The 12th Man QB’s ‘Instant Replay’ of a Heisman Season (Part 2 of 4)

Welcome to the Lockr Room. The youngest student-athlete to ever play quarterback for a major college football team, former Texas A&M star David ‘Moon’ Walker, provides his weekly insights on the Aggies and the SEC.

Follow David on Twitter: @davidmoonwalker and @12thManQb.

Lockr Room Legends Q&A: David “Moon” Walker, 12th Man QB


Second Quarter Action of 2012

We found out on Monday night from former Heisman Trophy winner and native Texan Ty Detmer that Johnny’s going up against two seniors as a “freshman” with three seasons of eligibility remaining. No other underclassmen are even close in the voting, or they’d have been invited. Barring something unforeseen happening, Johnny is ‘college football’ for the next three seasons. Then again, he was ‘college football’ this season.

Johnny Manziel taking it all in

Pop a top on this one. If he comes up short, imagine the fire we’ll see in his eyes; well, maybe not, but it’ll darn sure be there underneath the surface. At some point in every player’s career, he or she realizes their true value. Johnny knows his. Whatever the outcome, Johnny Football will be smiling.

The “Instant Replay” continues as I follow game-by-game the exploits of Johnny Football as seen through the eyes of the youngest quarterback to step on a college field (at our own one yard-line inside Kyle, by the way.) This was truly an inspirational year for Aggies and football fans everywhere. You’ve read about the pre-season and the first two games, and in our second edition we delve a little further into the excellent leadership and quarterbacking skills this young man exhibits, still so early in his career.

I closed the last article by commenting after the SMU game that Johnny Manziel was the phenom the Aggies had long been waiting for. Just as Johnny’s season remains a standard for the ages in the SEC and college football, the words here remain constant and unchanged from the original. Here’s more of the story.

[Check out the first portion of the 12th Man QB’s ‘instant replay’ of a Heisman season]

Post-Game Read for South Carolina State

The Aggies are currently ranked 11th nationally in scoring, 12th in points allowed and 13th in yards allowed per game. Even with all the fireworks the Ags have been displaying of late, they only rank 37th nationally in total offense. Perhaps the other 36 teams have played even daintier light-weights than the Aggies have, or perhaps haven’t pulled their starters as quickly. Or haven’t played Florida. Regardless, most stats this early in the season are for old men sitting around drinking coffee in the early morning, somewhat similar to national polls.

Everything else statistically should go into the ‘on hold’ file waiting for further evidence, with one primary exception: Johnny Manziel is a slick, trigger-happy madman who has yet to see his first interception or lost fumble. This is truly a rare accomplishment considering the number of opportunities he gets handling the football while orchestrating the jet stream offense of the Southeastern Conference. His vision alone would probably set records in contests involving the Magic Eye 3D images of the 90’s. He sees things others can’t in a fraction of the time. His running and passing thus far have provided the Aggies with 7.3 yards per play. In the other 100 plays void of his direct involvement, they have averaged 4.85.

Hey, all good for sure, but I think you know where I’m coming from. This guy can do it all. I predict there will soon be an enormous trend among the young kids in Texas to ask their coaches for the No. 2 jersey for years to come.

Yes, for once in our lives, it’s very cool to be No. 2.

The Aggies have a real shot at being 5-1 overall and 2-1 in conference when LSU hits town Oct. 20. Should LSU continue to find its patented escape routes as the season progresses, that day could be a momentous one for the SEC and both institutions. This Saturday’s game marks the spot.

Post-Game Read for Arkansas

The young man leading the charge is here among us. He’s the one you weren’t sure about when you first saw him play. You remember, right? After the first few series of action netted 17 points for the home team, he seemed too good to fail, yet that day he did. Regardless, he seemed to have a “dazzleability” separating him from anyone who had ever been under center on Kyle Field. “Ever” is a lot of history to backtrack on. It’s not that these individuals were necessarily slower, or didn’t have the pinpoint accuracy, or strength of arm, or a hundred other intangibles necessary to man the position. No, this guy was just different, period, and it’s kind of hard to nail it down. He’s like the silver ball in the old-time pinball machines.

He didn’t look all that big physically, but he seemed extraordinarily gutsy for such a rookie, faking pitches to imaginary running backs as he sprinted down field full-steam ahead. Somehow he had boldness and daring that were never betrayed, and an unbridled recklessness that bore not a single fault. “His style of play will be his downfall,” you said. “Too much run and not enough gun.”

You’d have to take in another performance of his, or two, or maybe even three, just to be sure this young man deserved the moniker of “special.” Your eyes have yet to betray you, friend. Just as sure as the sun will rise in the morning, the football gods have judged that now is your time and he is your Gladiator.

Sure, this young man seemingly came out of nowhere, somehow unheralded because of the star that played in front of him for a season, the one whose single-game passing record he already owns. During this “down” time he was busy taking it all in, studying how to attack defenses and getting his feet on the ground, biding his time and eying the competition. The coaching decision to sit him out his first year was undeniably the correct one. There would be no pressure to win and carry a team on his shoulders quite yet, and as a rule, third-teamers are normally not called upon for active duty. Even after spring training, he hadn’t risen above the shoreline, but once the money was placed, his name was called with total conviction.

That name was Johnny Manziel. Johnny is going places and taking us with him for the ride. The swiftness of his arrival matches only the coolness coming from underneath the No. 2 jersey we’ve watched zinging and flinging recently. The music he shares has the artistry and brilliance of a Bach, Beethoven or a Beatle, and the calmness of a smooth mountain lake just before sundown. For the first time in years, decades, perhaps ever, we have standing before us the epitome of spontaneity, splendidly functioning within an offensive system inspired by the ideals of absolute freedom. It is the creation of a discipline as intricate in design as any that will ever be devised, with its outer limits approached only in proper doses. Where Johnny goes comfortably, this system will follow. This is as it should be. This is how you don’t screw him up.

