Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin watched Johnny Manziel turn in another strong performance, and then went to work campaigning for his redshirt freshman quarterback to win the Heisman Trophy.
Manziel threw for 372 yards and three touchdowns and ran for two more scores as No. 9 Texas A&M handled Missouri 59-29 on Saturday night.
No freshman has ever won the award given to college football’s top player.
”I think the voters are going to recognize (the numbers),” Sumlin said of Manziel, who has 4,600 yards of total offense. ”It doesn’t matter what year you are when you’re talking about those numbers and the league we are (in), I think tells you all you need to know.”
The Aggies (10-2, 6-2 SEC) scored touchdowns on their first six drives to build a 42-7 halftime lead and coast to their first 10-win season since 1998.
”That’s something that nobody can ever take from them, and it was real important for them to accomplish that,” Sumlin said of reaching double digit wins.
About the only drama in this one came when Manziel was shaken up on a tackle at the end of a run in the first quarter.
”You worry, but just talking with him and talking with our medical people we knew it wasn’t very severe pretty quickly,” Sumlin said. ”He was the first guy saying he wanted to get back in there.”
Johnny Football missed just four plays before returning with a brace on his left knee. And it didn’t seem to slow him down one bit.
The Aggies were up 21-0 when he returned, and he threw touchdown passes on three straight possessions to end the first half.
He scored on an 18-yard run to start the third quarter, and added another rushing touchdown when he bulled in from 1-yard out early in the fourth.
Manziel added 67 yards rushing and completed 32-of-44 passes on Saturday. He has thrown for 24 touchdowns and ran for 19 this season.
The win snaps A&M’s three-game losing streak to Missouri (5-7, 2-6 SEC), and will keep the Tigers from becoming bowl eligible for the first time since 2004.
”We don’t act like this is just real unusual that they scored some points,” Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. ”It’s not. We’re talking about a great quarterback. I’m certainly disappointed we didn’t play better (but) the things he did to us, he did to a lot of people.”
Backup quarterback Corbin Berkstresser started for Missouri with James Franklin out after having a concussion last week. He threw for 276 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.
Missouri’s Kendial Lawrence had 16 carries for 87 yards and a touchdown to surpass 1,000 yards rushing this season.
”The last three years I’ve been here we always went to a bowl game,” Lawrence said. ”So this is tough to end this way.”
After Manziel’s touchdown run in the third, Taylor Bertolet hit a 50-yard field goal.
L’Damian Washington got in front of the defense on a 74-yard catch and run near the end of the third quarter to cut A&M’s lead to 52-16. Berkstresser tossed another touchdown with about seven minutes left.
Manziel was intercepted by E.J. Gaines late in the third quarter, and the Tigers capitalized on that turnover with a 1-yard run by Berkstresser early in the fourth.
Manziel’s last touchdown run came with about 12 minutes left to extend Texas A&M’s lead to 59-23. He returned for one play of the next drive before being going to the bench to a round of applause as he flashed the Aggies’ ‘Gig ‘Em’ sign.
The Aggies are hoping that Saturday’s performance will give Manziel a final push before Heisman voting closes. A group a fans unfurled a homemade sign that read (hash)heisMANZIEL during the game.
When he was shaken up, Manziel was brought down by a tackle to his left leg and held his left knee. He remained on the turf for a couple of minutes while trainers checked him out. The crowd was silent for a bit before a chant of ”Johnny, Johnny” erupted.
He was helped to his feet and walked off the field on his own power. Backup Jameill Showers went in for the next play and Christine Michael scored his second touchdown on a 38-yard run to push A&M’s lead to 21-0. Manziel missed the first three plays of A&M’s next possession, before returning to start the second quarter.
He capped his first drive back with a 4-yard touchdown pass to Ryan Swope to make it 28-0.
Texas A&M got the ball back after a fumble. Manziel was under heavy pressure on the ensuing drive, and escaped two diving defenders to throw a 5 yard touchdown pass to Mike Evans on the run.
His next touchdown pass was much the same as he wriggled out a defender diving at his leg and juked another defender before running to the opposite side of the field and finding Uzoma Nwachukwu to make it 42-0.
The Tigers used a fake punt to extend a drive and Lawrence scored on a 4-yard run just before halftime to leave A&M up 42-7.
Michael got A&M going with a 1-yard touchdown run on its first drive to make it 7-0.
A 2-yard run by Ben Malena pushed the lead to 14-0.