminated quickly from inclusion on this “list for the ages” as my ’73 team fell a game short of bowl eligibility. In our next-to-last game while holding five victories versus four defeats, we lost at Rice as time expired with our offense inside their five yard line. We then lost to Number 1 Texas on Kyle Field in our finale. This was the
only loss I had as an Aggie starter at home until my final season in 1977.
Another game which we should have won up in Fayetteville would have also done the trick, but we had no two-minute offense. We were probably the only team in college football history that didn’t have a two minute offense — but don’t get me started.
After the ’77 regular season ended, I watched Mike Mosley become the very first freshman quarterback to ever start a bowl game for the Texas Aggies. Perhaps if you dig deeper, Mike may be the first freshman from any school to start at quarterback in a bowl game. It was quite exciting and the place was packed. Mike was a true freshman who had collected a previous start earlier in the season and beaten TCU at Amon Carter Stadium. Amon Carter, coincidentally, was the very same stadium where I had received my first start as a freshman four seasons earlier at age 17. I might add, Mike is the only
starting quarterback A&M has ever had who had Johnny Manziel type speed.
The Monday prior to the TCU game my senior year I requested a week-long breather to heal up several body parts to prepare for a do-or-die battle the following weekend against Earl Campbell and the Number 1 Longhorns. My wish was granted because TCU was no threat this particular season, and I stood and cheered and high-fived Mike throughout the game. It seemed poetic at the time that Mike had gotten his first start in the same arena I had. The only difference was we were a struggling football team back in ’73, while Mike was handed the keys to a Ferrari and a triple option scheme like none other. Fullback George Woodard still holds the A&M record for most points scored in a bowl game with the 20 he scored against Florida in the Sun Bowl the previous season. George, Mike and the guys romped to a 52-23 victory and set an all-time Aggie single-game rushing record of 606 yards.
Mike did wonderfully in the Bluebonnet Bowl, too. Southern California was ranked 20th and the Aggies were No. 17 coming in, having fallen from No. 4 earlier in the season after a bitter loss in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
I personally decided to sit out the Bluebonnet Bowl, explaining to offensive coordinator Tom Wilson beforehand that I’d played my last game for head coach Emory Bellard and was only going for the party. I was later voted team captain, with the announcement made the day before we left for Houston. It was the second such honor of my A&M career.
Looking back at this 2012 season, I think it’s a shame the A&M team captains were chosen prior to the season. I feel very confident Johnny’s name would now be engraved on the new plaque about to be hung in the Bright Athletic Complex along with ours. He is the Captain and I say, “Keep the hardware coming.
Back to the game, Mike had us on top 14-0 in the old Astrodome before the roof caved in (no, not literally). USC stormed back for a 47-28 win, but Mike came within two yards of the all-time single game rushing record held by an A&M quarterback. In fact, Mike’s 180 yards rushing now rank third in A&M history behind Johnny Manziel’s 181 and my 182. Yeah, it was that close. Twitter was blowing up about Johnny’s big rushing night against La. Tech in a wild game, but this ol’ Aggie QB still holds that 35 year-old record and has a news clipping to prove it. A record-saving kneel down at the end of the game saved my bacon.
Soon after taking a picture with me at the reception for the team when they got home after beating Alabama, a young man named David Harris predicted, “Not for long, Hoss.” This would be correct. That single-game rushing record could go down in Arlington, for all I know. Mike had the jets; I had some necessary Wishbone operator’s quickness; but, Johnny has it all, plus eyes in the back of his head.
The second freshman quarterback to start a bowl game was Baton Rouge’s Bucky Richardson ten years later. Like me, Bucky got his first start in the sixth game of his first season on the A&M campus, and led the Aggies to the 1988 Cotton Bowl. Bucky took over in ’87 for fellow freshman Lance Pavlas after entering in relief against Southern Miss and the magical Brett Favre.
In the Cotton Bowl on January 1, 1988, the Aggies blitzed Heisman winner Tim Brown and Notre Dame 35-10 in the first meeting ever between the two schools. Bucky was named the game’s outstanding offensive player after rushing for 96 yards and two scores, and went on to a fabled career for the Aggies. Only three freshmen have ever received player of the game honors in the history of the Cotton Bowl, and Bucky remains the only Aggie recipient.
The only other freshman quarterback to start in a bowl game eventually surpassed me, Kevin Murray and Bucky Richardson to become the winningest quarterback in A&M history. Corey Pullig, a youngster from Deer Park, Texas, took over for A&M’s other lefthander, Jeff Granger (concussion), late in the 1992 season and never looked back, winning the final four games of the regular season.
Once again the Aggies faced Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl but didn’t fare nearly as well as Bucky’s bunch had, dropping the contest to the fifth-ranked Irish, 28-3. The Aggies gained only 165 yards of total offense and managed just 11 first downs, while Notre Dame compiled 439 yards and 28 first downs. Corey completed 7 of his 18 passes for 87 yards, respectively. This game spoiled what could have been a perfect 13-0 season for the third-ranked Aggies, who finished the year in the final polls at Number 7.
All told, twenty
years have now rolled by since an Aggie freshman QB has taken the first snap in a bowl game. In forty-plus years of football, Bucky Richardson still owns the only freshman-led bowl victory. Corey Pullig, A&M’s all-time leader with 33 career wins, precedes the man presumably destined to eclipse his record in the form of Johnny Manziel. If the world doesn’t end on my older sister’s birthday, both will have begun their bowl careers in the Cotton Bowl, albeit at different locations, and for the third straight time an Aggie freshman quarterback’s first bowl appearance will be in the Cotton Bowl.
This time around though, the game isn’t our ‘reward’ for winning the Southwest Conference championship, and we’ve got the Sooners instead of the Irish. I think we’d have preferred to have Notre Dame in the BCS title game on January 7, and with just a little luck against LSU, perhaps we would have.
This is the eleventh season a freshman quarterback has started at least one game and only the fourth time in those years that we’ve earned a bowl bid. Obviously we beat almost all the odds this season and have come far, Pilgrims.
(Also, please be on the lookout for my new “Kliff Who?” t-shirts. They’ll soon be all the rage.)
Will Johnny become only the second freshman QB to win a bowl game for A&M? That’s his number, so I expect him to do so. As I headlined earlier in the season, it’s now Cool to be Number 2.
Now, let’s get those Sooners! We have a great chance of heading into next season with the longest winning streak in the country. After losing 9 of our last 10 season finales, 14 out of 17, 16 of 20 and 19 of our last 25, we desperately need to take the high road in this one. We need to finish with a flurry and send all the demons in the opposite direction, once and for all. We cannot let this wonderful thing called momentum slip away, particularly against one of the smuggest college football coaches around.
Beating TCU for the 24th straight time in the Galleryfurniture.com Bowl in 2001 seems like a long time ago, but believe it or not, it’s the last time A&M has finished a season on a winning note since last year’s win in Houston over Northwestern. In my five seasons with what was called A&M’s “Great Resurgence” under Bellard, we lost our final game four of those five seasons. None were even close. This is the dreaded setback that leaves a bad taste in your mouth for months. Even Sherman thought he’d finally turned the tanks around before LSU pulled the plug on the 2010 season in our last Cotton Bowl. We all remember the recurring theme in 2011 that LSU initiated, and it wasn’t pretty.
We’re far from done though, with a whole lot of proving still left to do. Texas A&M has run the table only once in its history after losing is first two conference games, and that was our 10-2 Sun Bowl team in ’76.
Meanwhile, as Old School meets New School, my personal congratulations go out to Stun Gun QB, Johnny Manziel, the young man I knighted as “the best there’s ever been” following the SMU game. Thanks for proving me correct, young fellow. Gig ‘em, and like the rest of us Aggielanders, I thoroughly enjoyed your guest appearance on Jay Leno’s show. The Top Ten was pretty good, too. Best of luck to you in your career.
What kind of gum do you chew, by the way?
