Special to Rattleandhumsports.com
ARLINGTON, Texas – Johnny Manziel stretched out both of his arms and ran off the field as if he was flying.
With the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback known as Johnny Football, Texas A&M certainly is soaring in the SEC.
Manziel tiptoed the sideline for a 23-yard touchdown on the first drive of the Cotton Bowl, the first of his four touchdowns as part of his bowl-record 516 total yards and the Aggies capped their first SEC season with a 41-13 win over 12th-ranked Oklahoma on Friday night.
“To come in and go against a Big 12 rival and do everything we wanted as a team, and send these seniors out with a win, we couldn’t feel any better,” Manziel said after his first game since becoming the first freshman to win the Heisman.
With first-year coach Kevin Sumlin and their young star quarterback, the Aggies (11-2) broke the SEC record with their 7,261 total yards this season (the first over 7,000 after 633 in Cowboys Stadium). They also averaged more than 40 points a game.
And they capped their debut season with an overwhelming victory in the only postseason game matching teams from those power conferences. It is the Aggies’ first 11-win season since 1998, when they won their only Big 12 title.
The chants of “S-E-C!, S-E-C!” began after Manziel’s 33-yard TD pass to Ryan Swope with 4 minutes left in the third quarter for a 34-13 lead. They got louder and longer after that.
“I think tonight was really indicative of this season,” Sumlin said. “It’s one of the teams I thought in the country that truly got better every week.”
Texas A&M never trailed while winning its last six games. That included a win at SEC champion Alabama, which plays for the BCS national title Monday night.
Manziel set a FBS bowl record with his 229 yards rushing on 17 carries, and completed 22 of 34 passes for 287 yards.
SEC teams have won the last five Cotton Bowls, all against Big 12 teams, and nine out of 10. That included Texas A&M’s loss to LSU only two years ago.
Oklahoma, led by quarterback Landry Jones in his 50th career start, had 401 total yards.
Jones completed 35 of 48 passes for 278 yards with a touchdown and an interception. He won 39 games and three bowls for the Sooners, in a career that started on the same field in the 2009 season opener when he replaced injured Heisman winner Sam Bradford in the first college game at Cowboys Stadium.
Kevin Lonnquist’s take on Texas A&M 41, Oklahoma 13
Name of the Game: Execution spoke to why this evolved into a rout in the second half. The Aggies — 633 yards — executed throughout. The Sooners came away with field goals on their first two possessions that went inside the Aggie 10-yard line and then had three consecutive 3-and-outs to start the second half. Texas A&M quarterback and Heisman Trophy Winner Johnny Manziel showed no banquet circuit hangover rushing for a Cotton Bowl quarterback record of 229 yards and two scores and throwing for 287 yards and two touchdowns. That’s 516 yards by one guy. This game should have cleared away any last doubters as to how good the Aggies were in 2012. They were worthy. Questions about Oklahoma’s ability to win big games outside its conference will continue after the poor performance against Notre Dame and this one.
Key Stat: 3.6…Oklahoma’s average yard per carry. The inability to put together a quality and consistent running game this year showed up in this game.
The Hero: Manziel…did you expect anybody else?
Looking Ahead: Maybe for the Landry Jones critics, they can probably exhale because this was his last game. Jones (287 yards, TD, INT) just was never fully embraced by the Sooner nation. Poor plays like the interception in the second quarter offset a career that finished with him as the Big 12′s all-time leader in passing yardage and total offense. Barring any underclassmen not declaring for the NFL draft — watch junior safety Tony Jefferson and junior wide receiver Kenny Stills — the Sooners are going to have 15 projected starters coming back. Defensively, the linebacker corps are solid with Corey Nelson and Tom Wort. That includes four on the offensive line and all of but one of their skill players. Stills, running back Damien Williams and wide receiver Jalen Saunders are a solid trio. The question will be quarterback. Blake Bell is a little bit of one-trick pony on short-yardage plays. Redshirt freshman Trevor Knight should be in the mix along with junior Drew Allen. Don’t rule out quarterback recruit Cody Thomas from Colleyville Heritage who will sign with OU on Feb. 6.
Bottom Line: The Sooners will be the pre-season Big 12 favorites in 2013. They should be. Their talent is always among the nation’s best. There is a lot of work required to make the running back more of a factor. That’s probably one of the top three priorities in the spring behind picking a quarterback and re-tooling the defensive line. But there is a missing element to this program. It hasn’t responded in stand-up non-conference games. Is it a lack of toughness? Is it a psychological thing now? It’s starting to feel that way and turning into a hill this program has to cross over. Oklahoma will be at Notre Dame in late September. We’ll learn then if this trend will continue.