Heisman Trophy winners have a reputation of under-playing in the post-season following their receiving the award, but Johnny Manziel quelled any doubts by breaking open a 14-13 game with 27 unanswered points and the No. 10 Aggies ran away with the 2013 AT&T Cotton Bowl against No. 12 Oklahoma, 41-13.
Manziel broke Cotton Bowl records for total offense and rushing yards by a quarterback while the A&M offense broke the SEC record for total offense in a season and the Cotton Bowl record for single-game offense. Manziel’s 229 rushing yards set an all-time FBS bowl record for rushing yards by a quarterback.
Manziel said the concern over a perceived inability of Heisman winners to perform in bowl games is over-stated.
“There is too much talk about how you perform after the Heisman and about the layoff and all that,” Manziel said. “There wasn’t anything holding us back. No rust, there was no nothing.”
In equally impressive fashion, the A&M defense held Oklahoma without a single second-half point after showing initial sluggishness.
“The defense played great, and got us the ball back quick,” Manziel said. “It gave us the tempo and we rolled.”
Manziel’s game included 287 yards passing for two touchdowns and one interception to go with 17 carries for 229 yards and two touchdowns.
Senior receiver Ryan Swope – in his final A&M game – eclipsed 100 yards receiving with 104 yards and a touchdown on eight catches. Other seniors delivered in their career end-caps, including defensive back Dustin Harris, who picked off Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones and notched a game-high 10 tackles.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the seniors and what they’ve done this year,” Manziel said. “To go out and win 11 games and do what we’ve done, is impressive.”
Swope said the team knew what was at stake and they played according to gameplan.
Three A&M runners averaged better than six yards per carry: Manziel (13.5), junior running back Ben Malena (7.0), and freshman running back Trey Williams (6.8). The trio combined for four rushing touchdowns and 326 yards. A&M out-gained Oklahoma by a margin of 633 yards to 401.
With the departure of offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury for the head coaching position at Texas Tech, running backs coach Clarence McKinney took the play-calling responsibilities for the game.
“Clarence has been in this offense for five years,” head coach Kevin Sumlin said. “Continuity is important for what we do.”
A back-and-forth first half seemed to promise a close game as Oklahoma entered the locker room at halftime down one point at 14-13. The Aggie defense forced punts on each of the Sooners’ third-quarter possessions and A&M found the endzone three times. The backbreaker for the Sooners may have come on a fourth-and-five completion from Manziel to Swope, who shed a tackler and ran free for the touchdown to put A&M up 34-13.
For A&M, the season concluded with its first 11-win campaign since 1998, its first Heisman Trophy winner since 1957, four All-Americans, an Outland Award winner, the Davey O’Brien and AP Player of the Year awards, and a victory in the Cotton Bowl. The Aggies never trailed in their last six games.
“Every week these guys understood what the plan was and came out and executed at a high level,” head coach Kevin Sumlin said. “This game is really indicative of how we played all season.”
Contributors from all sides of the ball will depart via graduation or early entry in the NFL draft, but expectations will be high entering the 2013 season. The most notable returnee will be Manziel, but Williams, Malena, and redshirt freshman Mike Evans return from the skill positions and will be complemented by a highly touted recruiting class.