Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports
This one was a thriller, alright. Time after time each team answered but when it was all said and done, Johnny Manziel and the A&M offense proved to be too much for yet another opponent they faced on the road. In this, the tenth consecutive road win for the Aggies, they and the Ole Miss Rebels played one for the ages.
It was a football game that neither could put away and almost anything seemed possible. Like hounds nipping at the crafty old fox, the Rebels could never quite catch the elusive Aggies…and then they did. But just as in 2012, Ole Miss held a lead with under six minutes to play which they wouldn’t hold. Then, with the game tied and the ball in their possession, they failed to respond.They gave the ball up to one of the most proficient college offenses in memory, one that had repeatedly revealed its secrets to decimating their defense. Nick Saban knows the feeling.
Yes, the Rebels finally blinked. You can’t blink with Johnny Manziel on the field.
Earlier, when A&M suddenly found themselves behind 31-24 with 10:36 left to play, the cameras caught Johnny sitting on the bench, smiling. It was the smile of a very confident man who’d just been handed a challenge on national TV. What’s a guy to do, right?
He took his team 75 yards on seven plays to tie it again at 31. When he found himself again down by seven after the next Ole Miss possession, the smile was gone — but the resolve was certainly intact. Sixty-nine yards later he had a first and goal at the Ole Miss six-yard line. He sprinted to his right with a backside defensive end hot on his trail.
He reversed field when he could find no one open, and simply left his pursuers behind. He sprinted for the left pylon and dove into the end zone, slamming the ball to the turf as he broke the plane. He’d just tied the game once more with another long, brilliant drive.
Suddenly, all bets were off. Our Johnny Heisman had shown up again, as he always has, ready to shake off all challenges.
The defense held the Rebels to a three-and-out, and everyone seemed to know it was over. The only question was whether Johnny would get the Aggies back into the end zone, or simply kick a winning field goal.
With 2:33 left in a 38-38 game, the Aggies received the punt and set up for the pivotal drive at their own 29 yard line. Manziel had already played a splendid second half, and the Mississippi defense was depleted with injuries. The Spy assigned to Manziel throughout the game, Serderius Bryant, was injured during the previous drive after a vicious hit and carried off on a gurney.
Thankfully, his wave to the crowd let them and the TV audience know he had the ability to move his extremities. Ironically, it was Manziel he had tackled during the final yards of one of the most memorable 4th-down conversion you’ll ever see. Robert Nkemdiche, the outstanding true freshman who plays defensive end for the Rebels, had left the game earlier with a pulled hamstring.
With Bryant out, the Ole Miss defense had no one to turn to who could execute his defensive role of shadowing Manziel. Denzel Nkemdiche, a tremendous linebacker, was moved to the position, but he was no match for Johnny’s speed and quickness. Third-teamers were manning the defensive end positions for the Rebels.
Johnny got free for 25 of the 56 yards the Aggies would need to get in position for their game-winning field goal.
Even a 32-yarder isn’t a cinch these days with the A&M kickers, but with 4 seconds left and the offense having once more completed its job, Josh Lambo coolly stroked the ball through the uprights, and the Aggies had made it two for two in Oxford in dramatic style.
Manziel completed 31 of 39 passes for 346 yards without a single touchdown pass. Manziel had one picked off in the end zone, however. On the ground, Johnny had 124 yards on 19 carries and also scored two touchdowns. This came after an early-game scare when he’d twisted his knee on an awkward throw and had sat out a series.
It was reminiscent of the Missouri game last year, with the same result. A new knee brace was fitted and he was back on the field the next possession, to the relief of Aggies everywhere. He then brought the Aggies from behind in the waning moments for the second time in his career; both at the expense of the Ole Miss Rebels.
The Aggies amassed 587 total yards while surrendering 462. Travis Labhart and Malcome Kennedy combined for 15 receptions and 166 yards while Derel Walker added five catches for 72 yards. Ben Malena was the backfield workhorse, carrying the ball for 61 yards on 16 carries and a score. The Aggies suffered a lost fumble by Manziel and the one interception for the night.
The game was a tremendous gift from Johnny Manziel to every 12 year-old kid who is dreaming of one day becoming a big-time college quarterback.
The Aggies come back home next Saturday for a game on CBS against an improved Auburn team. The game is set to be televised at 3:30 Eastern.
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