John E. Hoover: New-look Aggies crush same-old OU
BY JOHN E. HOOVER World Sports Columnist
Saturday, January 05, 2013
1/05/13 at 8:35 AM
Related story: Johnny be good: Manziel wows
as Texas A&M routs Sooners.
For more OU stories.
ARLINGTON, Texas - Look, there goes Johnny Manziel again, and there goes Oklahoma's defense, flailing at his winged feet.
The Cotton Bowl Classic, the venerable old lady now living across town at the Dallas Cowboys' fancy digs, became Manziel's personal playground on Friday, and Oklahoma became the victim of another bowl bludgeoning, this time by old Big 12 "rival" Texas A&M.
The final score was 41-13, and the Sooners were oh, so close at halftime, but really they never were. Not with this defense. Not against this team.
"This is disappointing. It hurts," said Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops. "We ... certainly didn't have enough defense to play a team like this. We've got to regroup. We have to look at ourselves and really see what we need to do to improve and move forward."
Bob Stoops' teams used to give the Aggies one beating after another, from 77-0 in Norman to 65-10 in College Station.
How times have changed.
Texas A&M last year left the Big 12 for the Southeastern Conference, and took the state of Texas with it.
Coveted high school recruits, impressionable young fans, television cameras - they don't fall in behind the Texas Longhorns any more. Not these days. They don't follow OU much, either.
They follow this new breed of Aggies with their Gingerbread Man quarterback and their innovative head coach and their apparently indomitable conference.
Oklahoma finished 10-3 for the second year in a row, although Bob Stoops said this one feels a lot better than last year.
"They're not to even be compared," Stoops said. "This game is disappointing in every way for me, for us. But the rest of the season was pretty positive. And another Big 12 championship."
Still, it's the sixth time in the last eight years the Sooners finish with at least three defeats, and bowl games against quality teams have become especially problematic.
In winning three straight bowls from 2009-11, the Sooners beat the likes of Andrew Luck-less Stanford, one-dimensional Connecticut and overmatched Iowa. But pitted against top-shelf opponents since 2003, OU has lost five of its last six postseason outings by an average score of 46-26.
Against tough-guy teams from LSU, USC, Florida and Texas A&M, the Sooners, for all their regular-season offensive flash and dash, scored 14, 19, 14 and 13 points.
Meanwhile, those offenses gained 312, 525, 480 and 633 yards total offense against the Oklahoma defense.
Times have changed, indeed.
Mike Stoops' return was supposed to give the OU defense a spark, and maybe for a while it did. But this year's squad gave up 400.6 yards per game, far and away the worst in school history. The previous record, 376.2, was set last year.
That's a disturbing trend for a program like Oklahoma.
"I don't think there's any question the second half of the year (the defense played) poorly in most ways," Bob Stoops said. "We've got to make improvements in all areas: run defense, pass defense, pressures, whatever we're doing."
And it's not like there's help on the way. The Sooners' 2013 recruiting class looks severely lacking in immediate impact defensive players, particularly on the line, where five seniors graduate.
Remember that swagger, that strut that Oklahoma used to play with against the Aggies? The one that allowed OU to win 11 of the last 13 meetings when both teams played in the Big 12 Conference? It couldn't be found for the Cotton Bowl. It was a dusty memory of past glories, of battles fought long ago.
This is a new Texas A&M.
With the Aggies in the SEC, at least the Sooners won't have to face them on a yearly basis. Then again, A&M in the Big 12 never played like this.
"That's fair," Bob Stoops said, "the way today went."
A&M on this night played harder, faster, tougher, meaner, with more precision, more explosiveness, more efficiency and certainly more passion.
The Aggies played like an SEC team - no, like a really good SEC team, the kind that imposes its will on a weaker opponent.
Manziel, the offensive MVP, defended his Heisman Trophy with a fantastic performance.
"He'll have a chance to win four of them if he stays healthy," Mike Stoops said. "Best player I think I've ever (faced). He just does so many good things. He's got magic."
For the Oklahoma defense, catching Manziel was like catching a spinning top, like containing mercury.
Texas A&M finished with 633 yards total offense on 66 plays.
"It's hard to explain," Mike Stoops said.
Manziel twirled through a confused and desperate Oklahoma defense on runs of 23, 23, 44, 14, 11, 18, 16 and 31 yards. Moreover, with Manziel protected by arguably college football's best offensive line, the OU defense didn't once drop Manziel for a loss, never brought him down for a sack. He was pressured maybe a handful of times, each one leaving burn marks on Sooner defenders.
"If you've got an angle on him, he stops, goes the other way," Bob Stoops said. "If you don't, he outruns you."
Manziel set a bowl record for rushing yards by a quarterback with 229, and he passed for 287 yards (completing 22-of-34) and totaled four touchdowns.
Serenaded over the loudspeakers by Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode," Manziel came out of the game with 2:23 to play, slapped on a visor and was lifted by one of his linemen almost to the massive video board.
On the other sideline, shoulders slumped, thousand-yard stares glazed over, unblinking.
"We got exposed in some areas tonight," Mike Stoops said. "We've been kind of average all year, and that's not good enough when you play a guy like this."
Original Print Headline: New-look Aggies crush same-old OU
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Uzoma Nwachukwu of Texas A&M makes a touchdown catch as Demontre Hurst of Oklahoma defends during the AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic Jan. 4, 2013. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World