After Texas A&M starting quarterback Johnny Manziel quietly entered the Heisman Trophy race during the first six weeks of the Aggies' season, he quietly exited the same conversation against the best defense he's seen all season.
The Aggies lost at the hands of the LSU Tigers, 24-19, on Saturday afternoon at Kyle Field. The man known as "Johnny Football" around College Station, Tex., was not the same QB who had thrown for 14 touchdowns to three interceptions through the first six games.
As noted by YNN Sports' Mike Berman, it might have been too early to throw this young man into the Heisman fire.
I like Johnny Manziel.A lot.But this is a reminder to pump the brakes, folks.A little premature to hand the guy the Heisman.— Mike Berman (@MikeBermanYNN) October 20, 2012
Manziel led the Aggies down the field on the first drive of the game, flashing his ability to make things happen with both his arms and his legs. Behind a nice mix of third-down plays and Manziel runs, A&M was able to take a 6-0 lead.
But after that, the Tigers were able to force Manziel into needless mistakes.
The QB would account for four turnovers in a game the Aggies had a chance to make a statement towards the rest of the SEC. It was not to be, and a late Ben Malena touchdown helped make this score more respectable when the buzzer sounded.
LSU was able to capitalize on the turnovers—including a first-half touchdown following a Malena fumble, and the dagger, a 47-yard Jeremy Hill touchdown run after the final Manziel interception.
Maybe the most disappointing thing for Manziel is that he had a chance to really be considered a Heisman contender after this game was over if he and the Aggies could knock off the Bayou Bengals.
His numbers have been great. Even after the loss, he's thrown for 1,680 yards and 14 TDs to only six interceptions. He's added 676 yards and 10 TDs on the ground, and thrown in a 67.4 percent completion percentage for good measure.
But no touchdowns against LSU hurt his bid, maybe more so than his four turnovers. If that wasn't enough for Aggie fans to swallow, consider the rest of the field has thinned out considerably over the past few weeks, and is poised to do more of the same on Saturday night.
QBs Collin Klein and Geno Smith square off in Morgantown, and the winner likely takes a step forward in making things clearer. Braxton Miller was knocked out of Ohio State's game with Purdue following a hard takedown in the fourth quarter, and wasn't having a great game before the injury.
De'Anthony Thomas tumbled after his small game against Arizona State, although the Oregon Ducks were able to pick up the big win on the road.
Manziel is a bright young talent for coach Kevin Sumlin. The redshirt freshman will be around for a long time in this new Texas A&M offense.
His numbers will be great at the end of season. But with games against Alabama, Mississippi State and Missouri still on the schedule, it's hard to project this young man as anything but a bright spot this season after his performance on the big stage.
Pencil in Manziel as an early Heisman candidate next season, when another year of the benefit of SEC recruiting and the maturation of some of this young Aggies talent will make this an exciting team all the way around.
As the Aggies prepare for tougher games against more SEC opponents, hopefully Manziel will be able to use this stinker as a motivation toward the rest of this season, and any future chances he'll have at Heisman glory.