John Klein: OU can't keep up in shootout with Manziel
BY JOHN KLEIN Senior Sports Columnist
Saturday, January 05, 2013
1/05/13 at 6:53 AM
Go to John Klein's Blog Original Print Headline: OU can't keep up in shootout with Manziel
ARLINGTON, Texas - Oklahoma's plan for Texas A&M was pretty simple.
Keep the ball. Keep it away from Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel.
It worked to perfection for a half.
Then, the Aggies got a few stops and Johnny Football worked his magic.
"All of what he does is tough to defend," said OU coach Bob Stoops.
Manziel, A&M's Heisman-winning freshman quarterback, was everything and more than advertised.
Texas A&M rode the legs and arm of Manziel, who ran for 229 yards and threw for another 287, as the Aggies ran away in the second half for a 41-13 victory over Oklahoma Friday night in the Cotton Bowl at Cowboys Stadium.
"There's wasn't anything holding us back," said Manziel. "No rust. There was nothing."
Manziel was fantastic. He is one of the most elusive players in recent college football history. Oklahoma repeatedly appeared in position to make a play on Manziel. He repeatedly squeezed through holes and ran circles around OU.
"We played one of our best games of the year," said Manziel.
When he wasn't burning OU with his runs, he was buying himself some time and making accurate throws.
"It was just a great night for our offense," said Manziel.
Stoops said Manziel is the best quarterback the Sooners have faced in his 14 years as coach. "Absolutely," said Stoops. "It's not only his throwing the football but it is what he does with his feet."
We should have seen this coming. The Sooners had trouble stopping the run all season. They were especially overmatched against scrambling quarterbacks.
Manziel is far more than a scrambler. He's often spectacular.
"He is hard to get to," said Stoops.
That's why what happened in the first half was so encouraging. Manziel can't hurt you when he's sitting on the sideline.
The last thing Oklahoma wanted to see was Manziel with the ball in his hands. A&M scored on two of its first three possessions and would have on all three if an A&M receiver hadn't muffed a perfectly thrown pass in the end zone.
In the end, Oklahoma's Landry Jones, who played terrifically in the first half of his final game, just couldn't keep up with Manziel.
"We'll miss him (Jones)," said Stoops. "He threw some great balls out there (against A&M)."
Jones was at his best in the first half. He hit 23-of-30 passes for 175 yards and led OU on scoring drives of 16, 18 and 13 plays.
"He's been an incredibly positive influence on our football team," said Stoops.
OU trailed just 14-13 at halftime and the Sooners were hanging on.
They weren't hanging around very long in the second half when Jones cooled off and Manziel turned up the heat.
Oklahoma did not punt in the first half but was forced to punt its first four possessions of the second half.
"It allowed us to get the football and do something with it," said Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin.
In a game that demanded offense, the Sooners ran out of it by halftime.
Jones, the hero in Oklahoma's late-season surge to claim a piece of the Big 12 Conference title, simply could not keep up his torrid pace.
The Sooners ran 51 plays and had 20 first downs with 249 yards in the first half.
Oklahoma was playing at peak form. It couldn't and wouldn't last.
That was just the opening Manziel needed.
He took the Aggies on three straight TD drives to open the second half and turned a close game into a rout. His 33-yard pass to Ryan Swope late in the third quarter made it 34-13. He threw a perfect TD pass early in the fourth quarter to up the lead to 41-13.
The tight game, an offensive shootout, was turned into Manziel's personal highlight film.
"Obviously, Johnny had a great night," said Swope.
For all of the talk about OU's offense, the Sooners simply did not have the punch they needed in the second half. OU had virtually no running game and its receivers had trouble getting open.
Texas A&M, hardened by its first season in the physical and tough Southeastern Conference, dominated the lines in the second half.
The Sooners had won five straight to finish the regular season. However, Oklahoma relied on offense in that late-season run. OU's offense had to win shootouts against Baylor, West Virginia and Oklahoma State.
Texas A&M, because of defense, was far different and far more challenging for the Sooners.
And, most importantly, Manziel is college football's true superstar.
As a result, OU was no match for the Aggies, who gained 633 yards and averaged nearly 10 yards per snap.
"We had guys in position a bunch of times to make plays and did not," said Stoops.
Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M is pursued by Frank Shannon of Oklahoma on a touchdown run during the AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World