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
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
Duke’s last postseason victory came against Arkansas in the 1961
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
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
Manziel overcame a shoulder injury early in the season and said
this week he needed a break after the regular season to overcome
”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