Today’s Texas A&M-Rice game was never going to be about the Owls or the A&M backup quarterbacks.
It was always all about Johnny Manziel – the polarizing Heisman Trophy-winning QB1 at Texas A&M who served a first-half suspension in the contest.
Manziel’s season debut coincided with the Aggies turning it on and pulling away for a 52-31 win over Rice in a largely uninspired performance.
The Owls hung around far too long in this one, even closing the score to 28-21 on a wild, deflected pass in the final minute of the first half.
However, Rice threw INTs on its first two second-half possessions.
The first set up Manziel’s initial drive, which began with him scrambling for decent gainers on both. He then missed a pass and took a sack and A&M settled for a field goal.
The second interception set up Manziel’s first TD pass – a 23-yarder to WR Mike Evans. These two have done this before and did it again later in the fourth quarter.
Manziel threw another TD pass early in the fourth quarter, connecting with RB Ben Malena for an 18-yard score that doubled as a dagger after the Owls pulled back to within 10 points.
Manziel looked sharp in his limited time. His passes were crisp and he appeared to have more patience in the pocket while still showing the signature (yup) ad-lib ability that makes him special.
At the same time, Manziel is gonna be Manziel – reacting to trash talk and mocking opponents. It’s gonna happen. Coach Kevin Sumlin benched Manziel for the rest of the game after getting flagged for a personal foul. Tough message – benching a player when you’re up big against a hapless opponent.
Media outrage followed. (Much ado about nothing.)
Don’t worry about distractions and Johnny Manziel. He will be just fine.
Here are some other thoughts on the game:
- A&M fans spent a significant amount of time bragging on their stable of RBs. Rice ain’t Alabama, but the tailbacks looked as advertised in the opener. The Texas A&M offensive line imposed its will on the Owls – again, not exactly a great measuring stick. RB Tra Carson and Malena combined for 4 TDs. The Aggies won’t struggle to move the ball on the ground against most teams, nor will Manziel have a hard time through the air. In case you doubted it, this will be a high-scoring offense.
- QB2 Matt Joeckel played fine while Manziel served his one-half suspension. Nobody will mistake him for Manziel, but that’s not a fair comparison. Joeckel completed 14 of 19 passes for 190 yards, including a 71-yard TD pass to WR Ricky Seals-Jones. It’s clear, BTW, that Seals-Jones is going to make an immediate impact. If A&M had to play Joeckel in case of injury, he wouldn’t bring the same dynamic to the team. The Aggies would be a lot more ground-and-pound with some creativity in the passing game. Joeckel proved he can competently lead an offense.
- While all things offense provided reasons for optimism, this defense has a looooong way to go. The unit did provide two momentum-changing interceptions that essentially ended Rice’s hopes. The Owls ran the ball at A&M, bullying the Aggies at times. They also found success through the air despite some horrible execution – specifically on the center-QB shotgun exchange. A&M has another week to get things corrected before the stakes rise dramatically against Alabama. It’s noteworthy that A&M DB Deshazor Everett was ejected in the fourth quarter for targeting, meaning he will miss the first half of the Sam Houston State game. Like that matters.
Not really much else we could have possibly learned from such a worthless opener.