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Johnny Comeback; Texas A&M Rallies To Beat Duke

postgame-links-150x1501Texas A&M 52 – Duke 48

1. Down 38-17, Texas A&M stages a furious second-half rally – scoring touchdowns on five straight possessions.

2. Johnny Manziel’s night – throws for 382 yards and four scores and runs for 73 yards and a score.

3. Mark Bradley: “Johnny Manziel didn’t win a second Heisman Trophy, but he’s still the best collegiate player in the land.”

4. Dan Wolken:  “If this was Johnny Manziel’s final college game, it was everything his career has been: Unpredictable, volatile and so, so entertaining.”

5. Will new coach Bill O’Brien and the Houston Texans use their first overall pick to draft Johnny Football? (Assuming he declares).

6. Aggies senior safety Toney Hurd returns an interception 55 yards for the go-ahead touchdown.

7. “Whatever else happened, whatever else happens in the future, Duke football will always have the first half of the Chick-fil-A Bowl…”

8. Associated Press photographer collapses on field following the game - dies early this morning.

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Texas A&M’s Manziel Catches A Concert… Big Whoop

During the offseason, Texas A&M Heisman-winner Johnny Manziel was omnipresent.  He was at ballgames.  He was at concerts.  He was at parties.  And he was tweeting darn near every bit of it.

Not surprisingly, his Twitter account exploded with new followers.  The media started paying attention to his summer of fun.  Then folks started to wonder how he paid for this and paid for that.  Texas A&M’s compliance department had to ask Manziel about every jetsetting trip.  Then came the “mutual decision” for him to leave he Manning Passing Academy.  And then came the autograph charges that eventually cost him one half of one game due to NCAA suspension.

At the height of Manziel Mania we wrote that the QB would help his pro stock by laying off social media and becoming a hermit for the season.  For the most part, that’s exactly what he’s done this season.  And, no, we didn’t expect him to actually keep things on the QT.

Well, on Tuesday night in San Antonio, Johnny Football took in a concert by his buddy, Drake.  He had a photo snapped with OB O’Brien, a rapper from Drake’s entourage.  Manziel posted the picture on Instagram.  It’s now popping up in the places like The Dallas Morning News:

 

manziel-obrien

 

We get it.  He’s still a celeb.  And this is the same kind of action he repeatedly took last spring and summer.

But we say cut the guy the some slack.  He’s kept his nose clean and his profile low since A&M’s football season started.  He’s been a model citizen and anything but a distraction for his team.  His play has improved and he’s done exactly what he set out to do — run less and pass more effectively.

Manziel is certainly feeding his detractors by posting anything at all, but he’s proven over the past three months that he can put team before self and football before fame.  That will go a long with NFL general managers next spring.

So give the kid a break.  He cut loose for a night.

He’s earned it.

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Will He Or Won’t He? Expect A&M’s Manziel To Play Against Vandy

johnny-manziel-holds-ball-smilesJohnny Manziel suffered some sort of an injury to his throwing shoulder in Saturday’s loss to Auburn.  Even with the bad wing, he still managed to lead the Aggies deep into Tiger territory before running out of downs and time in the 45-41 shootout.

So will Johnny Football suit up for this weekend’s game versus Vanderbilt?  Put money on yes.

Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin said today that he would “list him as hopeful” for Saturday’s contest.  Also, a source has told CBSSports.com’s Bruce Feldman that Manziel’s arm is no longer in a sling and that he is “fine to play” against the Commodores.

Last weekend, Manziel completed 28-of-38 passes for 454 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions.  He leads the SEC in passing with a 73.3 completion percentage, 22-hundred yards, 18 touchdowns (against seven INTs), and a passer rating of 182.79.  He’s rushed for 486 yards and six touchdowns as well.

Perhaps most impressively — and certainly most welcomely — Manziel has followed our summer advice and taken a hermit’s approach to the season.  No tweets since August 1st.  No national stories about late-night partying and carousing.  The only Manziel that America has experienced since the season started is the Manziel who makes football look so damn easy.  That’s a very good thing.  A very good thing that will likely help the young man when NFL GMs start to fill out their draft boards.

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How Does Texas A&M’s Sumlin Lead? Let Him Tell You

kevin-sumlin-stares-at-cameraAt Forbes.com this week, freelance writer Jason Belzer has posted an inside look at Texas A&M’s football program under second-year coach Kevin Sumlin.  The piece focuses on Sumlin’s ability to manage talented assistant coaches and players.  It’s an interesting read, but a couple of quotes from the Aggie coach stood out.

