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Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel boosts Heisman hopes against Missouri

Saturday, November 24, 2012 | 11:07 p.m. CST; updated 11:25 p.m. CST, Saturday, November 24, 2012
Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel runs the ball during the first half of the football game against Missouri on Saturday at Kyle Field in College Station, Texas.

COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Yikes.

That’s probably what most Missouri football fans mumbled Saturday night, right before changing the channel and throwing the remote control against a wall.

For a proud Missouri fan base, the 59-29 loss was embarrassing. Missouri went into College Station desperate for a sixth win that would make it bowl-eligible for the eighth-straight season, and walked out having lost by 30 points.

The Tigers didn’t move the ball in the first half. They didn’t stop anyone. They didn’t beat Texas A&M in Kyle Field for the third straight year.

They did, however, likely help deliver a Heisman Trophy.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel toyed with Missouri on Saturday night. He danced in the pocket, drifting from one end of the field to the other before delivering the ball to open receivers downfield.

He sidestepped would-be tacklers, leaving Missouri defenders at his feet as he scanned the secondary for eventual holes.

A few times, he took off up field, breaking the defense’s containment just to show that he could.

He threw for 249 yards, ran for 47 more, and threw three touchdowns …

In the first half.

"Their QB is a great player," Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said after the game. "I was very impressed with him. It was kind of the perfect storm in the wrong way."

Manziel threw for 372 yards and three touchdowns with only one interception in the game. He also ran for 67 yards and two more touchdowns.

Texas A&M scored touchdowns in six of its seven drives in the first half of Saturday’s game. The only time it failed to score, Missouri’s defense didn’t stop it — the clock did. Manziel took a knee to mercilessly end the half.

And for the 6-foot-1, 200-pound golden child, what a half it was.

Manziel, affectionately named “Johnny Football” by his teammates, looked the part of a Heisman favorite Saturday night. After each of the night’s first three touchdowns – all runs by Texas A&M running backs – Manziel calmly trotted off the field, occasionally raising his right fist nonchalantly into the air.

No bravado. Nothing showy. Just business.

The next three touchdowns, all coming in the second quarter, were the result of Manziel’s right arm and feet.

The first score was somewhat routine. Manziel fired a four-yard pass to senior Ryan Swope in the front of the end zone for a score. Swope raised his hands in the air upon catching it, and Manziel made no reaction, sprinting back to his bench. He sat down, staring straight ahead.

This wasn’t a surprise to him. He almost looked bored.

The next touchdown pass came with 7:23 left in the quarter. Five yards from the end zone, Manziel took the snap, rolled to his left, dodged the arms of defensive end Kony Ealy, stalled some more, ran away from Michael Sam and then flipped the ball into the back of the end zone, where Texas A&M receiver Mike Evans was waiting, wide open.

Finally allowing a little bit of emotion to seep out, Manziel raised both arms in the air, pointing to the sky and looking up. It was if, at that point, he wasn’t even sure how he was doing it.

"I mean, we did what we could with him. He's a great player," cornerback E.J. Gaines said after the game. "And that's the reason he's up for the Heisman. Just trying to contain him was the biggest problem that we had."

As if inspired to top that play, Manziel's next touchdown throw was even more unlikely.

From his own 8-yard line, Manziel took the snap and stood in the pocket as seconds ticked away. As the pocket closed in around him, he rolled to his right, darting away from a diving Matt Hoch. He ran back left, all the way to the other side, stopped in place again, and then fired to Uzoma Nwachukwu for the score.

Manziel somehow still had the energy to run off the field and high-five his coaches. On the video board, a smiling Manziel looked approvingly down on him. The crowd of 87,222 chanted “Heisman,” raising thumbs in the air as the school’s “Yell Leaders” sprinted joyously up and down the sidelines in front of the student section.

"Seeing what Johnny's done in the past, he's definitely a great football player and a great talent," Missouri quarterback Corbin Berkstresser said of his opponent after the game. "I wouldn't be surprised if he gets the Heisman."

The two touchdown plays looked like they had come straight out of a video game, the only place where a player can run to one side of the field, dodge larger linemen, take off to the other side without a breath, and then throw.

It just doesn’t happen like that. Unless you’re “Johnny Football.” And unless you’re playing Missouri.

For Missouri (5-7), a disappointing debut season in the SEC couldn’t have ended much worse. For its opponent, a Heisman resume couldn’t have been presented much better.

And for its fans, the channel was likely changed before halftime, and the remote control dented the wall.

Sadly, depressingly, mercifully, the 2012 season ended with a thud Saturday night.


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Comments

jb jones November 25, 2012 | 8:55 a.m.

It was still an awesome game - this divided house - MBA - MIZZOU and BA/MEd - TAMU - was proud of both teams except for the one unsportsman conduct the Aggies received. They should know better. Kendall Lawrence finally found his groove but I thought at first his nightmare would be 99 in his mirror.

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