There were no air signatures, no gestures to the scoreboard and no anxious sideline encounters with his head coach prompting the Internet to explode (again). In his final tune-up before the biggest game of the college football season—and for the first time in what seems like ages—it was all football for Johnny Football, and thank goodness for that.
No controversy, no layup topics for sports talk shows to navigate, no narrative to help drive interest in a week (and upcoming game) that requires no further hype; Johnny Manziel looked like, well, Johnny Manziel in Texas A&M’s 65-28 win against Sam Houston State.
He passed for 403 yards, rushed for 36 and found the end zone four times. Manziel scrambled plenty, moving from sideline to sideline, keeping plays alive for his wide receivers downfield. He was accurate, almost impossible to track down and nearly perfect on the night, albeit against a team that will serve as a slightly different obstacle than the one next week.
Still, this was familiar. This is what we've been waiting for.
His red-zone interception early on—as well as the struggles of the A&M defense—helped Sam Houston State keep it close for a while. In the second half, however, the Aggies pulled away, and Manziel didn’t see the field in the fourth quarter.
With that, the talk surrounding the Heisman winner and Texas A&M can stay squarely on football, which is welcome news for those in College Station and beyond.
Lost in the madness of his Twitter escapades, offseason celebrity tour and, of course, the autograph controversy was Johnny Football the exceptional football player. Even in Week 1, when Manziel entered in the second half, his electric play took a backseat to his hand gestures on the field and the columns and controversy that followed.
That wasn't the case in Week 2, however. This is what we’ve been waiting to see and discuss: football and football only.
The game of the year, Alabama vs. Texas A&M, is now within our grasp just in the nick of time. Johnny Manziel appears to be in midseason form already, although the Aggies are not without concerns.
The defense has struggled some in the first two weeks against inferior competition, and it will certainly need to take a dramatic step up next week. Sam Houston State finished with 240 yards on the ground (averaging 5.7 yards per carry) Saturday night, and Nick Saban was undoubtedly taking notes.
Alabama had its own batch of issues in the opener against Virginia Tech, although a well-timed bye week should help—particularly on the offensive line, which struggled mightily.
The matchups, strengths and weaknesses between Alabama and Texas A&M will be discussed at great length over the next seven days, and this football conversation is welcomed. It will be repetitive by the time it finally arrives, but it certainly beats the alternative conversations.
As for Johnny Manziel, it would appear all systems are go. After a performance that was reminiscent of his stat-sheet destruction of 2012, the talk that has hampered the football interests of fans can (hopefully) be tucked away for the next week, a week where it matters most. All eyes will be on College Station.
Next Saturday can’t get here soon enough.