First, discussing his a Monday morning postmortem film session that he calls “The Truth,” Sumlin explains how — well, for lack of a better word — shaming players has its benefits:

 

“When it comes to teachable moments, there is no greater lesson than the one that can be learned from football.  It only takes one guy to not do his job for a play to be unsuccessful.  We can go back and show (the players) what happened on film and point out how their miscues cause a catastrophic impact on the outcome of the play.  When you call someone out in front of their peers, it’s an incredibly powerful way to motivate them to want to do better the next time around.”

 

Then, speaking of the possible distractions brought on by the media coverage of all things Johnny Manziel, Sumlin said there was no way the spotlight on Johnny Football would take the team’s attention away from football:

 

“When fall camp started and there was a tremendous amount of media attention on Johnny (due to the NCAA investigation), many of our detractors couldn’t understand just how it was possible for us to continue to practice and perform at a high level.  From the inside though, we were as intensely focused as ever because our culture has always been about making what occurs externally irrelevant.  This is why we’ve been (able) to avoid all distractions.  Our players recognize their focus should only be on the people they need most — their coaches and teammates.”

 

Whatever Sumlin’s doing, it’s working.  After going 35-17 as Houston’s head coach (locking down a 12-1 record in his final year with the Cougars, Sumlin has started his A&M career with 15 wins in 18 games.  He has a Cotton Bowl win under his belt and SEC and BCS championships remain possibilities in 2013.

If you’re going to skim and swipe anyone’s leadership tactics, might as well be Texas A&M’s uber-successful coach.

 

 

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Floyd Mayweather Betting Big (Again) On Johnny Manziel & The Aggies

Boxer Floyd Mayweather is a big believer in Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel.  ”Johnny Football never has an off day” he told Howard Stern today.  But Mayweather is not content to talk about Manziel – he’s putting his money where his mouth is.

Mayweather told Stern he’s betting $300,000 on Texas A&M vs. Arkansas this weekend.  Last weekend, Mayweather bet $220,000 on Manziel and the Aggies to cover the 17.5 point first-half spread against SMU.  They did and Mayweather collected a quick $200,000. He tweeted out the picture of the betting ticket over the weekend.

 

Many sports books don’t have a line up yet on that game perhaps due to questions surrounding the health of Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen.  A few offshore books have the Aggies listed as a three-point favorite. If Mayweather ends up losing he bet – he can afford it.  He just cashed a nearly $41 million check from a boxing match earlier this month.

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Rapper Drake Talks Up Texas A&M’s Manziel

drakeAs Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel dealt with media overexposure and multiple controversies this offseason — some real concerns, some not — the majority of Texas A&M fans stood behind him.  Face it, the kid has incredible talent on a football field and that will make up for NCAA investigations and and naughty tweets in a lot of folks’ eyes.

Aside from Aggie fans, there was one other person who backed Johnny Football throughout his trials and tribulations — rap star Drake.  Stopping by ESPN on Tuesday — which says a lot about what ESPN’s become – the rapper took the time to talk up his new pal:

 

“He’s a great guy and he’s got the best intentions.  He does nothing with malicious intent.  I love him to death.  We’ve gone from sort of like I’m a fan of his and he’s a fan of mine to genuine friends.  And I think we’ll be friends for a long time…

He is a pure soul… He’s not a wild guy.  He’s passionate about music and he’s passionate about football.  In his free time when he (wasn’t) playing football, he chose to come see me (in Toronto).”

 

The 26-year-old Drake also sees himself as a type of mentor for Manziel.  “Despite what some people report, I actually consider myself a positive reinforcement in his life,” the rapper said.  “I try to keep him on track.  I know he has a bright future and he’s displaying it right, especially in his last two performances.”

If Drake has had anything to do with Manziel’s numbers to date — 1,228 passing yards, 255 rushing yards, and 15 touchdowns total — he should go into the business of quarterback-whispering.

