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