For the record, these are your freshman Aggie QBs since 1972, as listed by someone on the Internet: David Walker, 1973; Mike Mosley, 1977; Gary Kubiak, 1979; Kevin Murray, 1983; Craig Stump, 1984; Lance Pavlas and Bucky Richardson, 1987; Jeff Granger, 1991; Corey Pullig, 1992; Reggie McNeal, 2002; Stephen McGee, 2005; Johnny Manziel, 2012.
The four winningest quarterbacks in A&M history are all from this list: Corey Pullig – 33; David Walker and Kevin Murray – 25; Bucky Richardson – 24; and Johnny Heisman Manziel – 53?
Wait, that’s five…it can happen.
I was quoted on Friday in the Eagle newspaper in Bryan/College Station as
saying, “You can’t stop this offense and you can’t stop the guy who is running it. This is the best A&M’s ever had. There’s no question. He’s just a combination of so many that makes him so unique, you can’t put a finger on who he’s like. He’s creating his own persona of what a space-age, new millennium quarterback can look like.”
“He’s just fabulous in every phase of the game. I don’t think we could have a
better guy leading our program. And Johnny’s going to take us to brand new
heights. My gosh, for three more years, if he stays healthy, and everything
stays together, he’s going to be one amazing kid who walks away with every
record there is known to man.”
“There’s no doubt. If I had a vote, he’d win the Heisman, hands down. I’m
kicking myself in the butt for not going to Vegas earlier this year. He’s had
the Heisman moments and he’s had them against the very best.”
Texas A&M’s Trademark and Branding Hawk-eye, Jason Cook, was quoted in an earlier article from New York as saying, “What we must remember is that the Texas A&M brand is bigger than Johnny Manziel.”
Well, shoot, if he wants to play one-upsmanship with our own quarterback,
it’s his prerogative. We’re just going to enjoy the show.
What’s great is how the entire SEC has rallied behind this newcomer in the conference. The support really speaks volumes, not only of the school, but for Johnny in particular. He calls opposing players by their names when they tackle him. “Nice hit, Sam,” he’ll say as they get up. You don’t find this in many players, those who’ll take the time and effort to know their opponents so very well. Along with his valiant play, his attitude toward his competitors has gained him even greater respect among his peers.
He’s won the Davey O’Brien Award as the best Quarterback in the country and was also named the first-team All-American quarterback on the Sporting News All-American Team. The only awards left are the Heisman Award and the long-awaited inaugural “I’ll Tell You When You’re Good” Award. I hand this one out personally with a standing offer to purchase a copy of my book and several cool Aggie t-shirts from NoBrag.com. (We can’t give this stuff away, you know. NCAA.) I can already tell you that my vote is in. Congratulations, Johnny Football. You’re Good!
Now, let’s get to the Alabama game, the one that shot the odds for Johnny’s Heisman bid from 20 to 1 to 8 to 1 — not that we’re keeping track. By the way, have I mentioned how much I love the uniforms we wore against Alabama and Missouri? Yeah, they made me a little nostalgic. Thanks, Coach Sumlin; great calls!
Post-Game Read for Alabama
DOWN GOES ‘BAMA! DOWN GOES ‘BAMA! WHOOP!
Johnny Manziel and Baylor quarterback Nick Florence continue to battle it out for the national Total Offense crown with Johnny, despite playing the Number 1 defense in the country, closing the gap between the two to 15 yards per game.
While the new storyline is “Johnny Football Manziel for Heisman,” there is
another current situation that many of us only dared dream would become reality; “Alabama remains in position to win the SEC West by beating rival Auburn on Nov. 24, or by seeing the Aggies lose to Missouri on Nov. 23.”
That’s right; we’re the only two in the hunt.
We played Saturday like the West Division depended on it, and it did. Johnny led the offense to 4 of 5 Red Zone scores against Alabama, the team that had led the country in Red Zone defense for most of the year and was ranked third going into the A&M matchup. The first three penetrations into the Crimson Tide’s Red Zone produced touchdowns. The crowd seemed completely unnerved by the quick-strike, Stun Gun attack.
“We weren’t stunned at all,” Tide linebacker C.J. Mosley said, with a straight face. “As a defense, we knew they were going to make plays, that’s what their offense depends on. They got a great quarterback; they got a great running back. We just have to settle down and play Alabama football.”
First there’s business to be taken care of here in 12th Man Stadium, and that
is Sam Houston State and Missouri. I’ve yet to see us come out of the tunnel not ready to play, so there is no reason to start fretting now. As I said after our SMU game about Johnny Manziel, stop critiquing and begin appreciating him. He will be gone in a flash, much too soon. It’s all in front of him, us and our football team.
Winning a three-game road swing for the first time since ’75 would normally
be a strong enough statement, but to top it off by whipping the defending champions on their own home turf, well, that’s just darn near a Mission Impossible that we just accomplished. Inside four magical downs of defense, after surrendering the bomb a play earlier that would surely seal our collective fates, all eras would instantaneously become irrelevant to the NOW that is occurring.
Like Coach says, “No moment is too big.” I can’t tell you how important it is
to hear and feel this on a football team. The classiest and the smartest thing
this head coach and his offensive coordinator have done is simply allow Johnny Manziel to lead. There are a lot of coaches whose egos don’t allow this. We’re very fortunate.
Our goal now is to finish at least in the Top 5, a feat not accomplished at
Texas A&M since 1956 with Bear Bryant’s near perfect 9-0-1 squad. Adding
only seven Top 10 finishes since then has left the school hungry for more
success –and thankful and extremely excited for this opportunity.
Pardon the Swagger; we’re coming through.
Post-Game Read for Sam Houston
“Alabama’s just mad, and they’re going to take it out on Johnny Football and
Texas A&M!” was Joey Harrington’s assessment on FOX Sports prior to
Much like this 2012 version we’re now celebrating, by the end of the year
media types were saying, “Of all the teams out there, A&M is the team no one
wants to play.” Hail to these Ags — at least in the minds of many.
We realize somewhat begrudgingly that only the polls prevent us from being
that team not only in the minds of many, but also on paper. Rest assured the
case has been made even as we wade through a muddled mess of scenarios.
Well done Aggies, but you can’t beat City Hall. What a tremendous comeback season, particularly with so many road games, a new staff, new offenses and defenses and only one spring training under your belts, and it was one which did not even include Johnny Manziel as starting quarterback.
But what if it had? If the spring isn’t good for getting your ducks in a row
then teams wouldn’t have one, right? Regardless, against all odds this team
refused to be negatively affected after narrow losses to two great, powerful
football teams, and as a result they accomplished the near-impossible —
Johnny Manziel is a marvel to watch and can entertain you even on the lamest of plays. We’re not ALL spit and polish out on that field, you know. It all looks pretty, choreographed and synchronized, but trust me, there’s a lot of grunt work going on protecting both this young man and our end zone. ‘Third and shorts’ do happen, and then we go to our jumbo set … sometimes. And somehow sparks fly from this young guy regardless of the situation, the play call or the competition.
For instance, on his first rushing touchdown we were running the lead option to the right. The defensive end, Johnny’s pitch key, shot up-field and took away Johnny’s pitch back. Then a linebacker slipped through the line preparing to tackle Johnny for a loss when he cut up-field. Dead to rights, right?
I’m telling you right now, Johnny has to have eyes in his earholes because he
did not give himself up and just cut up into the carnage. He didn’t surrender
and just take the hit. No, he reversed back to the left down the line and
out-quicked everyone to that end zone untouched. He scored an easy touchdown on a perfectly defended play by the Bearkats. Boy, that’s got to be frustrating! The poor linebacker who was about to tackle ‘Johnny the Great’ just stood there and watched, shaking his head as he went back to the defensive huddle.
Sure, it was only a four-yard touchdown run, but it would have gone 80 if
that’s what was needed.
