Aggies' hero Manziel gives SMU fits

Posted Sunday, Sep. 16, 2012  comments  Print Reprints
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DALLAS -- Texas A&M's first season as a member of the Southeastern Conference didn't start at planned.

The Aggies' first game was postponed because of Hurricane Isaac, and A&M lost 20-17 at home to Florida last weekend after blowing a second-half lead.

But 17 days later than A&M fans expected, the Aggies (1-1) were able to secure that first win as an SEC team. A&M's defense dominated SMU (1-2), and redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel had a record day in his second start as the Aggies won 48-3 Saturday.

"This game was crucial," senior linebacker Jonathan Stewart said. "Last week was a really tough loss. It is good for us to get some positive vibes going, finally get a win."

A&M picked up just two first downs in the first quarter and failed to convert four third downs. But while the Aggies couldn't move the ball, SMU couldn't gain any momentum. The Aggies' defense, which held SMU to just three third-down conversions on 18 attempts, stifled the Mustangs until the offense found its rhythm.

After a missed field goal on its first possession of the second quarter, A&M scored on three of its next four drives to take a 20-0 halftime lead. The first touchdown came on a 29-yard pass from Manziel to senior Ryan Swope.

"It's exciting. I've been waiting to see this offense bust out like it did today," Swope said. "It's a very fast, exciting offense. And when you get rolling, it's just hard to stop. We really got in a groove, and Johnny did a good job of taking control and doing his assignment, making plays and finding guys down the field... To get that first touchdown was huge, and we just started rolling after that."

Manziel then ran for a 48-yard score and hit senior Uzoma Nwachukwu for a 26-yard touchdown. Manziel escaped pressure, rolled to his right and threw back across his body to Nwachukwu in the middle of the field.

"With Johnny, he's Captain Amazing back there not getting sacked," Nwachukwu said. "He's a guy who, no matter what type of pressure you get on him, he's always in the pocket ready to come out. As receivers, we have to scramble. He did a great job of putting the ball in the right place."

Manziel quickly led the Aggies to the end zone again in the third quarter on a 42-yard touchdown pass to Kenric McNeal.

"[Manziel] is improving," Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin said. "He made some plays with his feet, but he scrambled and kept his eyes down field instead of just taking off and running. I think our receivers understand that too, and they keep working down the field."

Manziel led touchdown drives on all three of A&M's third-quarter possessions, including a dazzling 15-yard touchdown run and another pass to Nwachukwu.

The Aggies finished with 605 total yards. Manziel, who didn't play in the fourth quarter, finished with 124 yards rushing and an A&M-freshman-record 294 yards passing with six total touchdowns. Kevin Murray had the previous high with 280 yards against Rice in 1983.

"Johnny is a playmaker, a big-time playmaker," offensive lineman Patrick Lewis said. "When we see [Manziel's plays] on film, it will be a thing of beauty... I guess that's why they nicknamed him Johnny Football."

Nwachukwu joked about his quarterback's bevy of nicknames.

"Johnny Football, Captain Amazing. I'm pretty sure next week we will have another for him," he said. "It's a growing legend."

While he was pleased with his quarterback's play, Sumlin emphasized his team still has a lot of work left.

"I was impressed, but we're only on game two, fellas," Sumlin said.

A&M will play South Carolina State at home next Saturday. SMU's next game is at home against TCU on Sept. 29.

Brent Shirley, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @bishirley08

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