Duke must contain Manziel to end bowl drought

Duke will need a better result in its second straight game

against a Heisman Trophy winner if it is to come away with its

first bowl victory in more than 50 years.

It already has been a memorable season for No. 22 Duke. The Blue

Devils won 10 games for the first time and are coming off their

first appearance in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship

game.

On Tuesday night, they play Johnny Manziel and No. 20 Texas

A&M in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. This is the first time Duke will

be in back-to-back bowl games.

Duke will be facing the 2012 Heisman winner in Manziel after

falling to 2013 Heisman winner Jameis Winston and Florida State in

the ACC title game.

Duke coach David Cutcliffe said Manziel poses a ”very unique

challenge, to say the least.”

”They’re extremely efficient offensively and well-coached,”

Cutcliffe said Saturday. ”Then you throw in his ability to create.

I’ve been doing this a long time. I don’t think I’ve ever seen

anybody ad-lib on the field better. So the things that concern you

are giving up explosive plays when you seemingly have a play

defended.”

Duke’s last postseason victory came against Arkansas in the 1961

Cotton Bowl.

According to STATS, Duke (10-3) is the first team to play

Heisman winners in consecutive games in three years. In 2010,

Louisiana State faced Alabama’s Mark Ingram (2009) and Auburn’s Cam

Newton (2010) in two straight games.

The Blue Devils were overwhelmed in their 45-7 loss to Winston

and Florida State on Dec. 7. Winston threw three touchdown passes

and ran for a score in the runaway win.

Next up: Johnny Football.

The bowl game could be the end of Manziel’s college career. The

third-year sophomore could enter the NFL draft.

Manziel led the Southeastern Conference in total yards with

3,732 passing and 686 on the ground. He accounted for 41

touchdowns, including 33 through the air. He improved his

completion percentage and passing yards from his Heisman-winning

season, but the Aggies’ 8-4 record helped push him down to fifth in

this year’s voting.

Manziel passed for 3,732 yards with 33 touchdowns and led Texas

A&M with 686 yards rushing and eight TDs.

Duke cornerback Ross Cockrell said Manziel’s mobility makes life

difficult for defensive backs.

”Manziel and Winston are obviously two great quarterbacks,”

Cockrell said Saturday. ”Winston is a much bigger quarterback, not

nearly as quick and as fast, I think, but very mobile.

”The thing about Manziel that makes him tough is when he’s back

there scrambling around, you can’t really tell which routes the

receivers are going to run. They could run left, right, down the

field, come back up the field. … You have to cover for so long,

and your technique and your eyes are going to have to be

perfect.”

Cutcliffe said Manziel’s creativity and ability to extend plays

puts an unusual strain on a defense.

”You’re almost having to defend two plays in one snap,”

Cutcliffe said. ”The one that may be drawn up, which is difficult

enough to defend, and then the one when he starts ad-libbing and

moving in and out of the pocket. That is extremely taxing to your

defense.”

Manziel overcame a shoulder injury early in the season and said

this week he needed a break after the regular season to overcome

other injuries.

”I feel good,” Manziel said Friday. ”I’m healthy. We had time

off, which was nice, just to relax. Really, it was a grind this

year. The SEC was a tough grind for us this year. It went a little

different than we thought but I was a little banged up. It feels

good to be healthy again and ready to go. I’m really, really eager

and ready to play, I know that.”

Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin said the time off allowed

Manziel time to recover after hitting his hand on a helmet.

”He battled through it,” Sumlin said. ”Giving him a chance to

heal up, I think he feels really, really good right now. I liked

practice (Friday). I think he’s feeling better. He’s got a bit more

bounce.”