His second score came by ‘zone blocking’ to the right side by the O-Line, a
fake to Ben Malena up the gut over right guard, and then a quick scoot around left end behind a great sealing block by junior Nehemiah Hicks. It looked like the old “loaded” option we once ran, except Johnny doesn’t need anyone out there with him to pitch to. This one went one yard and could have gone 99; it’s the same difference.
A minute and 26 seconds into the second half, Johnny played himself out of
the ball game by completing a beautifully thrown 89-yard touchdown pass on first down to Uzoma Nwachukwu. His extra-point kick somehow sailed wide right and did not land in downtown Hearne, as was earlier reported. This attempted extra point will probably go down as the most inconsequential kick to never be forgotten in the annals of college football.
“Hey, you remember that day Johnny kicked that extra point?”
“Legend” will one day tell a different story. This is how “Legend” works,
especially in Texas.
“Damn right, I do. It went right through the uprights and some guy caught it
at the Hearne Post office. What is that, about 30 miles? Amazing stuff! That
Johnny Football was a PLAYUH!”
As little as Johnny Manziel played and as well as Baylor played, I assumed
Johnny had lost ground on Baylor’s Florence in the Total Offense race
nationally. Not so. Johnny closed the gap to five yards from 15 as they still
rank Nos. 1 and 2. This is excellent news, from a quarterbacking standpoint.
Besides the polls, players look at stats, and you can bet that everyone
involved with these two offenses knows the score here. The “Battle of the
Brazos” is only on paper this season but braggin’ rights are always of
significant importance. I’ve stated in earlier articles that had Johnny stayed
in games an equal amount of time as Florence has, the numbers would be adjusted in Johnny’s favor.
For instance, Johnny was on a pace to hit 699 total yards against Sam Houston as opposed to the 367 yards with which he was actually credited.
Now for the Heisman. I’ve never seen anyone having so much fun playing QB as Johnny Manziel.
Can you imagine sticking this guy behind the wheel of a Wishbone? No, me
I’ve known Johnny’s high school coach, Mark Smith, for 30 years. Mark has
nothing but the highest of praise for Johnny’s character, ability and leadership qualities. I give immense credit to Mark and his staff for allowing Johnny to develop into this ungodly scoring machine without enforcing common systematic hindrances which most high school coaches apply to their players and teams. Sure, you’ve got to rein them in and sometimes break them from behaviors detrimental to your team’s success on occasion, but the stallions, hey, you’ve got to let them run. And this Stallion can go!
Yet, even after the sloppy and unpolished play of the latest Heisman
front-runner, Collin Klein, the second from the Big 12 to fall from grace (West Virginia QB Geno Smith was the other), we still find ourselves watching in horror as the talking heads try to gather up steam for anyone not named Johnny Manziel. I have to ask, “Why do voters feel they’re doing some kind of disservice to the game if they vote the Heisman to a freshman?”
The game’s ego will survive and after all, Johnny turns 20 next month. Isn’t
20 old enough?
It could be that Texas A&M and Johnny Manziel and Kevin Sumlin have come too far too fast for anyone to grasp. Sometimes it’s the obvious pill that is toughest to swallow.
Beat the Hell Outta Missouri. And don’t change a thing.
Post Game Read for Missouri
I’ll tell you right now how tenuous a career and starting position can be. I was in the stadium Saturday night when Johnny got twisted up awkwardly during a tackle and stayed down. I was in the third deck and could have heard Reveille moaning quietly in horror on the far sidelines. It was so very silent. I mean, I watched a referee succumb to a fatal heart attack at a high school all-star game and didn’t see this kind of reaction. The collective sigh of relief when Johnny stood up and walked to the sidelines was also noticeable — and then the cheers.
Johnny cannot go down, y’all.
This is part of what makes this award so different and yet, so important. We
have for the first time a redshirt freshman leading the charge for the Heisman. He first showed up in the betting circles the week of the LSU game after throwing 59 points up against La. Tech. Even then he was an after-thought, but still a possibility. He was on the board.
In case you’re not aware, the wise guys normally recognize talent when they
see it. Then the LSU game knocked him down from 12/1 to 20/1 and everyone figured he was finished. There were still 5 or 6 guys rated better than Johnny and this is when I decided not to take a trip out to the desert and take advantage of those odds. Oh me of little faith.
Well, lo and behold, after traveling to Auburn and Mississippi State and
blowing those guys away, he and the Aggies made their third trip in a row, this time to none other than Tuscaloosa, Alabama for a date with Godzilla himself. The Alabama quarterback was now a front-runner in the Heisman race after his great drive a week earlier that had beaten the LSU Tigers.
The odds were not in Johnny’s favor but he suddenly had the Aggies ahead 20-0 before the first quarter had ended, and with a “goal line stand for the Ages” (Brent, don’t you just love that statement?) against the unflappable A.J. McCarron, they came away with possibly the most unlikely victory on the road against a No. 1 team in modern college football history. Heisman possibilities were suddenly back in gear out on the track.
Still, although he is No. 2 in the USA in total offense and his football team
has only been beaten by what are now the No. 4 and No. 7 teams around, Johnny was stuck behind a great kid at Kansas State who’s also a quarterback and was leading the new No. 1 team. All this QB had to do to win the trophy, being a senior and all, was win out. Then Baylor shocked K-St. and made this quarterback look rather pedestrian in the process, and BOOM; Up Flies Manziel! Up Flies Manziel!
All season long it was like being on the cover of Sports Illustrated for
these Heisman hopefuls, from Geno Smith to A.J. McCarron to Collin Klein, and now on to Johnny Manziel. None of them could hang.
Johnny never flinched.
Johnny flourished, as he has in every game since LSU, including that stretch
of 5 of 6 straight games as visitors. The guy went 6-0 on the road…as a freshman!
Then back inside 12th Man Stadium against Missouri, Johnny had his
hands on the ball for 10 different drives and came away with 8 touchdowns and a field goal. They were long 70 and 80 yard drives, too — the kind we like here! It’s why we fair-catch punts back inside our 10 yard line! We love our length-of-the-field touchdown drives at A&M!
Johnny analyzing the Missouri defense.
Oh, and for the meticulous ones among us, I’m not counting the one-play
kneel-down just before the half as a possession, but there are probably Heisman voters out there who are.
Let’s talk a little perspective now. Johnny is 19 and turns 20 in December, just as I did when I was a JUNIOR. If someone had told me I was too YOUNG to win the Heisman as a Junior, well, I’d have asked them to show me their eligibility requirements. When I was growing up nobody could play as freshmen, but no one had a problem voting a Sophomore the Heisman Trophy. If you played, guess what; you were eligible.
Johnny will be participating in his third spring training in April. He has already had two college football seasons under his belt, although like the freshmen who played when I was growing up, he sat out all the Varsity games his first year. He practiced and went to class and watched Tannehill play the games.
I’m not sure when the first coach came up with the idea of redshirting freshmen but it’s a great idea if your team can afford it. In my situation at A&M I became the starter as a freshman when I proved on the field I was the best at A&M and the best freshman football player in the conference. Johnny has proven in his redshirt freshman year that he’s the best and most exciting player in the country. You can forget the statistics; just watch him play. There’s not a running back or receiver who comes close, much less a quarterback.
As Charlie Daniels tweeted recently, there’s no reason a freshman shouldn’t
be allowed to win it. ‘Cuz he’s the best there’s ever been…well, Charlie didn’t
say that, but he’s easily the best A&M has ever seen.
There’s one more thing about this quarterback you might want to know. He has played almost 600 official minutes this season, which is the equivalent of 10 games. Time-wise, he sat out two full games (120 minutes). Most teams have a game or two where they get to sit their starters but Johnny sat out eight full quarters. If Johnny’s 4600 yards are an all-time SEC total offense record, how do 5,530 yards sound for a regular season, before he’s even played a conference championship game or a bowl game? This would be Johnny’s numbers had he played 60 minutes in all 12 games; 5,530 total yards.
These are phenomenal numbers, but the real ones are quite impressive, as
well…especially for a second-year Rookie.
