Johnny Football, Captain Amazing, Cam Newton 2.0, Little Tebow, Johnny Heisman, the list goes on. Eight games through Johnny Manziel’s first season as the starting quarterback for Texas A&M University, Manziel is on pace to surpass, rapper, Lil’ Wayne for the number one spot in the moniker game before he plays his final game at Kyle Field.
Manziel’s nickname count is eclipsed only by his touchdown production (29 total; 16 passing and 13 rushing) and the audacity he exudes on the field. The kid from Kerrville leads the SEC in rushing, total offense, points responsible for, and surely, highlight reel plays (check YouTube).
For all of Manziel’s greatness, his wanton style of play has gotten the Aggies into trouble this year--most notably in games against Ole Miss and LSU (3 turnovers in each game). For three and a half quarters, the Ole Miss defense made Johnny Football look like Johnny "Heart Attack"--as any Aggie fan with a pacemaker was sure to get a jolt or two watching Manziel’s roller coaster of a performance. In the end, Johnny Football led a comeback Eli Manning would be proud of…well, maybe if he didn’t play for Ole Miss.
Johnny "Clutch" made a late appearance against Ole Miss to save the Aggies from an imminent loss. But the LSU Tigers made Manziel look like Johnny "Freshman" throughout their contest. The LSU defense exposed Manziel’s claustrophobia in the pocket by forcing him to play in a phone booth--quickly sealing any cracks through which Johnny Football might escape. The fleet footed freshman was held to season lows in rushing (50 yds), yards per carry (1.6 yds), completion percentage (51.8%), and points responsible for (0).
Head Coach Dan Mullen and the Mississippi State Bulldogs will look to duplicate the way LSU and Ole Miss handled, i.e. rattled, Manziel. Mullen and company hope to throttle Manziel’s explosiveness, forcing him to be one-dimensional (i.e., they want Manziel to throw…a lot); the strength of the MSU defense is their secondary.
Cornerbacks Darius Slay and Johnthan Banks--2011 Jim Thorpe Award semifinalist--each have 4 INT’s this season (Combined:.8; Team Total INT’s: 12). Through eight games, the ballhawking Bulldogs have forced 20 total turnovers and held opponents to just under 18 points per game (17.38). While the Bulldogs have a knack for creating turnovers (Turnover Margin: +13); the Aggies have a habit of giving the ball away (Turnover Margin: -7). If the Bulldogs’ defense can execute--confining Manziel to the pocket, forcing him to make plays with his arm--it could be a long afternoon for Johnny Football and the Aggies.
We all know that #2 Johnny Manziel will take the first and last snap for the Aggies in Starkville on Saturday. We ‘re just left to wonder, ‘ Which Johnny will it be?’