Manziel draws rebuke from coach after A&M victory

Posted Saturday, Aug. 31, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
A

Have more to add? News tip? Tell us

College football’s most polarizing player stirred plenty of emotions in Saturday’s long-awaited return to action after a tumultuous off-season.

Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner, made plenty of big plays, lifted the spirits of teammates and energized the crowd that watched the seventh-ranked Aggies survive a 52-31 shootout against Rice in Kyle Field.

But Manziel stirred an emotion in coach Kevin Sumlin that we’d not seen before, at least to this level: frustration.

Manziel, who sat out the first half because of an NCAA suspension for a rules violation committed while signing memorabilia in the off-season, earned a fourth-quarter benching for what Sumlin called “a foolish penalty” for unsportsmanlike conduct. Manziel, who jawed frequently with Rice players after entering the game in the third quarter, drew the 15-yard stepoff after his last of three touchdown passes, a 9-yarder to Mike Evans.

Sumlin also expressed concern about Manziel’s apparent signal to one Rice player that he would not be willing to give him an autograph — making the signing gesture as they separated — following a third-quarter play. Sumlin made it clear that Manziel, who was not made available for interviews by A&M officials, has work to do in the area of ignoring opponents’ taunts after making himself a target for them with his productive play on the field and his high-profile exploits off it.

“We’ve got to grow up and mature as a team, and individual acts like that hurt your football team,” Sumlin said. “I thought Johnny was pressing a little bit early. And a foolish penalty at the end.

“No matter what the comments are, he’s going to face that every week with people chirping. That’s not OK [to respond]. I addressed that on the sideline right after the play. It’s something he’s going to have to deal with every week.”

Asked if he’d planned to pull Manziel before his fourth-quarter penalty, Sumlin said: “Nope.” He also vowed to check out the videotapes of Manziel’s signature-related exchange with the Rice player.

“I will address that,” Sumlin said. “If I had seen it, I would have done something about it [Saturday].”

Sumlin had multiple reasons to be frustrated Saturday. He began the day by announcing two-game suspensions for four players, including three defensive starters. He ended it by benching his Heisman Trophy winner and watching two players ejected for second-half infractions that will prevent them from playing in the first half of next week’s game against Sam Houston State: cornerback Deshazor Everett (targeting) and linebacker Daeshon Hall (fighting).

Perhaps most ominous, Sumlin’s defense surrendered more yards to Rice (509) than his offense gained (486). The Aggies (1-0) escaped with a victory, remaining on pace for a Sept. 14 mega-showdown against top-ranked Alabama (1-0). But they were not nearly as crisp against a 27-point underdog as Sumlin had hoped.

“We have a lot of pieces that we can be successful with. But we had some guys get frozen up today and caught on their heels,” Sumlin said.

That did not happen to quarterback Matt Joeckel, a junior from Arlington High School who threw for 190 yards and a touchdown in his first career start. Joeckel, who completed 14 of 19 passes without an interception, turned matters over to Manziel with a 28-21 halftime lead.

Manziel, who passed for 92 yards and rushed for 19, took the field to thunderous applause and offered a salute to the A&M student section as he jogged toward the huddle.

Then, his emotions bubbled over, drawing sharp words from Sumlin and criticism from college football analysts. ESPN analyst Trevor Matich called Manziel a “selfish, unstable knucklehead.”

A&M teammates merely shrugged their shoulders and considered it another example of Johnny being Johnny, a fiery leader with lots of swagger that they love to follow.

Asked to grade Manziel’s debut, safety Toney Hurd Jr. said: “I felt like he represented himself with a nice swag. He came out and had fun. We got the ‘W’ and that’s what really matters.”

Offensive tackle Cedric Ogbuehi concurred.

“That’s how he is,” Ogbuehi said. “He’s a fiery guy and that’s what we love about him. He’s not quiet. He’s not shy. He’s going to be loud and aggressive. That’s what makes him Johnny Football. We love it.”

But his coach would prefer if Johnny Football does not continue to morph into Johnny Rabbit Ears when opponents taunt him on the field. Manziel has made himself an easy target, a fact he acknowledged in July at SEC media days.

As such, he’ll need to do a better job of shaking things off when playing in more hostile surroundings than the friendly confines he enjoyed Saturday in Kyle Field. Sumlin acknowledged he needs to be part of the process, lest Manziel draw a game-turning penalty at the wrong time against Alabama.

“We talk about that in general all the time,” Sumlin said. “We have to grow and mature as a team, and that’s part of our jobs as coaches.”

Jimmy Burch, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @Jimmy_Burch

Looking for comments?

We welcome your comments on this story, but please be civil. Do not use profanity, hate speech, threats, personal abuse or any device to draw undue attention. Our policy requires those wishing to post here to use their real identity.

Our commenting policy | Facebook commenting FAQ | Why Facebook?





Friday, November 28Full Scoreboard
No games today
Full Scoreboard
Friday, November 28Full Scoreboard
Chicago «109Final | Box
Boston102
Golden State «106Final | Box
Charlotte101
New Orleans91Final | Box
Atlanta «100
Milwaukee «104Final | Box
Detroit88
Dallas «106Final | Box
Toronto102
LA Clippers «102Final | Box
Houston85
Orlando83Final | Box
Indiana «98
New York78Final | Box
Oklahoma City «105
Sacramento104Final | Box
San Antonio «112
Phoenix97Final | Box
Denver «122
Memphis «112Final | Box
Portland99
Minnesota «120Final | Box
LA Lakers119
Full Scoreboard
Week 13Full Scoreboard
Thursday
Chicago17Final | Box
Detroit «34Gridiron Replay
Philadelphia «33Final | Box
Dallas10Gridiron Replay
Seattle «19Final | Box
San Francisco3Gridiron Replay
Sunday
San Diego 1:00 PM ET
Baltimore TV: CBS
Cleveland 1:00 PM ET
Buffalo TV: CBS
Tennessee 1:00 PM ET
Houston TV: CBS
Washington 1:00 PM ET
Indianapolis TV: FOX
NY Giants 1:00 PM ET
Jacksonville TV: FOX
Carolina 1:00 PM ET
Minnesota TV: FOX
New Orleans 1:00 PM ET
Pittsburgh TV: FOX
Oakland 1:00 PM ET
St. Louis TV: CBS
Cincinnati 1:00 PM ET
Tampa Bay TV: CBS
Arizona 4:05 PM ET
Atlanta TV: FOX
New England 4:25 PM ET
Green Bay TV: CBS
Denver 8:30 PM ET
Kansas City TV: NBC
Monday
Miami 8:30 PM ET
NY Jets TV: ESPN
Full Scoreboard
Friday, November 28Full Scoreboard
NY Rangers «3Final | Box
Philadelphia0
Chicago «4Final | Box
Anaheim1
NY Islanders2Final | Box
Washington «5
Winnipeg1Final(OT) | Box
Boston «2
Montreal1Final | Box
Buffalo «2
Detroit «5Final(SO) | Box
New Jersey4
Carolina «4Final | Box
Pittsburgh2
Vancouver «5Final | Box
Columbus0
Ottawa2Final | Box
Florida «3
Edmonton3Final(OT) | Box
St. Louis «4
Minnesota «5Final(OT) | Box
Dallas4
Full Scoreboard