UNVIVERSITY PARK, Texas – Texas A&M center Patrick Lewis called redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel ‘Johnny Football’ following the Aggies’ 48-3 thrashing of SMU Saturday.
Senior wideout Uzoma Nwachukwu called him Captain Amazing.
Those are the kinds of nicknames that will stick after a record-setting performance from Manziel Saturday. He set school freshman passing records for passing yards in a game, touchdown passes and total offense.
The scary thing about Manziel, who wasn’t made available to the media after his exploits, is that he’s only going to get better.
“I was impressed,” Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin said. “We’re only in game two. He’s got a ways to go.”
If he goes much farther, A&M’s transition to the Southeastern Conference might not be so bumpy.
Playing without running back Christine Michael, who was suspended for the game for breaking team rules, Manziel threw for 294 yards and four touchdowns. He also ran for 124 yards and two scores. He did it by extending plays with his legs, finding open receivers and moving the offense.
He also did it all in two quarters as the Aggies failed to score in the first quarter and Manziel watched the fourth quarter from the sidelines with the Aggies comfortably ahead 41-3.
“I’ve said from day one that Johnny was a special player,” said senior linebacker Sean Porter, who had a hand in the Aggies limiting SMU to 309 yards and holding it to 3 of 18 on third down. “I think he’s going to show you guys more and more every week that as he gets comfortable and as the season goes on, he’s going to get even better. I was really excited for Johnny.”
It was A&M’s defense that set the tone in the first quarter as the Aggies scuffled on offense. That changed in the second quarter as Manziel marched the Aggies 61 yards for their first touchdown, finding senior receiver Ryan Swope for a 29-yard pass to put the Aggies up 7-0 with 8:38 remaining in the quarter.
Two possessions later Manziel showed off his running skills when the Aggies took over at the SMU 48. He dropped back to pass on first down but was flushed from the pocket. He scrambled left and broke a tackle attempt by SMU nosetackle Aaron Davis. He was the last Mustang to have a chance at Manziel as he scooted the rest of the way for his first rushing touchdown.
Another three and out by the Ponies was followed by more antics from Captain Amazing. It took just 1 minute, 23 seconds for him to march the Aggies 73 yards. That drive ended with Manziel scrambling for more time and finding Nwachukwu for a 26-yard score.
Manziel showed his dual-threat ability on the first Aggie drive of the second half too as he eluded a tackle attempt by Taylor Reed and found Kenric McNeal for a 42-yard score. It was that kind of day for Manziel.
“It’s definitely frustrating,” said Reed of trying to contain Manziel. “He’s a great athlete. I’ll say that. Kudos to him. I came through on one of our inside blitzes and he kind of stepped up. I had my arm on him, and then when I tried to get my second arm I kind of spinned him and just slipped off him. Like I said, he’s really shifty.”
Manziel wasn’t done after shaking Reed either, running for a 15-yard score on A&M’s next trip and finding Nwachukwu for another score later in the quarter.
The best news for SMU was that the quarter ended and Manziel was replaced by Jamiell Showers after Manziel finished 20 of 36 with no interceptions. In addition to breaking Kevin Murray’s freshman passing record set in 1983 (280 yards vs. Rice), Manziel had the second-highest rushing total by an A&M freshman QB in a game and the first Aggie quarterback to rush for 100 yards since Stephen McGee in 2007.
While Manziel was great, he wasn’t the only Aggie to have a big game. Linebacker Damontre Moore had two more sacks to give him five on the season. Another redshirt freshman – receiver Mike Evans – had 123 receiving yards. Running backs Ben Malena and Trey Williams also picked up the slack for Michael by combining for 76 yards and a touchdown.
It all started for the offense in the second quarter after the Aggies had been scoreless on 11-consecutive possessions dating back to the 20-17 loss to Florida (nine punts, turnovers on downs, missed field goal).
“Offensively we realized what we did in the first quarter was completely unacceptable,” said Lewis. “Johnny really started to pick up his play a lot. We started to protect him a little better, doing a better job. We took off. We did what this offense was supposed to do and that’s put up points, put up a lot of yards and keep their defense on the field and wear them down.”
It worked against the Mustangs as the Aggies finished with 605 yards, 28 first downs and ran 87 offensive plays.