Johnny Football sprints past yet another defenseless defender.

Soul cleansing was what this particular rain was all about. Wash away your troubles; wash away your shame. By the time the rain had finished its work, the Aggies had slaughtered the dumbfounded Hogs in a manner only Alabama would understand. When it began pouring down the hardest in the third quarter, the coaches responded by emptying the backfield of running backs and going five-wide. Next, they had Johnny start throwing completion after completion in fast-motion with that slippery wet football all the way down the field. Now that is cocky.

The weather doesn’t dictate to us. We dictate, no matter what.

Do we call this the Honey Badger Offense?

Hey, if you don’t love cocky, you just might be in the wrong building. Did you hear the announcers saying the Aggies should let up some near the end? Are you kidding us? Embrace it.

The 58 points scored by the Aggies are the most ever scored in the series covering 69 games.  One can only imagine what the score could have been had the Aggies not failed to convert on 8 of their 12 third-downs. Regardless, all told the Aggies amassed 32 first downs and 717 yards, the third-highest yards total in school history.

Manziel passed for a school record 453 yards and three touchdowns and ran for another score while adding 104 yards on 14 carries. He has now thrown for 10 touchdowns without an interception and has another six scores on the ground. Johnny averaged 10.7 yards per play when running or passing against Arkansas. This is an astounding number when considering the number of plays he was involved in. He is now up to 8.3 yards per play for the season. Bo Wallace of Mississippi in comparison averages 6.13.

Now to the individual hardware: Johnny’s 557 total yards broke the SEC record of 540 previously held by Archie Manning of Mississippi vs. Alabama in 1969 and Rohan Davey of LSU vs. Alabama in 2001. As a result, Manziel was named SEC Offensive Player of the Week and offensive tackle Jake Matthews was named SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week, for good measure.

Manziel’s NCAA Quarterback Rating (170.9) is now ranked 10th in the country and third in the SEC, behind Aaron Murray of Georgia (3rd) and Alabama’s A. J. McCarron (7th), both Heisman Trophy candidates. A&M ranks 12th in total offense per game in the NCAA and second in the SEC behind Georgia (11th).

My recommendation to the current Ole Miss staff would be to pull out some old film from the Manning era and see how the other SEC teams tried to stop him. Manziel is every bit the double threat that Manning was and also does some of his finest work while scrambling to the corners. Each threw equally well going to his left, or to his right, and both were tough to bring down.

The great thing now is, we’re not in that Aggie Wishbone!

Go, Johnny, Go!!

[Heisman Trophy voter Mike Huguenin explains why Johnny Manziel should take home the Trophy as a redshirt freshman]

Post-Game Read for Mississippi

Former SEC Offensive Player of the Week, Johnny “No Fail” Manziel, hadn’t shown the Midas touch for the first three-plus quarters. Sure, he’d broken a few nice runs and hit a few throws, but Ole Miss was proving too quick and forceful up front for the “Who Dat’ Kid” to rise above this particular fray. He hadn’t been around long enough in this league to know it isn’t far from the penthouse to the outhouse. Heck, this “Johnny Come Lately” hadn’t even played outside of the state of Texas in his entire life — No worries here.

Running back Ben Malena then slipped through the line for a run of 36 yards to the Ole Miss 29. From there, Manziel found another opening, and on a run that resembled a playground “two below” game, he ran somewhat untouched the necessary 29 yards for a touchdown. This culminated an official 88-yard drive that was actually one of 99.7 yards, technically speaking.

Somehow the whale had spewed Johnny out of its mouth, for no particular reason; perhaps just to tease the visitors and their supporters. What fun this would be!

The extra-point kick was missed, of course, and Aggies everywhere began reminding themselves once again of who they were, and once again sunk deeper into depths of despair. “Well, we are the Aggies, now aren’t we?”

One minute and 16 seconds later, Ryan Swope was waving the football in the air in the end zone after he and Manziel had caught the Ole Miss secondary playing man coverage and lining up having already been beaten. Swope’s perfect corner route was complimented by the perfect throw as A&M kept its two wide receivers decoying short inside routes while sending Swope deep behind them. It was great execution at a pivotal point in the drive – and in the game. Five minutes earlier the Rebels and their fans had been reveling in their presumed victory but it was far from over. Coach Sumlin’s stun gun offense had them moaning and writhing in pain when least expected.

By remaining poised, alert and confident, Manziel now trails only Alabama’s AJ McCarron in the NCAA Quarterback Rating among SEC quarterbacks and is ranked No. 12 nationally. Meanwhile, the Aggies are celebrating their first top 25 ranking as a member of the SEC, coming in at No. 23 in the A.P. and 21st in the USA Today. Seven teams from the conference are now represented in the polls. Interestingly, A&M and its next opponent, the LA Tech Bulldogs, rank 22nd and 23rd in the ESPN Power Rankings, respectively.

Unfortunately, this will be the final game of the season where victory is expected right in step with offensive stats that will continue to be padded. The levels of competition, philosophies and game faces will change dramatically after the Tech game, when wins and losses become the only gauge of success and stats become secondary. The term “field position” will come back into play in huge quantities. I look forward to the tests these outstanding opportunities will present for our strategies and personnel. We’re looking forward to a hard-fought, thrilling football game this weekend. The experts predict an Aggie victory by the score of 40-32, which certainly sounds reasonable.

All kinds of Texas A&M records could fall. Let’s just hope they’re all on the offensive side of the ball — stun-gun style.

Next Up – Louisiana Tech

[Check out David ‘Moon’ Walker’s in-depth analysis of the stun-gun offense here]

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