 

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Ex-Coach Neuheisel Pens An Ode To A&M’s Manziel

In case you missed it, former Colorado, Washington and UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel has picked up his guitar and penned a song about Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, his on-field exploits and his off-field troubles.  Better yet, Neuheisel agreed to sing the song — penned to the tune of Marty Robbins’ “El Paso” on Dan Patrick’s radio show yesterday:

 

Neuheisel's Tribute Song to Johnny Football 9/16/13

 

The lyrics?  Why sure.  Here ya go:

 

Out in the badlands they call College Station

Lives a young Aggie named Johnny Manziel

Football and life were to him a bull ride

He rode them both like a bat out of Hell

 

He shocked the nation by beating the best…

Flattening out the Tide

The Heisman came calling, the agent came crawling

But through it all Johnny Football did ride

 

Now our young Aggie’s no long a hero

He was a target of public disdain

Another victim of fame and fortune

“What’s wrong with Johnny?” became the refrain

 

Then came the white hats to end his scourge…

The NCAA

When they tried to bind him he said that he signed them

And six hours later they said it’s OK

 

Now it’s behind us, the dust has settled

Johnny Manziel is back for a ride

Saturday’s game was one for the ages

Not quite enough to roll over the Tide

 

I hope we all can admire his talents

I hope we don’t have to witness his fall

We might not all say what we did in our 20s

But we will all say that we watched Johnny Football

 

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Is A&M’s Manziel That Good Or Is Bama’s Defense Not As Good As 2012? Yes

johnny-manziel-decks-bama-playerWrap your minds around these numbers, sports fans:

 

*  28-of-39 passing for 464 yards

*  Five touchdown passes (against two interceptions)

*  14 rushes for 98 additional yards

*  A 562-yard one-man performance as part of a 628-yard day overall

 

Even if you hadn’t already seen the highlights and box score from Saturday’s Johnny Manziel show, you would have likely guessed, “Johnny Football!” if asked what college football player had posted such eye-popping numbers.  But would anyone have guessed those digits had come against top-ranked Alabama?

Unlikely.

So the verdict from Saturday: Manziel looks just as good — if not better — than he did a year ago.  An offseason of tweets and autographs hasn’t held back Texas A&M’s QB one iota when it comes to on-field performance.  In fact, Bama had all offseason to prepare for the Aggie superstar and it made no difference.  Spies.  Mush rush.  Good athletes.  All torched by Manziel’s remarkable touch on the ball and his fleet-footed escapability.

At the same time, the 2013 Alabama Crimson Tide haven’t looked a whole lot like the 2012 or 2011 BCS champion Tide… aside from that whole undefeated thing, of course.

If/when Kirby Smart finally decides to depart Tuscaloosa and seriously chase a head coaching job, don’t expect Bama’s performance in Saturday’s contest to be listed on his resume.  His defense — Alabama’s defense — was put to the sword to the tune of 464 yards passing and 164 yards rushing.  The Red Elephants were saved by two interceptions of Manziel, one of which was returned 73 yards for a touchdown on a fantastic run by Vinnie Sunseri.  In the end, that was enough for a 49-42 UA win.  (We took the Tide 35-28, for the record).

In Game One, Alabama’s offense struggled.  In Game Three, AJ McCarron and the Tide offense had to bail their defensive counterparts out.

Expect Nick Saban’s rebuilt defense to improve.  After all, there aren’t many one-man wrecking crews like Manziel dotting the college football landscape and we all know how well Bama has recruited in recent years.  But at this stage, Bama’s defense doesn’t look like its old self.  In last year’s 23-17 loss to Manziel and the Aggies, for example, Alabama allowed 19 fewer points and just 418 total yards of offense.  So, yes, there is reason for some concern in the UA football complex today.  You don’t yield 628 yards and laugh it off.

Even though Manziel really is that good.

On his best behavior Saturday, the biggest CBS football audience since 1990 fell in love with his skills all over again.  There is no player like him today.  Just as Tim Tebow and Cam Newton appeared to be “once in a generation” players, Manziel is the latest to wow America with “how’d he do that?” plays and moves.  Just imagine how much positive hype this kid would be getting had he not shared his every offseason move with half-a-million Twitter followers.

On Saturday, he erred in the turnover department — A&M lost that battle 2-1 after winning it 3-0 in last year’s matchup — but Manziel’s overall performance was coruscant considering the pre-game hype and the foe.  His 562 yards of total offense were the most ever racked up by an SEC player against an SEC defense.

So is Alabama’s defense not as good as it was in 2012?  Is Manziel really as good as he looked on Saturday?

Yes.  On both counts.

