ARLINGTON, Texas — At one point early in the Cotton Bowl, with “Johnny B. Goode” blaring through the stadium speakers, Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel peeked up at the accompanying highlights on the huge video board hanging over the field.
Texas A&M’s exciting dual-threat quarterback known as Johnny Football sure puts on a show worth watching.
“Best player I’ve ever played. He does so many good things. He’s got magic,” Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said. “He’ll have a chance to win four (Heismans) if he stays healthy.”
Manziel tiptoed down the sideline for a 23-yard TD on the game’s opening drive and went on to an FBS bowl record for quarterbacks with 229 yards rushing on 17 carries. He also set a Cotton Bowl record with 516 total yards as the 10th-ranked Aggies beat No. 12 Oklahoma 41-13 on Friday night to wrap up their first SEC season.
With first-year coach Kevin Sumlin and their young star quarterback after leaving the Big 12 for the SEC, the Aggies (11-2) overwhelming won the only bowl game matching teams from those two power conferences. They won 11 games for the first time since 1998, their only Big 12 title season.
The Aggies never trailed while winning their last six games and became the first SEC team with more than 7,000 total yards — 7,261 after gaining 633 in the Cotton Bowl.
“It’s huge for this program, and for me especially, with the kind of woes A&M has had over the past decade or however long it’s been since they had 11 wins,” Manziel said. “For us to get up tonight and watch them battle back, it’s good when we strike first. That’s what we like to do. It was good to do that and not really look back.”
Texas A&M led by only a point at halftime, but scored on its first three drives of the second half — on drives of 91 and 89 yards before Manziel threw a short pass to Ryan Swope on fourth-and-5 that turned into a 33-yard TD and a 34-13 lead.
Oklahoma (10-3), which like the Aggies entered the game with a five-game winning streak, went three-and-out on its first three drives after halftime in what was quarterback Landry Jones’ 50th and final career start.
“Feel just disappointed that he’s going out this way, getting beat like that,” Sooners center Gabe Ikard said.
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.
But Jones missed out becoming only the third NCAA quarterback to go 4-0 as a starter in bowl games.
“It was obvious tonight that we didn’t play the way we should have played,” said Jones, whose frustration was evident when he yelled at a teammate after a failed fourth-down play. “We couldn’t run it. We couldn’t throw it. It happens, you know.”
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.
It had been six weeks since the Aggies played their last game, and four weeks since Manziel became the first freshman to win college football’s highest individual award.
Manziel got it started with an electrifying 24-yard run on third down on the opening drive. Then on a third-and-10, Manziel rolled to his left and took off, juked around a defender and got near the sideline. He tiptoed to stay in bounds and punctuated his 23-yard score with a high-step over the pylon for a quick lead.
Officials reviewed the play to make sure he did stay in bounds, and the replays showed clearly that he did.
“There is too much talk about how you perform after the Heisman and about the layoff and all of that,” said Manziel, who set an SEC record with 4,600 total yards in the regular season. “There wasn’t anything holding us back. No rust, there was no nothing. We played as a unit.”
The chants of “S-E-C! S-E-C!” began after Swope’s TD catch with 4 minutes left in the third quarter. They got louder and longer after that, and Manziel spread both his arms out and ran off the field like he was flying.
Oklahoma was in the Cotton Bowl for only the second time. It was the first bowl matchup between the former Big 12 rivals, but the 17th consecutive season they have played each other.
The Sooners had won 11 of 13 in the series since Bob Stoops became their coach. That included a 77-0 Oklahoma win in 2003 that was the most-lopsided loss in Texas A&M history.
Sumlin was the A&M offensive coordinator in 2002 when the Aggies upset the top-ranked Sooners. The next year, Sumlin was hired by Stoops as an assistant, and he stayed there five seasons before going to Houston as head coach and now the Aggies.
“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.”
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