The Texas A&M Football team ran the Oklahoma Sooners out of Cowboys Stadium in their 41-13 Cotton Bowl victory on January 4th. The game featured multiple outstanding performances by the upperclassmen on the Aggie football team.
The bowl win was the second in a row for A&M, but the first Cotton Bowl victory for the Ags since the 1988 Cotton Bowl against Notre Dame. The game represented a sort of exorcism of demons for the Aggies who have historically struggled against the Sooners.
Some early miscues kept the game close at the half, but A&M outscored OU, 27-0, in the second half to leave no doubt. The victory represented another example of the dominance of the Southeastern Conference, as the team tied for second place in the SEC West blew out the Big 12 co-champion.
If there was any question as to just how good this A&M team was, the Cotton Bowl victory was a resounding answer. This is a look at how each of the 22 starters in the game performed against the Sooners.
Johnny Football vs. Oklahoma
Manziel received an "A+" because there is not a higher grade. "Johnny Football" once again showed the nation why he is the best football player in all of college football.
He set another record with his 229 yards rushing, breaking the record for rushing yardage in a bowl game by a quarterback. Manziel averaged an impressive 13.5 yards per carry against the Sooners and scored two rushing touchdowns.
OU was never able to adjust to his speed. He was also effective through the air, completing 22 of 34 passes for 287 yards and two touchdowns. His 516 yards of total offense also set a record for total yardage in the Cotton Bowl.
His only mishap of the night was an interception of a perfectly thrown pass that went through Malcome Kennedy's hands. Manziel put on a show for the national audience. He showed that he was a deserving recipient of the Heisman Trophy.
Malena might have been underutilized in this game. He had a solid game with 56 yards rushing and a touchdown on eight carries but could do more with more touches. He caught two passes for 11 yards.
Malena only touched the ball 10 times in the game. The Aggies only ran 66 offensive plays, so there may have simply not been enough footballs to go around.
While Manziel gets a lot of the attention, Malena has quietly become a very good football player. He gave his typical solid effort in this game, averaging seven yards per carry and gashing the Sooner defense up the middle. Malena deserves a lot of credit for being such an unselfish teammate.
The senior receiver from Austin Weslake did not disappoint in his last game as an Aggie. Swope caught eight passes for 104 yards and a touchdown. The 104 yards receiving moved him past Jeff Fuller on the career receiving yardage list at A&M.
Swope now holds the school record for most receptions and most receiving yards in a career. The Sooners were simply unable to cover Swope. He was open for much of the first half, but Manziel struggled to find him.
In the second half, he and Manziel got on the same page and connected on a 33-yard touchdown pass that made the score 34-13 and sent the A&M crowd into a frenzy. Swope leaves the Aggies as one of the best receivers ever to play at the school and will now prepare for the NFL draft.
Uzoma Nwachukwu scores against Oklahoma.
Uzoma "EZ" Nawachukwu's career at A&M has been one that has been defined by inconsistency. Nwachukwu is a great athlete who always possessed the size and speed to be an elite receiver.
The problem was that he could not consistently catch the football. He had no such issues against the Sooners, however. Nwachukwu caught all three passes thrown to him, racking up 81 receiving yards and a touchdown.
Nwachukwu evidently likes to play in the Cotton Bowl, because he had two receiving touchdowns in the 2011 Cotton Bowl against LSU. The senior from Allen went out on a high note. It will be interesting to see if he catches the eye of any NFL scouts. He has the size and speed that the scouts love, but the hands are an issue.
Lamothe was not active in the passing game. He spent the game blocking out of the backfield and on the edge for an A&M running attack that totaled 326 yards and averaged 10.5 yards per carry.
Lamothe did the dirty work that only coaches and teammates appreciate. He has been a very good blocker and all-around football player during his last four years in Aggieland. He is the type of player whom all winning programs have on their team.
Matthews blocked for an offensive line that helped the Aggies average over 10 yards per carry and did not allow a sack. He is one of the best offensive tackles in the country and displayed that again against the Sooners.
Matthews lined up against Geneo Grissom for much of the game. The OU defensive end finished the game with one total tackle. Matthews and the entire offensive line dominated the Sooners' front seven.
Cedric Ogbuehi blocks against OU
The Aggies' offensive line dominated the Sooners, and Ogbuehi was a big part of that. He helped open up holes on the interior for the Aggies running backs and Manziel to run through. He did a great job in pass protection and helping give Manziel time to find his receivers.
Ogbuehi is a tremendous offensive lineman who would be playing left tackle in most programs. He is playing guard because the Aggies have the two best offensive tackles in the nation. Ogbuehi is a redshirt sophomore, so he will be in Aggieland for at least one more season.
Patrick Lewis is one of the most underrated offensive linemen in the nation. He calls all the line signals for one of the top offenses in the country. The Aggies offense does not work if the line is not strong up the middle, and Lewis is very solid in the middle.
Lewis was part of the offensive line that helped the Aggies run up over 600 yards on Oklahoma. He has started all four of the years he has been in Aggieland and will be missed next year when he moves on to the NFL.
If you watch the Aggie offense for any period of time, you will notice that the majority of the running plays go towards the left. That is because Harrison and Luke Joeckel are on the left side.
The redshirt sophomore had a very good game against OU. He has consistently gotten better as the season has wore on. Harrison will end the 2013 season as one of the top offensive guards in the SEC and country.
Luke Joeckel is the best left tackle in the country. He won the Outland Trophy as the best lineman in the country because he dominated all season. He had his typical game against OU.
He was dominant in what was likely his last game at A&M. Joeckel lined up against Chuka Ndulue for most of the game and limited him to two total tackles.
