Sumlin talks team issues, Sam Houston
Players break down Manziel, suspensions
Published: Wednesday, September 4, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, September 4, 2013 01:09
National pundits have replayed since Saturday the incident, attacking Manziel for seemingly brushing off his head coach as he walked toward the sideline during the 52-31 win over Rice. Tuesday morning, though, Kevin Sumlin was given the opportunity to clear the air regarding the incident.
The 20-year-old quarterback received a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct midway through the fourth quarter and never returned.
Manziel, 6-of-8 passing for 94 yards and three touchdowns on the day, said nothing as he came off the field, leaving some to speculate friction existed between Manziel and the coach. Sumlin said Tuesday, however, that Manziel was right to remain silent.
“When [Manziel] came off the field, I made two statements to him, neither one of which should he have responded to,” Sumlin said. “They weren’t questions. They were direct statements I can’t repeat right now. The worst thing that could have happened is for him to reply, based on what I told him. A lot of people who made statements about that, they weren’t near that sideline. You can get a different perspective sitting in a studio or behind your television than you would have gotten live.”
Due to Manziel’s first-half suspension against the Owls, junior quarterback Matt Joeckel started for the first time since arriving at A&M. According to the junior, the mental facet of the game intimidated him the most, as the majority of the physicality fell to the running back corps.
“It was probably the mental aspect of the game, just being completely focused on the game,” Joeckel said. “I haven’t gotten playing time like that in the last few years. The physical part of the game wasn’t too much because I basically just handed the ball off to Ben [Malena] and Tra [Carson]. I could see they were getting tired because they were running the heck out of the ball.”
As for the defense, which allowed 509 yards of total offense, a combined six starters were suspended for at least half the matchup, an excuse defensive coordinator Mark Snyder chose not to use.
Instead, Snyder discussed the positives and negatives of using true freshmen at positions ranging from defensive tackle to cornerback. Even with the amount of youth infused into the program over the offseason, Snyder said he was able to mold his players to fit his system in a matter of weeks.
“They all had good things and bad things,” Snyder said. “You could tell during pregame that there was a little bit of nervousness. You can imagine being 18 and playing in front of all of those people. I thought they played really well. The thing that was most pleasing to me was the emotion they were playing with. They made a play and you saw the emotion. To me, that’s what defense is all about — you play with enthusiasm and emotion.”
Looking forward to this Saturday’s home matchup against Sam Houston State, Sumlin discussed the threat of the high-powered FCS opponent upsetting the Aggies, particularly following this weekend’s shocker of North Dakota State knocking off defending Big 12 Champion Kansas State.
“Seeing North Dakota State go in to Kansas State and win last weekend is all you need to see to be prepared,” Sumlin said. “Last year, we had our starters playing in the first half. The backups lost the second half 28-6. When you turn on the tape from the second half, you saw a lot of those guys playing last Saturday. That gets their attention.”
Senior running back Ben Malena said the Aggies need to treat the approaching “cupcake” matchup as if it were a conference foe.
“You can look at their game last year and realize that they’re not a team to mess with,” Malena said. “They went to the national championship in their division two years in a row. They have some great players, some former Division I players. You can’t overlook schools. We have to prepare for them like they’re a conference opponent.”
The pay-per-view game won’t come without some positives, as sophomore transfer running back Brandon Williams will return to action after sitting out a majority of the offseason with a foot injury.
Offensive coordinator and running backs coach Clarence McKinney said having the speedster available as an offensive weapon will take pressure off the coaching staff, as the sophomore has been itching to take the field for weeks.
“We’re excited about Brandon [Williams] coming back,” McKinney said. “He’s definitely a ball of energy. He’s been harassing us for the last few weeks to play. He’s excited and we’re excited. We’ll definitely get him out there.”