 

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Bama/A&M: The Most Expensive Regular Season College Football Game Ever?

tickets According to Forbes Magazine, Saturday’s showdown between Alabama and Texas A&M is the most expensive regular season college football game in history.  Checking a website that brokers tickets, Forbes found that tickets for this weekend’s game are pricier than the Alabama/LSU contest in 2011:

 

“On TiqIQ.com, tickets to see Johnny Football try and revisit his role of David to Alabama’s Goliath are selling for an average of $763 on the secondary ticket market — $50 more than the Game of the Century (between Alabama and LSU).”

 

ESPN’s Darren Rovell astutely pointed out that there’s a bit of a difference between listing tickets for a price and finding buyers of tickets for that price:

 

rovell-tweet

 

A quick check of StubHub.com reveals that a number of tickets are listed between $3,000 and $5,000.  Proving Rovell’s point, however, is the fact that one person has listed tickets for sale for the whopping price of $9,999.00.

Amusingly, another ambitious seller has priced his mezzanine level seats at $999,999.00 per seat.  Hey, when you gotta see a game you gotta see a game.

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A&M’s Sumlin Says Manziel Didn’t Ignore Him On Saturday; We Say “Yeesh”

gfx - honest opinionBy now you’ve seen the highlight.  Johnny Manziel throws a touchdown pass.  He taunts Rice players for (at least) a third time (Aggie fans on this site have said poor Johnny Football was simply responding to trash-talking Rice players so it’s really their fault).  He draws an immediate flag for unsportsmanlike conduct, costing his team 15 yards.  He walks to the sideline.  Head coach Kevin Sumlin says something to him.  Manziel keeps walking and never looks at his coach.  In fact, he actually bumps him out of the way and never turns his head back to Sumlin to apologize or acknowledge what his coach is saying.

If any player in the SEC did that to his coach, you would read about it here on MrSEC.com because it’s not something often seen.  Quick, name the number of times you’ve seen a player breeze by a coach who’s talking to him, bump him, and keep walking.  Exactly.  So spare us all the “high-tech lynching” and “ESPN narrative” bull.  It was an unusual act and such an act would get attention regardless of the player.

Well, now some of the A&M faithful — you gotta admire their total and complete devotion to Johnny Football — have emailed a hundred links to Sumlin’s Tuesday press conference to the MrSEC.com offices.  Guess what Sumlin said.  He said that the media made too much of the act:

 

“When he came off the field, basically I made two statements to him, neither one of which should he have responded to.  They weren’t questions.  They were direct statements that I can’t repeat right now.  So what’s amazing to me is the perception that he ignored me.  The worst thing that could have happened was for him to reply, based on what I told him.”

 

And here I expected him to say, “Yeah, he ignored me and I have no control of the team.”

Ridiculously, a few Texas A&M fans are buying this load of crap and once again ignoring the big picture.  Did anyone suggest that Manziel should have talked back to Sumlin?  I don’t believe so.  The problem was that Manziel never stopped to listen and he didn’t even give so much as a “Yes, sir.”

Hmmm.  Ya think A&M cadets can just breeze my their officers — or bump them — without a “Yes, sir” as Manziel did?  Here’s guessing not.  Apparently all that “military discipline” stuff Aggie fans like to trumpet doesn’t apply to their football team.

If you were making a point to your son or daughter, would you want them to stop and listen to you?  Or would you be okey-dokey with them marching by you without ever turning their head?  You can be sure Sumlin wasn’t happy with Manziel’s response regardless of what he’s having to sell to the media.

Sumlin can’t be shown up by Manziel in front of his team.  He doesn’t want other players following Manziel’s lead.  So, of course, he said the player didn’t ignore him while also twisting the situation to suggest that Manziel actually showed him respect by not responding.  Responding?  How ’bout listening?  How ’bout not bumping?

Once again, Sumlin is trying to avoid looking weak in light of his quarterback’s actions.  As we’ve pointed out before, this is a coach who hinted multiple times at SEC Media Days that he’d told Manziel to back off from Twitter.  Manziel responded to like questions by saying, “Maybe I haven’t had anything to say.”  And then he began tweeting again that very night.

Those Texas A&M fans who are, oh, so delusional about Manziel won’t see that.  They’ve been brainwashed.  Hell, one of them compared this writer to Joseph Goebbels yesterday.  Yeah, ESPN is blowing the Manziel thing out of proportion, but the deeds of this website are comparable to those of a Nazi.  Got it.

No, the Cult of Johnny crowd still see a player who can do no wrong.  Had Manziel walked to the sideline Saturday and cold-cocked Sumlin, a portion of the A&M fanbase would have loudly stated that the coach must have deserved it.

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