Perhaps the defining play of his young collegiate career was a non-play. After a fumble near the La. Tech goal line (later ruled not a fumble), Manziel chased down a La. Tech defensive back about sixty yards from the (non)fumble, stripped the ball and tackled the ball carrier. The ball bounced right into the hands of another La. Tech defender. Manziel bounced back up and made another tackle a few yards downfield. I've never seen anything like it.
As Texas A&M mushed through its preseason camp in August, no one knew which of four quarterback candidates would land the starting job under first-year coach Kevin Sumlin. When he selected redshirt freshman Johnny Manziel, it surprised many.
Half a season later and that decision might have been the best Sumlin’s made since arriving in College Station. And he’s made several good decisions as evidenced by the Aggies’ surprising 5-1 start and #18 BCS ranking.
Manziel’s record-setting ways have been a big reason for A&M’s successes so far. In fact, he’s been downright Cam Newton-esque.
On Saturday, Manziel became the first player in SEC history to gain more than 500 yards in total offense in two games. No surprise he was named the league’s Offensive Player of the Week after his 576-yard performance in a 59-57 win over Louisiana Tech. No wonder he was named the Walter Camp National Offensive Player of the Week, too. No wonder the words “Heisman Trophy” are starting to get tossed around when his name is mentioned.
Manziel currently ranks #2 in the nation in total offense with an average of 392.7 yards per game passing and rushing. Only Baylor quarterback Nick Florence is ahead of him (404.4 yards per contest). With 2,356 yards through six games, Manziel is currently on pace for 4,712 yards in the regular season. In case you’re wondering, Newton rolled up 4,327 yards of total offense in 2010… including the regular season, SEC Championship Game and BCS title game.
Newton was more of a runner than Manziel and that gives A&M’s quarterback a bit of an advantage in terms of gobbling up big chunks of yardage. But he’s still on pace to zip by every great passer or great passer/runner combo in SEC history in terms of total offense in a season:
1. Cam Newton, Auburn in 2010 — 4,327 yards (1,473 rushing, 2,854 passing)
2. Tim Tebow, Florida in 2007– 4,181 yards (895 rushing, 3,286 passing)
3. Tim Couch, Kentucky in 1998 — 4,151 yards (-124 rushing, 4,275 passing)
Now, Manziel still must face the meat of the Aggies’ schedule including ranked foes LSU (this weekend), Mississippi State, and Alabama. But for fun, let’s just compare Manziel’s first six games of 2012 with Newton’s first six games of 2010.
|Manziel 2012||Newton 2010|
|Opponent||Total Yards||Total TDs||Opponent||Total Yards||Total TDs|
|@ SMU||418||6||@ Miss. State||228||2|
|S. Carolina State||252||5||Clemson||271||2|
|@ Ole Miss||320||2||La.-Monroe||234||3|
|@ La. Tech||576||6||@ Kentucky||408||4|
If you’re keeping score at home, that’s Manziel with 2,356 yards and 24 touchdowns through his first six games as a starter and Newton with 1,832 yards and 21 touchdowns through his first six games as a starter at Auburn.
In case you’re wondering, Manziel’s on a pace to run or pass for 48 touchdowns in the regular season. The SEC record for TDs in a season belongs to Tebow with 55 in 2007, but he posted all those scores in 14 games. (He also won the Heisman that year.)
Whether “Johnny Football” can keep up his current pace or not, it’s really quite astounding in itself that we’re already able to compare someone’s work to Newton’s over-the-top 2010 season.
Of course, I remember thinking there was only one Tebow before I saw Newton. Then I thought there was only one Newton until I saw Manziel.