Johnny Manziel didn’t like the way Texas A&M’s offense was playing early on Saturday night against UTEP, so he called an impromptu meeting on the sidelines to get the unit back on track.
The Heisman Trophy winner’s speech worked.
Manziel threw four touchdown passes and ran for two more scores in less than three quarters to lead No. 12 Texas A&M to a lopsided 57-7 win over UTEP.
The Aggies trailed by five points early before scoring 55 straight to cruise to the victory against the overmatched Miners, losers of six straight.
”He just made a great leadership speech,” receiver Travis Labhart said. ”Told us to get back to doing what we do.”
Manziel threw touchdown passes of 44, 15, 17 and 26 yards and had TD runs of 10 and 49 yards before putting on his baseball cap with 7:39 left in the third quarter.
”We started uncharacteristically slow for whatever reason,” Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin said. ”We were just a little bit off the first couple of series’ … but we kicked it into gear.”
The Miners were done in by four turnovers, including two interceptions by A&M’s Howard Matthews.
”Second quarter the turnovers really killed us,” UTEP coach Sean Kugler said. ”Really put our defense in a tough spot.”
UTEP’s Blaire Sullivan was making his first start with Jameill Showers, a transfer from A&M, out with a shoulder injury. Sullivan threw for 71 yards with three interceptions.
The Aggies finished with 564 total yards for their eighth straight game with at least 500 yards.
Manziel had with 273 yards passing and 67 yards rushing. Two of his touchdown passes went to Labhart, a former walk-on who had four receptions for 83 yards.
Sumlin was encouraged by another solid performance by his defense after the unit struggled for most of the year. He was especially pleased by the turnovers the group forced.
”Anytime you do that you’re starting to get some confidence,” he said. ”We’ve been able to rotate a lot of different guys over the last two weeks and get some energy.”
The Aggies were up 36-7 at halftime and picked up where they left off in the third quarter. Manziel zigzagged down the field with a bevy of defenders trailing him on a 49-yard touchdown run to push the lead to 43-7.
Manziel connected with Mike Evans for a 26-yard touchdown later in the third to make it 50-7 and end Manziel’s night. A 57-yard reception by LaQuvionte Gonzalez the play before set up the score.
Texas A&M’s Floyd Raven blocked a punt on UTEP’s first possession that rolled out of the back of the end zone for a safety to make it 2-0. It was A&M’s first blocked punt for a safety since 2008.
The Miners forced a three-and-out on A&M’s first drive to end a streak of seven straight games with a touchdown on the first possession for the Aggies. It was only the second time since coach Kevin Sumlin took over for the 2012 season that the Aggies went three plays and punted on the game’s first possession.
UTEP took a 7-2 lead when Aaron Jones ran 4 yards for a touchdown on the ensuing drive.
Manziel and the Aggies got going after that, taking the lead on a 44-yard touchdown reception by Labhart. Labhart was wide open on the play and waltzed into the end zone untouched to make it 9-7.
Tra Carson’s 1-yard touchdown run extended the lead to 15-7. Drew Kaser’s run failed after the touchdown.
De’Vante Harris gave A&M the ball right back when he intercepted Sullivan on the next play.
”We fed off each other the whole night,” Harris said. ”Had people making plays. We gelled and all just played with good emotion.”
Manziel’s 50th career touchdown pass came when he found Malcome Kennedy on a 15-yard score that left A&M up 22-7.
UTEP’s Leslie Jordan fumbled on the next possession and Darian Clairborne recovered for the Aggies. Manziel dived headfirst into the end zone at the end of a 10-yard run to give A&M a 29-7 lead.
UTEP’s turnover woes continued on the next drive when Sullivan was intercepted by Matthews. The Aggies cashed in on the miscue two plays later when Manziel found Labhart ridiculously open again on a 17-yard touchdown reception to leave them up 36-7 at halftime.
Freshman Kenny Hill took over when Manziel went to the bench and he led a drive that ended with a 14-yard touchdown run by Trey Williams that made it 57-7.
Carson was injured and taken off the field on a stretcher in the fourth quarter, but Sumlin said after the game that he was OK. He was hurt when he was tackled on a carry and fumbled the ball. He was sitting up and moving his arms and legs right after it happened before lying down on his back on the ground.
Trainers tended to him for a couple of minutes before a stretcher was brought onto the field and he was strapped to it and taken off the field.
Sumlin said Carson was complaining of neck pain so he was placed on the stretcher as a precaution. X-rays were negative and he was not taken to the hospital and remained at the stadium with the team after the game.
”All signs point to it being nothing very serious,” Sumlin said.