Look out America! It’s looking like the 12th Shall Be First!!
This is the third part in my recap series in following the clever footsteps of one Johnny Football Manziel. With the rest of us 20,000 who are reading this column, I’d like to wish this young man whose heart and soul are always in the right place, a very happy twentieth birthday. I saw he was on the golf course with two superb ESPN announcers, Kirk Herbstreit and Chris Fowler, each of whom have shown total fairness in their observations of Johnny’s exploits and seem as
enamored with this Aggie QB as we are.
Now, lets’ talk some Johnny Football! My Part 2 synopsis was completed with
this statement: “All kinds of Texas A&M records could fall. Let’s just hope
they’re all on the offensive side of the ball — stun-gun style.” Let’s see what
happened with some short outtakes from previous observations which remain
identically the same as when they were written. Please realize, Johnny is still
on no one’s Heisman list.
Post-Game Read for Louisiana Tech
I’ve been chastised to a small degree on some forums for being so
head-over-heels pro-Johnny Manziel ever since the first day I saw him take a
snap. Going back to my very first blog for Gamedayr following the loss to
Florida, I stated how amazed with his poise and confidence I was. Forget his
eligibility or scholastic year or any of that, “Wow, he’s good for his age,”
stuff. He’s good at any age! His instincts and vision are unsurpassed for anyone
in the college game and his elusiveness is beyond comparison. I was upset
however, that the Aggie coaches could not find a single crack in the Florida
defense to be exploited, thus costing us the victory.
What advantages does this 2012 squad have over our ’74 team that set
Aggieland on fire? Well, I had 5 yards passing that night in Baton Rouge, and my
high school coach complained to Emory Bellard he was wasting the best passer to
ever come out of Louisiana. Do you really wish to return to yesteryear? Nope,
it’s time we change gears.
The Sumlin Stun Gun Attack is the best thing to happen to A&M football
since the Wrecking Crew, efficiency-wise. Secondly, we are protecting our own
house this time. The 12th Man is only .500 in Kyle Field since 2000 but I’m
sensing a new attitude, one more than just “happy to be here”. LSU players will
love the cheers, TV and the atmosphere. That’s why you’ve got to come at them
hard. Make no mistake; we WILL be booed heartily when we return to Death Valley.
They are NOT your friends.
Leave the kids at home if it means having an outer-body experience which
you’d rather the youngsters not see taking place. Get us this W. It’s that
Johnny Manziel leads the SEC in rushing. He does this by turning on the jets
on a few designed running plays and the rest he gets on scrambles. Defensively,
you can’t rush him with your linemen and you can’t spy him. What exactly does
that leave? Is he looking for a passing lane or a running lane? Can you really
tell in the heat of the moment?
Johnny came just 1 yard short of breaking the all-time single game Aggie
Quarterback rushing record last week against La. Tech. It went down to the wire,
right up until his backwards kneel-down that sealed the victory. That record I’m
referring to is mine personally. I had 182 yards rushing against SMU in a game
we won 37-21 after trailing 21-7 at halftime … 35 years ago. That’s a long time
to hold a record. I have no doubt its days are numbered. The funny thing is,
when we hired Coach Sumlin I assumed I’d have it for many more years.
Here’s what NOBODY can get their head around when it comes to Johnny. Johnny
doesn’t get it done by running the option. He doesn’t get it done by running the
Zone Read, a play where you read the defensive end while you have the ball in
the stomach of your running back crossing in front of you, determining the
handoff or QB keep based on which way the defensive end goes. It’s the
predominant play in high school and college football these days for teams
running the Spread.
We do none of that. And still.
Johnny is phenomenal just the way he is, and I applaud the coaches for their
professional discretion. They COULD be asking for more from Manziel but they
don’t; all the more credit to them. Now, that’s coaching.
The LSU coach says they have the fastest defense Johnny will ever see.
I counter that Johnny has moves that even Johnny hasn’t invented yet.
Post-Game Read for Louisiana State
The highlights? First downs were won by the Aggies 26-18. Third down
efficiency was 6/16 for the Aggies compared to LSU’s 2/16. Total yards were 410
for the Aggies and 316 for LSU. Penalties were 6/65 for the Aggies and 13/102
for the Tigers. That’s just for hullabaloo sake.
The Bugaboo starts here. Aggies: 4.7 yards per pass attempt. Aggies: 3.5
yards per running attempt. Aggies: 3 interceptions (sound familiar?). Aggies: 2
lost fumbles. Tigers: 2/2 on fourth down conversions.
The rest of the story? The Tigers used two turnovers late in the second
quarter to turn the momentum after falling behind 12-0. Redshirt Freshman phenom
Johnny Manziel’s first interception set up Michael Ford’s 20-yard touchdown run
to make it 12-7 and, after a Ben Malena fumble, Zach Mettenberger hit Kadron
Boone versus Man coverage for a 29-yard touchdown play to give LSU a 14-12 lead
with only 11 seconds left in the half.
Déjà vu had busted the Aggies right square in the chops out of nowhere.
Aggies traditionally don’t do so well after surrendering double-digit leads. In
fact, once one is attained, that’s when things get worrisome for the Maroon and
White. For many in the crowd of 87,429, it would only be a matter of watching
the clock tick down to nothing and then heading out. We’ve all been here
With the victory the Tigers improved to 2-7-1 all-time in College Station,
posting their first win at Kyle Field since 1987. LSU also improved to 31-2
under coach Les Miles when it has a 100-yard rusher (freshman Jeremy Hill: 18
carries for 127 yards and one score.) A missed extra-point and two missed field
goals could have been the difference, but there’s no guarantee the Aggies would
have scored their final touchdown since LSU went to a soft prevent defense in a
two-score game. Otherwise, they may not have done so.
Now we do what we must do; clear our heads, regroup and get ready for three
road games in a row. I mentioned in one of my earlier posts that A&M hasn’t
played three in a row on the road since 1979. That season the Ags opened in
Houston to play BYU and then traveled the next four weekends. In 1977, my final
season with the Aggies, we had five straight games on the road, winning four.
Two of the teams we played back-to-back were ranked; Texas Tech and Michigan,
The only team to win three consecutive games on the road in the modern era
was the 1975 team, which beat three unranked opponents.
A&M’s first visit to Jordan-Hare Stadium should mark Coach Sumlin’s 10th
straight win on the road including his last season with Houston. With a streak
going like this, maybe we CAN be the first team in 37 years to win three
straight on the road.
Now THAT would p**s them off.
Post-Game Read for Auburn
As I’ve watched the Aggies progress this season, it has become obvious that
the Zone Read is a perfect complement to the rest of their offensive system. In
Johnny Manziel, they certainly have a quarterback with amazing speed,
elusiveness and agility. His passing ability is unquestioned and he is like a
cottontail rabbit back in the pocket. A pack of wolves would probably wear
itself out chasing him down.
I have continuously praised this Texas A&M staff for bringing the offense
along with Johnny, and never imposing the opposite. When you force a quarterback
into doing something he isn’t comfortable with, you steal his confidence, slowly
but surely. “Triple option” coaches did this to many high school and college
quarterbacks, because it was the “next hot thing” during their eras. This
stubborn persistence in force-feeding uncomfortable offensive schemes
contributed immensely to Texas A&M University losing real shots at national
championships in the 70’s. I would assume ours isn’t the only case study you
could find regarding this subject.
Now we have a head coach who is playing his own game in the development
department. He isn’t the kind to walk on the field and say to his starter, “Hey,
let’s see if you can do this,” and after a couple of unstable repetitions say,
“Wow, you look great! Okay guys, here’s what we’re doing from now on.” Nope,
Coach Sumlin has known all along what the ultimate plan was and when to spring
it. Now, Aggies everywhere will be flipping out when they see what the TOTAL
PACKAGE with Johnny Football will look like.
This isn’t your father’s Aggie football anymore.
