At first glance, Johnny Manziel failed to lead Texas A&M to a victory over Auburn in College Station, as the Tigers stunned the Aggies, 45-41.
But that hardly tells the whole story.
The Aggies in no way lost because of Manziel's performance. While two early interceptions certainly did not help Texas A&M, they were but a small issue that plagued Manziel and his team en route to a defeat:
It's hard to blame Manziel for a Charmin-soft Aggies defense that allowed the Tigers to roll up 615 yards of total offense, including 379 on the ground, as Auburn won the time of possession battle by almost a full five minutes.
As Greg Doyel of CBS Sports illustrates, Manziel should hardly see his pursuit of a second consecutive Heisman dashed:
It's not as if Manziel experienced any sort of statistical drop-off. Johnny Football went 28-of-38 for 454 yards and four touchdowns and was also the team's leading rusher with 18 carries for 48 yards and a touchdown.
Those runs were in no way by mistake. In fact, the majority were by design as a way to counter Auburn's explosive pass-rushers, who get up the field quickly.
This strategy put Manziel's body on the line, and in the end it cost him in the form of injury:
At first, Manziel looked to be a scratch from the rest of the contest, as noted by Jason McIntyre of The Big Lead:
Of course, as any Heisman-worthy narrative would have it, Manziel reentered the game and led the Aggies back down the field for a touchdown to recapture the lead:
Manziel's perfect Heisman moment was cut short, as the Texas A&M defense once again allowed Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall and Co. to march right on down the field with ease.
With a second chance at a Heisman moment with just over a minute left in regulation, Manziel led the Aggies to a few yards outside the red zone before his offensive line failed him on multiple occasions in the same set of downs:
Imagine that—we were a minute away from back-to-back Heisman-defining moments that would have solidified Manziel's second award in as many years barring a complete collapse the rest of the way.
Instead, Manziel had his second opportunity ripped from him.
It's hard to say the same for Manziel's Heisman competition. Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater failed to elevate his team over a mediocre UCF squad on Friday. Florida State's Jameis Winston and Clemson's Tajh Boyd have legit shots, but they don't play in a conference as tough as the SEC.
Even Oregon's Marcus Mariota is piling on the statistics in a passer-friendly offense, but he's doing so against average competition.
As NFL Network's Albert Breer points out, Manziel is dealing with the SEC:
Look at it this way—through five games, Mariota had amassed 1,724 yards and 25 total touchdowns. In that same time span, if we remove his half of play against Rice in the opener, Manziel threw for 1,741 yards and 16 total touchdowns.
Now, if Heisman voters believe Mariota or any other Trophy hopeful can throw five touchdowns against Alabama's defense, then so be it.
When all is said and done, voters will look back on this game and have one of two reactions: Either 500-plus yards of total offense and playing through an injury in a game that went down to the final moments against a quality SEC opponent isn't good enough for Manziel to win the Heisman...or it is.
The Heisman is an individual award. As a team, the Aggies failed. Manziel's gritty solo performance, however, was one for the ages and one fans surely will not forget for a long time.
Heisman voters shouldn't, either.
Follow B/R's Chris Roling on Twitter for more news and analysis @Chris_Roling
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