In a match-up of former big 12 rivals, Texas A&M served notice to both the SEC and the rest of college football after dominating Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl Classic 41-13.
Most fans wondered if there was a chance of a Heisman letdown by Aggies' quarterback Johnny Manziel.
The Sooners received their answer early, and Manziel proved the entire night that he was truly worthy of becoming the first freshman to win college football’s award for Most Outstanding Player.
The play of the Sooners' defense, however, left much to be desired.5 THINGS WE LEARNED
Johnny Manziel is the truth
The question defensive coordinators in college football will all be asking themselves this offseason is fairly obvious when it comes to the current most exciting player in the sport -- how in the world do you stop Johnny Manziel?
There is only so much a defense can not only prepare for but execute in a given game. How do handle someone how looks every bit the accomplished passer that his a runner? Don’t bother asking the Oklahoma Sooners' defense, as they are coming off allowing a whopping 633 yards of total offense to the Aggies in last night’s Cotton Bowl, with Manziel accounting for 516 by himself, a Cotton Bowl record for combined yardage by a single player.
The tone was set early, on A&M’s first drive, which culminated in the Heisman sensation skipping and dancing down the left sideline for the first score of the game. Manziel was anywhere and everywhere he wanted to be, rushing 17 times for 229 yards and completing 22 of 34 for almost 300 yards (287).
He was equally judicious in scoring his touchdown, with two rushing in the 1st half and two passing in the 2nd half. It was some kind of encore performance for Manziel, and this showing was the perfect exclamation point to one of the great seasons a collegiate football player has enjoyed.
Manziel finished the year setting the school record for TD passes at 20, and became only the 4th player in history to score at least 20 TD’s both passing and rushing in one year, joining Cam Newton, Tim Tebow, and Colin Kaepernick.
Texas A&M wants you to remember
Hopes are high College Station right about now. With a wood shed beating of Oklahoma as their parting gift to the Big-12 and enduring only two losses in their maiden season playing in the vaunted SEC, it is truly good to be an Aggie.
To make things better, this was all done in the first year of both the head coach and the star quarterback. With its losses to Florida by 3 at home and at LSU by 5, A&M had no trouble matching up with teams in the conference responsible for the last 6 BSC champions. Additionally, its signature win in Tuscaloosa over Alabama showed the country that they are indeed ready for prime time.
Currently ranked 9th in the BCS standings (and certain to ascend when the final rankings are released), the arrow is pointing up for a team many thought would get swallowed up by the larger more athletic teams in college football’s most competitive conference.
With an enormous pool of high school football talent in Texas from which to draw from, after last night’s epic display by Manziel can only serve to attract much better football talent than A&M has had previously. The Aggies just made the statement that they are here to stay.
Oklahoma has a lot to fix
It is hard to recall a Sooner team looking as outclassed as they did last night. One might say the length of time between the last game of the regular season and last night’s affair (1 month, 3 days) could cause a team to look so sluggish and unprepared. That would be a plausible excuse except for the fact that the Sooners were never that good this year to begin with.
They finished 2-3 against ranked teams, with the most glaring defeat being a 30-13 home white washing at the hands of Notre Dame. Senior quarterback Landry Jones seemed to regress, not racking up the big yards and TD’s he had in years past.
Oklahoma finished 50th in nation in points allowed, a key area to be addressed next year. They should still finish in the top 25 in the BCS final standings, but Boomer Sooner nation will expect nothing short of top 10 or better next year.
The student taught the teacher
A&M coach Kevin Sumlin spent five years coaching at Oklahoma under OU Head Coach Bob Stoops. From 2003-05 Sumlin was in charge of special teams and tight ends. In 2006 he served as co-offensive coordinator. During that time he likely learned much from the way Stoops went about his business, as well as absorbing various tricks of the trade regarding managing and calling games on Saturdays.
The 48-year-old Sumlin showed both this year and last night that he is worthy to be thought of as one of the bright young coaches in college football. It never hurts to have the current most outstanding player in the country quarterbacking your team, but Sumlin deserves much credit for the way he has handled Manziel during the season.
Manziel was prohibited from talking to the media until very late in the season, when it was apparent that he would be representing the university at the Downtown Athletic Club in New York as a Heisman Trophy candidate.
Sumlin has kept his team grounded and has provided the right balance of direction and discipline, with both traits on full display in last night’s Cotton Bowl. Stoops can take solace in at least one thing now: With A&M moving to the SEC, he will not have to face more thrashings at the hands of his former assistant in conference play in the future.
The Cotton Bowl Classic still matters
Though the game is no longer played in the stadium for which the game is named, it continues a long tradition of pitting south verses Midwest top tier football talent. Around since 1937, it most recently has pitted squads from the SEC taking on a team from the Big 12. And since its move to the 100+ seat behemoth known as Cowboys Stadium, the game has become quite the spectacle and event for fans of teams usually steeped in deep football tradition.
Usually played late in the bowl season, it has served as a good appetizer for the forthcoming national title game. This year was no different. Sandwiched between the four BCS games and the BCS title game, it provided quality football viewing.
For football fans in Dallas, TX, and surrounding areas, it will continue providing opportunities for bragging rights and debates matchups past.