Any time you’re reading a defensive player to decide whether to hand the ball
off to your back or keep it yourself, there are distinct possibilities the ball
will end up on the ground, or the play will lose yardage due to a bad read. This
was what old-timers once said about passing: “three things can happen and two of
them are bad.” Well, phooey on that.
We have watched the Aggies run 635 plays this season, give or take. Did you
notice what happened on play number 608? Well, this is probably not quite enough
information so I’ll give it to you straight, with a hint attached. It was Johnny
Manziel’s final play of the night at Auburn. It was his 20-yard “dance in the
Moonlight” that represented A&M’s seventh touchdown of the game coming with
twelve minutes left in the third quarter.
That’s right; this was Johnny Manziel’s first Zone Read of his college
And then, just like that, he was gone; and with him the Zone Read.
On this single play for an easy untouched 20-yard romp, we saw the bright,
immediate future of Texas Aggies football. Sumlin’s Stun Gun Offense is all off
the rack now, but we’ve only seen traces of what’s yet to come.
Well played, Maroon and White. Well played.
The amazing thing is that Johnny Manziel had already accumulated 773 rushing
yards on 116 carries, a 6.7 average, before running a single Zone Read. This is
because the Aggies have implemented several other designed running plays for his
abilities; one is a sweet counter play where he shuffle-steps one way while his
Pistol backfield mates lead him the other, as was the case on his 72-yard burst
to clinch the La. Tech game.
Let’s prorate Johnny’s performance from Saturday night and look at his
numbers, had he finished the game. How does 636 yards sound, compared to 350?
Yes, I know.
Still, the offense collected 671 yards, a record amount for anyone playing
against an Auburn team… ever. Overall the Aggies had eight scoring drives for
touchdowns that each averaged 69 yards, 3 ½ minutes and 8.6 plays. That is
moving right along. We’re third in the country (behind Air Force and Marshall)
in third-down efficiency at 54.03%. Money.
It will be another excellent test in Starkville for Johnny Football… and now
a dose of “Zone Read” for the Bulldogs to concern themselves with. One play
addition to the arsenal with Johnny Manziel around, even if it’s called only
once every 600 plays or so, still equates to one huge headache for defensive
coordinators from here on out. And with each of the A&M running backs having
alternately big games, who do you key on? You’ve got the No. 3 guy in total
offense back there with them.
Finally, it’s mentally very difficult for a team that thought it was making
huge strides to get completely horsewhipped like Mississippi State did last
Saturday by the Tide. A team like this, you’ve got to kick ‘em when they’re
down, like we did Auburn. We’re learning.
Then we get ‘Bama.
Post-Game Read for Mississippi State
Speaking of continuously getting better, I get a chuckle occasionally from
fans who assert the A&M coaching staff needs to reduce Johnny Manziel’s
running and insist he stand in the pocket and deliver the football downfield.
This primeval mindset reminds me of my first start for Texas A&M. It was
long ago … in primeval times. I was a skinny 17 year-old kid starting my first
college game just out of high school, when I ran with the ball 19 times in a
35-16 win over TCU at Amon Carter Stadium. It was the first win for the Ags over
the Horned Frogs in five tries and evened our SWC record at 1-1.
We were running the Wishbone for its devoted Father, coach Emory Bellard. For
you who are not familiar with this formation, it was an option offense with a
full-house backfield in which I faked to the fullback and zipped to the corner
to isolate the defensive end, strong safety or cornerback for either a pitchout
or a keeper.
For those fans bent on reducing our offensive capabilities for the sake of
protecting our quarterback, you can henceforth forget about it. Seriously.
I don’t think the coaches have any more intention of restricting the talents
and instincts of Johnny Manziel than they do of apologizing to “Old Army” fogies
for wearing those cool jet-black uniforms last Saturday. In fact, those guys in
the white Hail State jerseys who were honoring Jackie and their once-upon-a-time
Independence Bowl victory were looking for some serious shelter immediately
after the first couple of drives.
The Aggies’ Stun Gun assault with its quick-witted sharpshooter at the helm
has redefined football in the Lone Star state. Texas A&M can now be seen
steamrolling talent-wise, recruiting-wise and P.R.-wise like never before as the
Home of the 12th Man grows even more massive. As we once said as kids, “The one
who laughs last, laughs loudest.”
Now we even get to say it as adults.
I’ve heard a little personal criticism on occasion about my fondness for
Johnny Manziel as a quarterback, like, since the very first time I saw him play
the game. I said then, even on a day when we didn’t come out the winner, he’s
the best there’s ever been — at this university, anyway. I’ve noticed recently
that the naysayers have somehow either vanished or are out in the fields
somewhere hunting crows.
Saban has a quarterback there, AJ McCarron, who already has one championship
ring and has been in the Heisman conversation all season. He’s led the nation
most of this season in passer rating. Right now McCarron is the third choice to
win the Heisman behind favorite Collin Klein of Kansas State and Kenjon Barner
of Oregon, the talented running back now making a big late push. McCarron led a
beautiful game-winning drive in his first real test of the year to beat the
Tigers 21-17 last Saturday. It was epic.
Still hanging around in the Top 7 is the redshirt freshman phenom from
Aggieland, Johnny Manziel. While Johnny Football is virtually destroying his
Heisman Trophy competition statistically, his “freshman” status and playing for
a school that only recently burst onto the national scene are preventing him
from scrambling into this esteemed end zone as well. Unlike former counterparts
of the system he amazingly runs so efficiently, Johnny has innate talents the
others could only dream of possessing. Fortunately, in my estimation, Johnny
will never be accused of being a product of the system. He creates astonishingly
within the system, an ability which only a select few can boast about in such
In fact, the top two total offensive guys in the country just happen to play
football ninety miles apart. They’re Texas A&M’s Manziel (383.2) and
Baylor’s senior quarterback, Nick Florence (412.25). Florence is responsible for
95.2% of the Baylor quarterbacks’ passing and rushing attempts thus far this
season, while Manziel has only 90.2% of the Aggies’. A similar percentage of
plays for Johnny would place him at 404.4 yards per game. Regardless, this dude
These are all you need to see, defensively.
The Aggies have soared high above expectations both offensively and
defensively in its previous two SEC road games. Should we win, it will be our
first sweep of a three-game road trip since 1975 when the Aggies had its
all-time best defense. Ours this season isn’t No. 1 but it’s certainly going to
fight you tooth and nail to the very end. They also got the big turnover last
Saturday to quell any hopes of a comeback by Mississippi State. That play was
When it’s all said and done, I’m very much looking forward to seeing who’s
wearing the smiley face after this showdown is completed.
Next Up: Alabama and the Run for the Heisman
Second Quarter Action of 2012
We found out on Monday night from former Heisman Trophy winner and native Texan Ty Detmer that Johnny’s going up against two seniors as a “freshman” with three seasons of eligibility remaining. No other underclassmen are even close in the voting, or they’d have been invited. Barring something unforeseen happening, Johnny is ‘college football’ for the next three seasons. Then again, he was ‘college football’ this season.
Pop a top on this one. If he comes up short, imagine the fire we’ll see in
his eyes; well, maybe not, but it’ll darn sure be there underneath the surface.
At some point in every player’s career, he or she realizes their true value.
Johnny knows his. Whatever the outcome, Johnny Football will be smiling.
The “Instant Replay” continues as I follow game-by-game the exploits of
Johnny Football as seen through the eyes of the youngest quarterback to step on
a college field (at our own one yard-line inside Kyle, by the way.) This was
truly an inspirational year for Aggies and football fans everywhere. You’ve read
about the pre-season and the first two games, and in our second edition we delve
a little further into the excellent leadership and quarterbacking skills this
young man exhibits, still so early in his career.
I closed the last article by commenting after the SMU game that Johnny
Manziel was the phenom the Aggies had long been waiting for. Just as Johnny’s
season remains a standard for the ages in the SEC and college football, the
words here remain constant and unchanged from the original. Here’s more of the
Post-Game Read for South Carolina State
The Aggies are currently ranked 11th nationally in scoring, 12th in points
allowed and 13th in yards allowed per game. Even with all the fireworks the Ags
have been displaying of late, they only rank 37th nationally in total offense.
