Manziel, Aggies rally to edge Rebels
OXFORD, Miss. (AP)
By the time the fourth quarter rolled around, Johnny Football was back to his usual self.
Manziel threw for 346 yards and ran for two touchdowns while rallying No. 9 Texas A&M past Ole Miss for a 41-38 victory.
Josh Lambo made a 33-yard field goal as time expired to give the Aggies (5-1, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) the thrilling victory in front of a packed Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
Texas A&M trailed 38-31 midway through the fourth quarter, but Manziel engineered a 75-yard drive that he finished with a tying 6-yard touchdown run with 3:07 remaining.
No one was surprised Manziel saved his best for last.
"I've never been around such a gamer," Texas A&M receiver Travis Labhart said. "We were confident. I never doubted."
After A&M's defense held, Manziel led the Aggies to the winning field goal. He had runs of 12 and 13 yards on the winning drive.
All that was left was for Lambo to drill the game winner, and he made it easily.
"I really wasn't that nervous and had a lot of confidence, no matter the distance," Lambo said. "It was my best kick of the night."
It was a strong effort for Ole Miss (3-3, 1-3), which rallied from a 21-10 deficit in the third quarter thanks to two unlikely touchdown passes by backup quarterback Barry Brunetti.
The Rebels' starting quarterback wasn't too bad either — Bo Wallace completed 22 of 36 passes for 301 yards and three touchdowns. Laquon Treadwell caught eight passes for 77 yards and two TDs.
But the Ole Miss offense stalled with a chance to win late in the fourth quarter.
"It was in our hands to do it and we didn't make the plays," coach Hugh Freeze said. "We gave it back to (Manziel) and he did it."
Manziel made his usual array of spectacular plays, but also a few costly mistakes, including an interception in the end zone during the third quarter and a fumble early in the fourth.
He completed 31 of 39 passes. Even though Texas A&M trailed in the fourth quarter, there was no panic.
"Johnny and I looked at each other and started laughing (after Ole Miss went ahead 38-31)," Labhart said. "Not because Ole Miss is bad, but because we knew we were going to have to score again. We were confident."
Labhart caught eight passes for 97 yards. Trey Williams rushed for 50 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
It was an entertaining back-and-forth game featuring two of the league's young offensive coaching minds — Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin and Freeze.
The teams combined for 41 points in the fourth quarter — 21 for Ole Miss and 20 for Texas A&M. Texas A&M had 587 total yards while Ole Miss had 462.
It was the second straight year Texas A&M played at Ole Miss and it was another classic. The Aggies won 30-27 in 2012.
"Unless the SEC messes the schedule up, we don't want to come back here again," Sumlin said with a grin. "I hope the conference won't fine me for that."
Ole Miss linebacker Serderius Bryant was carted off on a stretcher during the fourth quarter after a big hit. Freeze said postgame that Bryant was "knocked out" on the play and it was hard to tell the extent of the injury, but hoped it wasn't serious.
Texas A&M got a scare in the first quarter when Manziel rolled out to his left and tumbled to the turf after throwing a pass, clutching his left knee.
The sophomore stayed on the ground for a few minutes before walking off the field with some help from Texas A&M's trainers. Though it initially looked like it could be a significant injury, he was up almost immediately on the sideline, jogging and stretching, and returned on the next drive.
It wasn't long before Manziel was running again, with a nimble, shifty 24-yard dash that allowed the Aggies to convert on a 3rd and 14. But even with Manziel's big plays, Texas A&M's offense never clicked at its usual pace.
The Aggies got an 18-yard touchdown run by Trey Williams late in the first quarter and led 14-10 at halftime. Ole Miss scored its lone touchdown of the first half on a 70-yard pass from Wallace to a wide-open Vincent Sanders, who ran untouched to the end zone.
Texas A&M pushed ahead 21-10 in the third quarter on Manziel's 5-yard touchdown run, but couldn't shake the Rebels. Brunetti responded with a 16-yard touchdown pass to Treadwell.
Brunetti is the Rebels' backup quarterback and usually only enters the game on obvious running plays. But he caught the Texas A&M defense by surprise on the pass to Treadwell, finding the true freshman wide open in the middle of the Aggies' secondary.
Brunetti's second touchdown pass was a 9-yarder to Evan Engram that tied it at 24 early in the fourth quarter. They were Brunetti's first two touchdown passes of the season.