Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports
The most highly anticipated debut for any player in the country had to wait until the third quarter as Johnny Manziel had to sit out the first half against the Rice Owls for his autograph saga.
His presence was felt immediately as he scrambled for 12 yards on his first play. He finished 6-of-8 for 94 yards and three touchdowns, but was pulled in the fourth quarter after receiving an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for pointing to the scoreboard in an exchange with a Rice player.
The Aggies are happy to know they have a capable backup if anything ever happened to Johnny Football in Matt Joeckel. The junior threw for 190 yards on 14-of-19 attempts for one score in a very solid first half of football.
The Aggies had 486 yards of total offense, but it was overshadowed by a porous defense. The Owls racked up a blistering 509 yards of offense, most notably 306 on the ground. Rice had three rushers gain more than 50 yards, highlighted by Charles Ross' 107 yards and two scores.
Much of it had to do with a multitude of defenders being suspended, but even backups on an SEC team allowing those kind of numbers is alarming. Rice hung around until Manziel entered the game and they pulled away to win 52-31.
They face Sam Houston State Saturday, followed by the showdown verse Alabama next weekend.
This team has all the talent to compete for an SEC and national title, but at this point, Manziel has become a huge distraction and whether or not the Aggies can overcome all the drama is what stands between them and college football's ultimate prize.