Perhaps the other 36 teams have played even daintier light-weights than the
Aggies have, or perhaps haven’t pulled their starters as quickly. Or haven’t
played Florida. Regardless, most stats this early in the season are for old men
sitting around drinking coffee in the early morning, somewhat similar to
Everything else statistically should go into the ‘on hold’ file waiting for
further evidence, with one primary exception: Johnny Manziel is a slick,
trigger-happy madman who has yet to see his first interception or lost fumble.
This is truly a rare accomplishment considering the number of opportunities he
gets handling the football while orchestrating the jet stream offense of the
Southeastern Conference. His vision alone would probably set records in contests
involving the Magic Eye 3D images of the 90’s. He sees things others can’t in a
fraction of the time. His running and passing thus far have provided the Aggies
with 7.3 yards per play. In the other 100 plays void of his direct involvement,
they have averaged 4.85.
Hey, all good for sure, but I think you know where I’m coming from. This guy
can do it all. I predict there will soon be an enormous trend among the young
kids in Texas to ask their coaches for the No. 2 jersey for years to come.
The Aggies have a real shot at being 5-1 overall and 2-1 in conference when
LSU hits town Oct. 20. Should LSU continue to find its patented escape routes as
the season progresses, that day could be a momentous one for the SEC and both
institutions. This Saturday’s game marks the spot.
Post-Game Read for Arkansas
The young man leading the charge is here among us. He’s the one you weren’t
sure about when you first saw him play. You remember, right? After the first few
series of action netted 17 points for the home team, he seemed too good to fail,
yet that day he did. Regardless, he seemed to have a “dazzleability” separating
him from anyone who had ever been under center on Kyle Field. “Ever” is a lot of
history to backtrack on. It’s not that these individuals were necessarily
slower, or didn’t have the pinpoint accuracy, or strength of arm, or a hundred
other intangibles necessary to man the position. No, this guy was just
different, period, and it’s kind of hard to nail it down. He’s like the silver
ball in the old-time pinball machines.
He didn’t look all that big physically, but he seemed extraordinarily gutsy
for such a rookie, faking pitches to imaginary running backs as he sprinted down
field full-steam ahead. Somehow he had boldness and daring that were never
betrayed, and an unbridled recklessness that bore not a single fault. “His style
of play will be his downfall,” you said. “Too much run and not enough gun.”
You’d have to take in another performance of his, or two, or maybe even
three, just to be sure this young man deserved the moniker of “special.” Your
eyes have yet to betray you, friend. Just as sure as the sun will rise in the
morning, the football gods have judged that now is your time and he is your
Sure, this young man seemingly came out of nowhere, somehow unheralded
because of the star that played in front of him for a season, the one whose
single-game passing record he already owns. During this “down” time he was busy
taking it all in, studying how to attack defenses and getting his feet on the
ground, biding his time and eying the competition. The coaching decision to sit
him out his first year was undeniably the correct one. There would be no
pressure to win and carry a team on his shoulders quite yet, and as a rule,
third-teamers are normally not called upon for active duty. Even after spring
training, he hadn’t risen above the shoreline, but once the money was placed,
his name was called with total conviction.
That name was Johnny Manziel. Johnny is going places and taking us with him
for the ride. The swiftness of his arrival matches only the coolness coming from
underneath the No. 2 jersey we’ve watched zinging and flinging recently. The
music he shares has the artistry and brilliance of a Bach, Beethoven or a
Beatle, and the calmness of a smooth mountain lake just before sundown. For the
first time in years, decades, perhaps ever, we have standing before us the
epitome of spontaneity, splendidly functioning within an offensive system
inspired by the ideals of absolute freedom. It is the creation of a discipline
as intricate in design as any that will ever be devised, with its outer limits
approached only in proper doses. Where Johnny goes comfortably, this system will
follow. This is as it should be. This is how you don’t screw him up.
Soul cleansing was what this particular rain was all about. Wash away your
troubles; wash away your shame. By the time the rain had finished its work, the
Aggies had slaughtered the dumbfounded Hogs in a manner only Alabama would
understand. When it began pouring down the hardest in the third quarter, the
coaches responded by emptying the backfield of running backs and going
five-wide. Next, they had Johnny start throwing completion after completion in
fast-motion with that slippery wet football all the way down the field. Now that
The weather doesn’t dictate to us. We dictate, no matter what.
Do we call this the Honey Badger Offense?
Hey, if you don’t love cocky, you just might be in the wrong building. Did
you hear the announcers saying the Aggies should let up some near the end? Are
you kidding us? Embrace it.
The 58 points scored by the Aggies are the most ever scored in the series
covering 69 games. One can only imagine what the score could have been had the
Aggies not failed to convert on 8 of their 12 third-downs. Regardless, all told
the Aggies amassed 32 first downs and 717 yards, the third-highest yards total
in school history.
Manziel passed for a school record 453 yards and three touchdowns and ran for
another score while adding 104 yards on 14 carries. He has now thrown for 10
touchdowns without an interception and has another six scores on the ground.
Johnny averaged 10.7 yards per play when running or passing against Arkansas.
This is an astounding number when considering the number of plays he was
involved in. He is now up to 8.3 yards per play for the season. Bo Wallace of
Mississippi in comparison averages 6.13.
Now to the individual hardware: Johnny’s 557 total yards broke the SEC record
of 540 previously held by Archie Manning of Mississippi vs. Alabama in 1969 and
Rohan Davey of LSU vs. Alabama in 2001. As a result, Manziel was named SEC
Offensive Player of the Week and offensive tackle Jake Matthews was named SEC
Offensive Lineman of the Week, for good measure.
Manziel’s NCAA Quarterback Rating (170.9) is now ranked 10th in the country
and third in the SEC, behind Aaron Murray of Georgia (3rd) and Alabama’s A. J.
McCarron (7th), both Heisman Trophy candidates. A&M ranks 12th in total
offense per game in the NCAA and second in the SEC behind Georgia (11th).
My recommendation to the current Ole Miss staff would be to
pull out some old film from the Manning era and see how the other SEC teams
tried to stop him. Manziel is every bit the double threat that Manning was and
also does some of his finest work while scrambling to the corners. Each threw
equally well going to his left, or to his right, and both were tough to bring
The great thing now is, we’re not in that Aggie Wishbone!
Go, Johnny, Go!!
[Heisman Trophy voter Mike Huguenin explains why Johnny Manziel should take home the Trophy as a redshirt freshman]
Post-Game Read for Mississippi
Former SEC Offensive Player of the Week, Johnny “No Fail” Manziel, hadn’t
shown the Midas touch for the first three-plus quarters. Sure, he’d broken a few
nice runs and hit a few throws, but Ole Miss was proving too quick and forceful
up front for the “Who Dat’ Kid” to rise above this particular fray. He hadn’t
been around long enough in this league to know it isn’t far from the penthouse
to the outhouse. Heck, this “Johnny Come Lately” hadn’t even played outside of
the state of Texas in his entire life — No worries here.
Running back Ben Malena then slipped through the line for a run of 36 yards
to the Ole Miss 29. From there, Manziel found another opening, and on a run that
resembled a playground “two below” game, he ran somewhat untouched the necessary
29 yards for a touchdown. This culminated an official 88-yard drive that was
actually one of 99.7 yards, technically speaking.
Somehow the whale had spewed Johnny out of its mouth, for no particular
reason; perhaps just to tease the visitors and their supporters. What fun this
The extra-point kick was missed, of course, and Aggies everywhere began
reminding themselves once again of who they were, and once again sunk deeper
into depths of despair. “Well, we are the Aggies, now aren’t we?”
