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Williams, ground game shine as A&M trounces Auburn

Published: Monday, October 29, 2012

Updated: Monday, October 29, 2012 00:10

Manziel photo at Auburn

Courtesy of THE AUBURN PLAINS

Quarterback Johnny Manziel rolls out for a pass during the 63-21 A&M win.

It’s going to be a shame, a true wasted opportunity, if Facebook feeds don’t start blowing up with Johnny Football-themed Halloween costumes. I want to see guys named Johnny dressed up like footballs. I want girls wearing things that say “future Mrs. Football.” Go wild; he’s earned it. He did whatever he wanted to a bad SEC football team on the road, and if that’s not enough reason for a Halloween costume I don’t know what is.

But hold on — a bad SEC team is not the same thing as a bad team. Don’t get that confused. Auburn isn’t good and head coach Gene Chizik is likely on his way out just two years removed from a Cam Newton-driven national championship, but A&M’s 63 points was the most by an Auburn opponent since 1917. The 63 points were the floor Saturday. Manziel only led eight drives — seven went for touchdowns and the eighth ended in a missed Bertolet field goal — before being pulled early in the third quarter.

If 63 were the floor, what was the ceiling? What if the defense hadn’t showed up? J-Foot (here’s to hoping that nickname catches on) might have closed in on his own SEC total yardage record, might have notched 10 touchdowns.

Who on that field was going to stop him?

Saturday was about Johnny. But, since all of this season’s Saturdays have been about Johnny, let’s talk about something else: the running game. Here I refer to the running game involving those people whose only job it is to run the football, not the there-goes-Johnny-doing-Johnny-things running game.

Manziel carried nine times for 90 yards, but he also handed it off 39 times. His three-headed backfield (freshman Trey Williams, senior Christine Michael, and junior Ben Malena) averaged 7.05 yards per carry and gained 275 yards. If I’m wrong, you can hold it against me, but I’d be willing to bet that this Aggie team will never lose a game with those rushing numbers on the road.

The freshman Williams was the revelation against Auburn. We shouldn’t be surprised — this freshman class has been sensational — but the knock against Williams, the thing I’ve held against him, was his size. Small running backs aren’t every-down backs in the SEC, just as they aren’t in the NFL. But Williams carried 19 times for 110 yards and a score, catching three passes out of the backfield for an additional 24 yards.

Aggie fans have seen Williams this season. He has handled kickoffs — most memorably when he took a fourth-quarter kickoff more than 70 yards into LSU territory in the 24-19 home loss — and has seen spot work in the run game, usually to spell Michael or Malena. Saturday’s 19 carries, even if a good chunk came with the game well in hand, is substantial. That offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury had the confidence in Williams to give him 20-plus touches in an SEC game says something about what the staff thinks they have in the freshman.

Truth be told, I’ve been waiting to talk about Williams all season. He’s a special talent. If he doesn’t pan out as a viable option in the backfield, I expect to see four years worth of punt- and kick-returns — good ones — out of him. But a lopsided affair against a one-win team went a long way to cementing the picture of Williams as a future featured running back of Sumlin’s Aggies.

 

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