Joeckel is one of the most dominating offensive linemen to ever put on an A&M uniform. He will likely be a top-five pick in the 2013 NFL draft. Joeckel defined excellence with his play during the Aggies' inaugural season in the SEC.
Mike Evans had a solid game against the Sooners. He caught seven passes for 83 yards. Evans had a particularly impressive grab during the second touchdown drive of the third quarter. He came back to the ball while double covered and snatched it out of the air for a 15-yard completion to the Sooner 38-yard line.
Evans has developed into a reliable target who is as strong as any receiver in the country. He had a play against OU where he gave a Sooner defensive back a stiff arm and simply pushed the Sooner into the ground. He did not come up with a couple passes that he would normally catch, but he still had a very good game.
He is a physical mismatch for almost any defensive back in the nation. He and Manziel have formed one of the best pass-catching combinations in the country.
Alonzo Williams is a true freshman defensive end who was forced into the starting lineup when Julien Obioha was injured during bowl practices. Obioha is also a true freshman who started all 12 games of the regular season.
Williams played in the last five games of the regular season as a backup. Williams did not register a tackle in the game but was solid. He started at defensive end with the Aggies opening the game in a 33-stack defense with only three defensive linemen on the field.
Williams struggled at times to keep containment against the Sooners. As the game went on, he played better and better. He did very well for a true freshman in his first start. Do not be surprised to see Williams add some weight and move inside to defensive tackle in 2013.
Spencer Nealy vs. Oklahoma
Spencer Nealy is the emotional leader of the A&M defense. The senior defensive tackle surpassed all expectations by becoming a solid starter at defensive tackle for the entire season in 2012.
Nealy had a very good game against OU, with five total tackles. He led all defensive players in the game with 1.5 tackles for loss. He was the primary reason that the Aggies held the Sooners running game to 3.6 yards per carry.
Nealy has become a fan favorite because of his relentless play. He will be missed on and off the field by Aggies fans.
Damontre Moore played his last game in an Aggie uniform in the Cotton Bowl, as he has decided to forgo his senior season in order to enter into the NFL draft. Moore had a solid game against Oklahoma.
He finished the game with five tackles and a tackle for loss. He was double-teamed for much of the game and was held on numerous occasions. Moore had a solid game but nothing more.
He will likely be a top-15 pick in the 2013 draft and should have a very good career on Sundays.
Steven Jenkins is one of the unsung heroes of this Aggie team. He has excelled during his junior season and has been a big part of the Aggie defense holding up against the run in the SEC.
Jenkins had eight tackles in the game with half a tackle for loss. He did a solid job against the run and pass against the Sooners. Jenkins will be the only returning starter at linebacker in 2013. He is one of the better linebackers in the SEC.
Stewart is another senior who showed well in his last game in an Aggie uniform. He registered nine tackles and a quarterback hurry against OU. The hurry came on a third-down play in the fourth quarter when Stewart came untouched on a well-timed blitz and forced OU quarterback Landry Jones to throw an incompletion.
Stewart had a very strong senior season at A&M. He may get some looks by NFL scouts. He was part of the linebacker corps that was the backbone of the Aggie defense.
Sean Porter finished out his career in style. The senior outside linebacker had six tackles and the Aggies' only sack against the Sooners. Moore was the big part of a defense that shut out the Sooners in the second half.
He was very effective in coverage and against the run. Moore played in every single game of his career. He is a great college football player, who will move on to the NFL in 2013. He should be taken in the first three rounds of the 2013 draft.
Tony Hurd Jr. is normally the Aggies' nickelback. He enters the game on expected passing downs. Hurd started the game as the third cornerback because the Aggies ran a 33-stack scheme against OU.
Hurd had nine tackles against the Sooners. Good things tend to happen for the A&M defense when Hurd is on the field. He had a couple of tackles for no gains on OU running backs. Hurd was extremely strong against the Sooners' running game.
Aggie fans should expect Hurd to compete for a starting spot at safety in 2013.
Dustin Harris saved the best for last. The senior cornerback played one of the best games of his career, in his last career game. Harris led the Aggies with 10 total tackles. He had a very important interception of Landry Jones in the first half with the Sooners driving while down 14-6.
Harris returned the interception 22 yards. It was Harris' best game since the Independence Bowl his freshman season when he shut down A.J. Green.
Harris has struggled with consistency during his career in Aggieland. He picked a heck of a game to play his best in. Harris will likely get a look by NFL scouts because of his size and speed. Do not be surprised to see him catch on with an NFL team next Fall.
Deshazor Everett is the best football player in the A&M secondary. He can play corner or safety for the Aggies and has done both this season.
Everett had nine total tackles against the Sooners. He did miss a couple of tackles against the Sooners which is rare for him. He is a very physical defensive back and is usually a sure tackler.
Everett will return in 2013 as one of the defensive leaders for the Aggies. He should be a future all-conference type player.
Howard Matthews has improved as much as any player on the A&M team during the season. He has always been tough against the run, but his coverage skills have improved as the season has gone on.
Ever since the Alabama game, Matthews has played like a different player. Matthews had a very good game against Oklahoma. He had nine tackles and was often the last line of defense against the Sooner offense.
Matthews and Harris were the most consistent players in the Aggies' secondary against OU.
Steven Terrell played the last game of his career in the Cotton Bowl. He had three tackles against the Sooners and had a couple of missed tackles.
Terrell started all of the games of his senior season. He had a solid senior year, and his consistent play at safety will be missed. He did not have a great game against OU, but he can take pride in knowing that he and his classmates helped turn the A&M program around.