One minute and 16 seconds later, Ryan Swope was waving the football in the
air in the end zone after he and Manziel had caught the Ole Miss secondary
playing man coverage and lining up having already been beaten. Swope’s perfect
corner route was complimented by the perfect throw as A&M kept its two wide
receivers decoying short inside routes while sending Swope deep behind them. It
was great execution at a pivotal point in the drive – and in the game. Five
minutes earlier the Rebels and their fans had been reveling in their presumed
victory but it was far from over. Coach Sumlin’s stun gun offense had them
moaning and writhing in pain when least expected.
By remaining poised, alert and confident, Manziel now trails only Alabama’s
AJ McCarron in the NCAA Quarterback Rating among SEC quarterbacks and is ranked
No. 12 nationally. Meanwhile, the Aggies are celebrating their first top 25
ranking as a member of the SEC, coming in at No. 23 in the A.P. and 21st in the
USA Today. Seven teams from the conference are now represented in the polls.
Interestingly, A&M and its next opponent, the LA Tech Bulldogs, rank 22nd
and 23rd in the ESPN Power Rankings, respectively.
Unfortunately, this will be the final game of the season where victory is
expected right in step with offensive stats that will continue to be padded. The
levels of competition, philosophies and game faces will change dramatically
after the Tech game, when wins and losses become the only gauge of success and
stats become secondary. The term “field position” will come back into play in
huge quantities. I look forward to the tests these outstanding opportunities
will present for our strategies and personnel. We’re looking forward to a
hard-fought, thrilling football game this weekend. The experts predict an Aggie
victory by the score of 40-32, which certainly sounds reasonable.
All kinds of Texas A&M records could fall. Let’s just hope they’re all on
the offensive side of the ball — stun-gun style.
Next Up – Louisiana Tech
First Quarter Action
I believe bias is bias, whether it’s regarding age, classification, race, university or conference affiliation, or anything else that enters into it. Any individual who publicly or secretly reveals such bias should be stripped of his or her authority immediately as a voter for the Heisman trophy.
To even promote the notion of such should be considered heresy and an actual threat to the integrity of the game. Every player has just completed playing the 2012 regular season, and is, therefore, eligible to win the Heisman as a by-product of his participation. Rightly so, and the 2012 season is the onlyseason to be assessed.
There is no future and there is no past in these matters.
Individuals are voters only because they have earned the right to represent all of America’s football fans with their choices, with ALL past precedents and current biases pushed aside for the good of the game.
Soon A&M will own not only the youngest quarterback to ever play college football in myself, but also the only “freshman” quarterback to win the Heisman Trophy in Johnny Manziel. I put quotation marks around the word “freshman” because technically Johnny is not a “freshman,” but a sophomore who will be allowed an additional senior season to play. Having personally redshirted in college, I simply felt when I was playing my final season not with with my class, but that underneath mine, I’d been extended an extra senior season. This is the difference and the separation of the two schools of thought. Johnny is a sophomore academically and will soon become a junior.
In an interview with David Harris of the Bryan/College Station Eagle prior to
the season, I gave this advice to the first-year starter, based on my experience
as a 17-year old starting quarterback as a true freshman: “Be on top of your
game,” I said. “Do not be intimidated by anything. Know you’re the best
quarterback at this university and that everybody has confidence in you. Be
quick and be smart. You’ll have some bad plays but remember to keep your head
up.” It’s what I’ve told all my quarterbacks as a high school football coach —
and I know this university. George Bush chose this university to house his
library because of its integrity.
So let’s talk about how all these Xs and Os come together so easily for this
A&M team offensively. The West Coast offense was built on timing routes in
which the quarterback took a five-step drop and released the football. Boom, it
had to be gone right now! Plant and throw! I always felt the quarterback on a
five-step drop was too close to the onrushing linemen to successfully make the
necessary underneath throws in this ‘nickel and dime’ offense. Throwing lanes
are difficult to find with such close proximity.
The shotgun formation automatically negates this problem completely, which is
why I went to it in 1989 with the Memorial High School football team I was
coaching in Houston. While “hot routes” are best thrown on a three-step drop
from under center, because they’re quicker-breaking routes, the shotgun resolves
the problem of having smaller quarterbacks operating the quick passing game
without the effort involved in physically making the sprint seven yards deep and
cutting it loose. On most five-step drops your receivers are on nine-step
routes, at least in college and high school, and a five-step drop into the
pocket will get the quarterback approximately seven yards deep.
This was the drop-back passing game we had in my days at A&M, but my high
school coach had me going nine steps back in our high school offense. That is 12
to 13 yards deep. Yes!
I once questioned the five-step drop that the Houston Texans were using in
their early years of operation and had myself quoted in the Houston Chronicle.
That night the Texans lost miserably in a preseason game, and the five-step drop
did them in with several interceptions thrown under pressure.
The radio talk shows were ablaze with why the Texans were using this system
that obviously was allowing too much pressure on their quarterback, David Carr.
Several weeks later the team’soffensive coordinator was let go, partly because
of the public outrage and the obvious problems the five-step drop caused this
particular quarterback. I was accustomed to watching that nine-step drop of
Namath’s and it seemed to work extremely well.
You may remember the Cowboys and Roger Staubach in the ’70’s using the
shotgun formation extensively because it freed up the quarterback in so many
ways. I’m sure many thought a little less of Dallas coach Tom Landry for going
with this “gimmicky” offense, even as he was taking his teams to Super
But, so what if “real man” football now looks more like a two-below game
going on ‘helter-skelter’ in the back yard? ‘Look what they’ve done to my game,
Ma,’ cries Alabama’s Nick Sabin. This system is smarter and much more efficient
and demands top-flight conditioning from the big boys up front. It’s fast and
has no regard for the noise level of a hostile crowd. It’s streamlined to the
point of not even needing an official playbook, just as Bear Bryant streamlined
the Wishbone by deleting the triple option and thus never using a playbook
And now we’ve been introduced to the true master of the ‘Sumlin Stun Gun’ offense run from the shotgun formation now being implemented so successfully by the Aggies. Johnny Football doesn’t mess with the Zone Read play, which had always been the core of any spread offense. He does what he does in other ways, some predetermined, and many others — not so much.
But there is something else this young man is doing. He is redefining the
qualities and abilities coaches will be looking for in a quarterback from here
on. Some quarterbacks stereotype themselves into being in the same mold as the
professional guys; those kinds of guys who don’t run much, stand in the pocket
and throw a football. Ho hum. The days of ‘quarterback sneaks’ leading the way
with the likes of Bart Starr and Johnny Unitus are long gone. You’d better
become an ATHLETE if you wanna play. Don’t be lazy and don’t be a dummy, young
Now-a-days, these aspiring quarterbacks had better be thinking about speed
and quickness and becoming a cottontail rabbit out on that football field.
Speed, quickness and endurance need to be part of your repertoire. If you assume
your arm alone is going to get you a job, there may be a little Johnny Football
who shows up who gums up the works for you.
Personally, as I described in my book, I worked extremely hard in high school
increasing my speed and quickness. It was imperative I become an all-around
threat, which obviously was the key in taking over a Wishbone triple option
offense in college at 17 years of age and becoming A&M’s first Freshman of
Now, let’s replay this season game-by-game as Johnny became Johnny Football
and then finally became, we hope and expect, Johnny Heisman. These are verbatim
observations of the young outstanding quarterback as seen through the eyes of
the youngest quarterback to ever play, and I’m proud to say the Maroon and White
lineage we share is both exciting and rewarding. I hope you’ll enjoy. Gig’
Pre-Game Read for the Florida Gators
Our starting quarterback now is a young man from Kerrville, Texas who the
Aggie Press Machine is raging about as the first “freshman” to start a season
opener for A&M since 1944. But here’s a couple of things they don’t tell
you. Johnny Manziel spent all of last year going to classes, practices, team
meetings, doing film study, going through spring drills, playing understudy to
the No. 8-overall NFL draft pick and has been through two sets of two-a-days.
