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Manziel-train rolls

Harris makes history, Manziel quashes debate, and Arkansas looms

Published: Sunday, September 23, 2012

Updated: Sunday, September 23, 2012 23:09

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Yell leaders take the field ahead of the team, setting the ball rolling on a 70-14 A&M win over SCSU.

The South Carolina State Bulldogs weren’t ready. They weren’t fast enough, strong enough or deep enough. The Aggies did to them what was expected of an SEC team. Sumlin and company scored 70 points and the Bulldogs scored 14; that’s all that needs to be said for Saturday’s laugher. It was fun, and it’s over. Giggle one more time over the box score, O Aggie Stat-Nerds, and then toughen up.

Before we go too far, however, a look at senior defensive back and punt return-man Dustin Harris’s historic, lightning-in-a-barrel performance is warranted. Harris broke the Southeastern Conference record and topped his own school record by over 80 yards with 246 punt-return yards. By game’s end, Harris was gunning for the all-time NCAA record of 277. Harris’s night was the byproduct of a perfect storm of an above-average punter, a below-average coverage team, and a great returner– the reigning NCAA stat leader in punt returns. It was a sign of his success that Harris fielded a punt off the bounce on his own four yard-line— a huge no-no, as almost any coach, high school and up, will tell you— and burned the SCSU coverage team for a 96-yard score, coming up two yards short of the program record for longest punt return. Nothing should be said to detract from Harris’s game. He deserves it. But it’s time to look beyond the glorified scrimmage that was SCSU.

A&M looked down the barrel of uncertainty over this past offseason, and not because of any uneasiness about the transition to the SEC. The Aggies had a coach and a conference, but they didn’t have a quarterback. Redshirt freshman Johnny Manziel emerged from the offseason scrum with the signal-caller role, and everyone said the right things when asked. He has our full confidence, Manziel’s coaches and teammates said again and again. No one else seemed so sure.

Even after a Florida game that was probably above average for a freshman’s first start and a roasting of the SMU defense, there were those that continued to point to sophomore Jameill Showers, touting Showers as the better arm and the better decision-maker.

I’ll end the debate in a sentence: Manziel had five combined touchdowns before the half for 941 all-purpose yards and 12 touchdowns with no turnovers through three games, and Showers threw a bumbling interception on his third toss of the game. It’s over, Aggie fans. Manziel is our guy. He’s here to stay, so stand behind him. He’s not a perfect quarterback, but he’s our imperfect quarterback.

Behind Manziel, it’s time to look forward. Arkansas staggers into Kyle Field next Saturday on a three-game skid including an overtime loss to lowly Louisiana Monroe and a 52-point shelling at the hands of Alabama. They’re humbled, beaten, subdued, thrashed. Tread softly, Ags. With senior quarterback Tyler Wilson back in the fold, the Razorbacks aren’t the same animal. A&M has struggled sealing wins against Arkansas in recent years, and that should scare Aggie fans. The worst part for the home team is the high risk, low reward nature of the matchup. When the Razorbacks sat in the Top-10 nationally, a home loss wouldn’t be a deathblow for a young Aggie season. With the Razorbacks reeling, splitting at the seams, a second home loss would sink the A&M ship.

If we’ve learned anything from the first three games of the season, it’s this: the final score is anyone’s guess, but the thrill comes guaranteed.


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