Johnny Manziel's Heisman Hopes Hinge on 2nd Half of Alabama Game

Alex BallentineFeatured ColumnistSeptember 14, 2013

COLLEGE STATION, TX - SEPTEMBER 14:  Johnny Manziel #2 of the Texas A&M Aggies looks to throw in the first quarter during a game against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Kyle Field on September 14, 2013 in College Station, Texas.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

An epic performance against the Alabama Crimson Tide sparked Johnny Manziel to a Heisman winning season in 2012. Now he'll need an epic second half comeback to make a similar statement against the Tide this year.

With all eyes on the SEC rematch between Manziel's Texas A&M Aggies and the Tide, Johnny Football immediately reminded folks why he became college football's biggest star last season. He led the Aggies right down the field on their first and second drive as the Aggies raced out to a 14-0 lead. 

As ESPN Stats & Info pointed out, it was Manziel's ability to not only hurt defenses with his feet, but connect on deep passes:

Johnny Manziel is 3-of-3 for 101 yards on throws of 20 or more yards downfield today.

— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 14, 2013

The Crimson Tide wouldn't be denied, though. A.J. McCarron, who could challenge Manziel for Heiman votes, threw a pair of touchdown passes himself to even the game at 14. 

Not to be outdone, Manziel responded by pulling off one of the most "Johnny Football" plays of his career, evading an Alabama pass rusher on 3rd and 8 to heave an ill-advised pass down field that found Edward Pope for a 12-yard gain and first down. 

Although the pass may have been deemed "lucky" there's no questioning that Manziel's ability to get away from pressure is incredible. It's what makes him the most electrifying athlete in college football. 

Unfortunately for Manziel, tossing it up against the Bama secondary eventually has its consequences. After getting the ball all the way down to the four-yard line, Manziel's attempt at a back shoulder fade was intercepted by Cyrus Jones in the end zone. 

The interception would prove to be extremely costly. Alabama would end up seizing the lead with a touchdown on the next drive to take the score to 21-14. 

A sack by Alabama's A'shawn Robinson would set up a quick three-and-out for A&M as the Aggies were forced to punt the ball away. T.J. Yeldon would make the Aggies pay for that inefficiency on offense as they took almost all of the remaining eight minutes of the half to march down the field and score another touchdown to make it 28-14 for the defending champions. 

Manziel finished the first half with 17-of-22 passing for 249 yards with a touchdown and an interception and 61 rushing yards. He finished the game 28-of-39 for 464 yards with five touchdowns and two interceptions and 98 yards on the ground. 

Down two touchdowns going into the second half against a team as good as the Crimson Tide fans are about to see what Manziel is made of. If he can complete the second half comeback he'll be the odds-on favorite to repeat as the Heisman Trophy winner. 

If he struggles to get the Aggies offense off the ground, the Heisman race will be as wide open as ever.