COLLEGE STATION, Texas – Texas A&M sophomore quarterback Johnny Manziel – spectator for the first 30 football minutes of his reign as defending Heisman Trophy winner by NCAA dictum – helped the sixth-ranked Aggies hold off surprising Rice in the second half for a 52-31 victory on Saturday afternoon at Kyle Field, US Today reports.
Manziel spent the first half clad in a visor with a towel draped over his shoulders, suspended following the NCAA investigation into his multiple autograph sessions staged during the offseason. In his five series played during the second half, he led the Aggies to three touchdowns (all passing) and a field goal. Manziel completed six of eight passes for 94 yards, ran six times for 19 yards and was assessed a personal foul for unsportsmanlike conduct with 9 minutes 8 seconds left in the fourth quarter. Manziel was benched for the remainder of the game.
A&M coach Kevin Sumlin said to ESPN afterward, “I hoped that at this point he’d have learned something. That’s why he wasn’t going back in the game, no matter what happened.”
Manziel was not made available for interviews after the game.
He took the field in the third quarter with A&M junior quarterback Matt Joeckel having provided a 28-21 lead over the Owls, who came in as 27-point underdogs. Joeckel, who attempted only 11 passes last season as the Aggies’ third stringer, went 14-for-19 for 190 yards with one touchdown pass and no interceptions in the half.
Manziel’s absence wasn’t the only one of note for the Aggies. Just before kickoff, A&M announced the suspensions of four players for unspecified violations of athletic department rules. Combined with the Manziel ruling and other disciplinary actions, Texas A&M played the first half without six starters, five of them on defense. Combine that with six starters lost from last season’s team, and A&M fielded a defensive unit that didn’t resemble the 2012 unit that ranked ninth in the nation in total defense.