Cotton Bowl 2013: Grading Performances from Texas A&M Blowout

Brian LeighFeatured ColumnistJanuary 5, 2013

ARLINGTON, TX - JANUARY 04:  (L-R) Johnny Manziel #2 of the Texas A&M Aggies celebrates a touchdown with Dustin Harris #22 against the Oklahoma Sooners during the Cotton Bowl at Cowboys Stadium on January 4, 2013 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The Texas A&M Aggies beat destroyed manhandled the Oklahoma Sooners in Friday night's Cotton Bowl, winning the storied game by a count of 41-13.

Pegged as one of the best matchups on this year's bowl docket, the game instead turned into a sermon at the Church of Manziel. Johnny Football looked sharp—if not sharper than ever in his first game post-Heisman—breaking a Cotton Bowl record with 516 total yards.

But although it occasionally felt that way, Johnny Manziel was, in fact, not the only player on the field on Friday night. Let's grade a number of the notable performances:


QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M: A++

What can you say that hasn't been said?

The numbers were amazing: 516 total yards, four touchdowns, one interception. And if not for a dropped pass in the end zone, those numbers could have (and probably should have) been 521 yards, five touchdowns, zero interceptions.

But even numbers that gaudy don't do justice to Manziel's eminence. Watching Johnny Football play is a purely visceral experience. Even without looking at the numbers, without having to quantify his performance, you could tell he was playing a historic game.

He makes the impossible look effortless.

His 200-plus yards in the air and on the ground join him with Vince Young as the only players to ever accomplish the feat in a bowl game. If he continues his mastery next season, he might soon be joining Herschel Walker in an elite club for two as well.


QB Landry Jones, Oklahoma: C+

I imagine the review of Jones' Cotton Bowl performance will closely resemble his review as an NFL prospect.  

Decent arm. Completes passes. Nothing special.

What happened to the Landry Jones who could stretch a football field? Even in a down year for the Big 12, and even after two consecutive 500-plus yard games in November, Jones still posted a three-year low in passing yards this season.

Friday night was more of the same. At first glance his 35 completions on 48 passes seem impressive.

But be honest: Do you remember a single one of them?

Did any single play jump off the screen and make you say "nice throw?"

It didn't help that he was playing opposite a human highlight reel. But 5.8 yards per pass is an unacceptable number—especially playing from behind.



WR Ryan Swope, Texas A&M: A

Mike Evans was Manziel's favorite target all season, and he had a nice game too. But Swope, the ultimate "quarterback-friendly" receiver, was the real weapon on Friday.

The uber-productive senior bid his career a fitting farewell in this one, finishing with eight catches, 104 yards and a touchdown. It was his first 100-yard game since the Aggies' upset win at Alabama.

Swope also made the game's biggest play late in the third quarter. Facing a 4th-and-5 in Oklahoma territory, Texas A&M opted to go for it, and Manziel found Swope on a quick slant over the middle.

He had the first down immediately, but for good measure he proceeded to shed the tackle and dash into the end zone. That pushed the score to 34-13 and effectively killed any hope the Sooners may have been harboring.


Future NFL Tackles: A

Manziel's greatness knows no bounds, but it goes worth mentioning how good the offensive line he plays behind is.

The Aggies' bookend tackles, Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews, are both projected to go in the first round of April's NFL draft. Joeckel, in particular, has scouts drooling and stands an outside shot of being picked first overall.

Oklahoma's got a pretty good one in senior Lane Johnson, too. He's not as highly regarded as Joeckel and Matthews, but he's a proficient run-blocker who should be gone by the third round.

This whole triumvirate was impressive on Friday in what could very well be all of their final college performances.