Freshman? Hardly. He’s a guy who gets to play two senior seasons, the way I look
at it. I know because I also red-shirted; only it was my third year — and I got
to play two senior seasons as well. That’s how it works.
What I’m saying is, you can throw out the redshirt tag. Johnny is a
second-year player with a wealth of knowledge that is readily accessible and
stored up ready-to-go on the college game. He is equipped with a whole lot of
valuable mental experience and great talent. If he turns this game into a
“practice” mentally and gets into the zone that he needs to be in, he has the
tools to be a real class act. So let’s just call him a sophomore with no actual
playing experience, sort of like what we called all players between the years of
1946 to 1972, the time period that freshmen were not allowed to play varsity
football after World War II. I know– how old-school! Remember when girls could
only play half-court in basketball? Very similar thinking.
But just for grins, let’s allow the Ags’ publicists to call it the way they
spin it. After all, it’s their program they have to sell even though this game
doesn’t need selling. Just don’t be expecting a timid kid with no background or
clue showing up all wide-eyed and scared at the prospects of leading his team in
front of a sold-out crowd and national TV audience. Bradshaw, Bert Jones, Joe
Ferguson, Joe Namath, Spurrier, Stabler; they were all quite good after not
“playing” in their first year of college.
Post Game Read for the Florida Gators
As I stated last week when I reintroduced myself to the Gator Nation via
Florida Gators Gamedayr, I now am the only A&M quarterback who has ever
beaten the University of Florida. Of course, with A&M’s 1-2 overall record
against UF, this isn’t saying a whole lot but I stand by it, as far as bragging
rights are concerned. The most recent A&M QB to have this opportunity,
Johnny Manziel, looked to me like the fastest quarterback this school has seen
since the Texas high school high-hurdle champion who succeeded me in the late
’70s, Mike Mosley. Unfortunately, none of us average-Joe onlookers will get the
opportunity to know Johnny Manziel until next spring because Coach Sumlin has
standing orders that freshmen are off-limits to the media. I guess this also
includes ‘Redshirt’ freshmen, since this is what Manziel actually is – a
sophomore academically but a “rookie” to be seen but not heard, otherwise.
The obvious question is how does this band of coaches go from having the
highest scoring team in the land one year to not being able to pick up a handful
of first downs the next? Not a single second half play was run in Florida
territory. Very disturbing stuff, one might say. Unless the QB was making a ton
of misreads which I personally didn’t see, then finding the proper play calls to
win a three-point game escaped the offensive staff, pure and simple. This past
Saturday night’s realization was a rather somber enlightenment with which to
open a brand new season, especially for this newly-inspired and highly
boisterous crowd that rolled in, a crowd faced with many dissenters around the
state and even within its new conference, wishing it nothing but failure. Step
one, accomplished with amazing predictability.
Post Game Read for Southern Methodist
Fortunately what we also saw here, unlike during the second half of the
opener against the Florida Gators, was a team that was making some necessary
offensive adjustments while the defense was impressively holding the Mustangs in
check. This “warm-up” period allowed the offense, with redshirt freshman
quarterback Johnny Manziel settling in firmly at the controls, to begin ripping
apart these eight-game winners from 2011 with a wonderful combination of quick
jabs, left hooks and fancy footwork that took SMU totally out of the game on
both sides of the ball from the second quarter on.
SMU’s defense had a nice game going by keeping Manziel and the A&M
offense somewhat off balance for almost a quarter and a half before becoming a
little too predictable. The five-man front had kept sufficient pressure on both
A&M passing and running games and allowed only the occasional completion to
redshirt freshman wide receiver Mike Evans, normally aligned opposite the
three-receiver side of the A&M shotgun spread formation. Because of the
rush, quarterback Manziel was forced to scramble on several occasions and the
normal running game was providing little support. With less than nine minutes to
go in the second quarter, Manziel looked up to find veteran slot receiver Ryan
Swope “uncovered” to his right side by anyone underneath. For most offenses,
this is a pre-snap “hot read” which turned into exactly that on this play.
On this second-and-eight situation, the SMU defense brought both linebackers,
its left defensive end, nose tackle and a defensive five-technique (tackle) from
the right side. A&M was set up in a balanced one-back formation with two
receivers split to each side, catching the defense in a cover 2, a popular
coverage with two deep safeties and each cornerback aligned tightly on his
respective wide receivers. The backside defensive end dropped into coverage
while the play-side defensive tackle, with his side’s defensive end blitzing,
rose out of his four–point stance to try to retreat back into coverage,
hopefully into the passing lane between Manziel and the slot receiver,
This “coverage swap” approach employed by the SMU staff, commonly referred to
as a zone blitz, had worked earlier for the Mustangs resulting in some
behind-the-line tackles and confusion in the Aggies’ blocking assignments. This
time, however, the defensive tackle saw only the football zipping by his head as
Swope ran a quick post pattern and caught the perfect throw, then targeted a
spot that would split both safeties as he went into the end zone standing up.
Junior offensive tackle Jake Matthews did an outstanding job of recognizing the
swap and swiftly picked up the defensive end before being outflanked instead of
the tackle he’d originally been assigned.
Offenses, such as A&M’s, love gifts and when they are offered on silver
platters via pre-snap misalignments such as this one, they gobble them up
without even a “thank you.” The lesson to be learned here is that Ryan Swope
cannot be covered by defensive tackles or headed off at the pass by unassuming
defensive safeties who get caught flat-footed. Any defensive player must be
cognizant of one indisputable fact: if a player lines up on a D-1 football
field, he can beat you.
Leading 7-0 after an SMU three-and-out on first down from the SMU 48, Johnny
Manziel tucked the ball away in his left arm (as he always does) on a scramble
through the left side, scooting past a defensive lineman who’d been hurled to
the ground by offensive tackle Luke Joeckel. Manziel then sped by pursuing
linebackers, juked another defender and went untouched into the end zone. When I
played at A&M and was running the Wishbone, you never saw me carrying the
ball in my right arm either. Regardless of what the coaches said about having it
in the arm away from the defender, I believed it much more important to always
have the ball in my strongest arm. Perhaps Johnny has this same belief, although
he throws the football right-handed. Whatever the case, he was only getting
Next, he completed a 78-yard drive after an A&M interception by hitting
Uzoma Nwachukwu with a 36-yarder after rolling out of the pocket to his right
and throwing down the middle of the field to his veteran receiver. This was a
perfectly executed “scramble drill” which requires a great amount of practice
time. The appearance of improvisation doesn’t make it a reality. The Aggies had
just scored two touchdowns within two and a half minutes and suddenly held a
20-0 lead at the half. Strike up the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band!
Johnny Manziel reminds me of another college quarterback who was a little
smaller of stature and wore two number 2’s on his jersey, a guy named Doug
Flutie. Manziel only got better in the third quarter, acrobatically whirling
around and pin-pointing a touchdown pass that no one else on the planet would
have even attempted, primarily because they’d probably have taken the sack or
said, “The hell with it,” and thrown it away. Johnny delivered. He set a Texas
A&M single-game freshman record by passing for 294 yards (breaking Kevin
Murray’s 29 year-old record of 280 set against Rice) and accounted for six
touchdowns — four through the air and two on the ground. That’s right, and he
also ran for 124 yards. Just like in the song, the boy said, “My
name’s Johnny and it might be a sin, but I’ll take your bet, you’re gonna
regret, cuz I’m the best there’s ever been.” Could be.
Only time will tell, and there will be a lot of armchair quarterbacking going
on trying to get into his head. I say, “Let him be and don’t screw him up.” Ol’ Johnny might be the phenom A&M has been waiting for, and all the wondrous things that phenoms bring with them could soon be within the Aggies’ grasp.
Next up for the Aggies isn’t South Carolina, but South Carolina State, a team
that lost to Arizona last week, 56-0. Arizona had 43 first downs while South
Carolina State had 8. Arizona had 689 yards of offense, while South Carolina
State had 154. Arizona punted only once. And as they say, the rest was