“Running out of the tunnel it almost feels like a real game, I actually was on the defensive sideline for a while because I felt like it was a real game. I didn’t know the white was on one side and the maroon was on the other. That’s how that kind of started out for me.”
That’s what Johnny Manziel had to say about the atmosphere of the more than 45,000 fans at Kyle Field on Saturday. It would also be the only time he would be confused on the day.
Stopping Johnny Manziel is a pretty tall task for any defense, and today, the Aggie defense never had a chance.
With injuries to the three of their starters this spring, and replacing six other starters from a year ago, the chips were already stacked against the A&M defense heading into the Maroon and White game. Then, the coaches decided to mostly play the second defense against the first offense, and the result was perfectly predictable.
Manziel and his first team offense absolutely obliterated the Aggie defense today at Kyle Field. Manziel himself was 24 of 30 for 303 yards and 3 Touchdowns. Afterward, Manziel told the media that he felt good about the day and that he felt he accomplished what he needed to this spring.
“I do,” he said. “We had some struggles. Today was a good day. I told (Jake Spavital) and Coach (Clarence) McKinney and Coach (Kevin) Sumlin, it was really good for me to go through my reads and really be able to see the soft corner here, go here, do this do that, two safeties or one safety they might blitz whatever, it was good for that. As we progressed and got into a game setting and be able to see our receivers hook it up when we need to or not get covered and do some things. That was what I wanted to see out of it was these young guys learning and getting better.”
When you hear him talk about wanting young players to learn and get better, it’s easy to forget that the Heisman Trophy Winner is only heading into his redshirt sophomore season. To be fair, last spring seems like a world away, when Manziel was locked in a quarterback battle and everybody questioned how good the Aggies could be in their first SEC season.
Now, a year later, the Texas A&M spring game was less about answering some concerns, and more about celebrating the day. The only people that weren’t in the celebrating mood today at Kyle Field were the officials, who twice flagged the A&M offense for excessive celebration. A penalty that, according to Manziel, they didn’t care about it.
“I was kind of talking to the refs after Brandon (Williams) did his little dance after the first touchdown I just kind of told them, I said ‘Hey, we’re going to need to kick some extra points because we’re going to celebrate every time.’” he said.
“We don’t get to be on ESPN for a spring game like this every day, might as well have fun with it, get the recruits to have fun, everybody’s here to have fun, it’s spring ball, it’s been a grind, it’s the last day to really go out and show everybody we’ve been working so we’re going to have fun with it regardless.”
About the only thing Manziel did wrong on the day was be overly aggressive with his body, momentarily terrifying fans and coaches alike. On a play where running back Brandon Williams cut back across the field toward the endzone, Manziel came up field and tried to throw a block. According to him, instincts just took over.
“I went up and apologized to Sam after it,” he said. “The way I am and the way that my motor drives me it was just an instinct play. As soon as I got back to Coach Sumlin, as much as he was shaking his head and wasn’t happy about it. It was more just in a game, this is how it would have been just naturally took over for me, as soon as I did it, I immediately regretted it, it’s just how I am and how competitive I am. I want to get the score no matter no what, even though I know I know I’m not live, I’m in a black jersey, it was a mistake but it was just my competitive nature.”
That competitive nature is what he says will also keep him from being complacent going into next season.
“I’m not paying attention to the sophomore slump or whatever it is,” he said. “People said there was a freshman or Heisman hangover or whatever and that was whatever. I’m not worried about that, I’m worried about making sure my teammates are in this together and we’re all ready for the summer and we’re ready to conquer the task ahead of us.”
The question that many have for Manziel is how much better can he really get? His reply is simply, we’ll see.
“We’ll see how it looks after I get back from San Diego,” Manziel said. “There’s plenty of film to watch, there’s plenty of room to get better, there’s plenty of time to spend up here with Coach (Spavital) and even learn things that I wouldn’t have even thought. And just to get with him. I can still talk to Kliff (Kingsbury) and pick his brain and stuff, he’s still like an older brother to me, that’s how mine and his relationship is.”
Manziel now heads into what will be the longest offseason in recent memory for A&M fans. There are going to be a lot of discussions between now and the end of August about what Manziel is and isn’t as a quarterback, but one thing he certainly is, is motivated.
“The big conversation (with George Whitfield) had with Alabama was to be the dragon slayer, to slay the dragon,” Manziel said. “There’s a big dragon out there for us with all of the people that are doubting A&M or doubting me that last year was a fluke. That’s a chip on my shoulder, and that’s the dragon we need to slay this year.”