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A tough loss to the Auburn Tigers last week may have put Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel behind the eight ball in terms of his Heisman Trophy candidacy, but he and the Aggies bounced back in a big way on Saturday by blowing out Vanderbilt.
Manziel has been among the Heisman front-runners all season long after winning the award as a freshman last year, but he is no longer the favorite as Oregon signal-caller Marcus Mariota and Florida State gunslinger Jameis Winston has both surpassed him in that regard. Even so, Johnny Football proved on Saturday that he is still deserving of consideration.
It was unclear if Manziel would be able to play on Saturday after injuring his shoulder last week against Auburn, but he fought through the pain and played despite a questionable tag, according to Kristie Rieken of the Associated Press.
Manziel deserves a great deal of credit for simply playing in the game at all. The Aggies are still in the BCS hunt, but a run at the national championship is essentially impossible with two losses, so Manziel doesn't have much to gain.
He has everything to lose, though, as he is a potential first-round pick in the 2014 NFL draft. There has been plenty of talk in recent days about Manziel possibly taking it easy for the remainder of the season, and ESPN's Skip Bayless even suggested that he should sit out the rest of the year in order to preserve his body.
I wouldn't mind seeing JManziel shut it down rest of yr. Has knee/shoulder issues. Out of SEC/BCS race. Battles so hard. Why risk it?— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) October 25, 2013
Manziel played on Saturday, though, and he played extremely well. Before being lifted for backup Matt Joeckel late in the third quarter with Texas A&M enjoying a 42-17 advantage, Manziel put up some impressive numbers. He completed 25 of his 35 attempts for 305 yards, four touchdowns and just one interception.
Johnny Football took it easy on the running front as he picked up just 11 yards on four carries, but he continued to prove that he can excel as a pocket passer. Manziel silenced his critics early in Saturday's game as he decimated Vandy in the first quarter.
Manziel threw a touchdown each to Derel Walker, LaQuvionte Gonzalez and Mike Evans in the opening frame as the Aggies jumped out to a 21-0 lead. Things slowed down a bit from there, but Manziel threw another touchdown in the third quarter and had another essentially robbed as Travis Labhart fumbled at the one-yard line after catching a screen.
Who would you award the Heisman Trophy to if the season ended today?
Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin could have allowed Manziel to continue pouring it on in an effort to bolster his Heisman resume by keeping him in for the entire game, but he opted instead to give his star quarterback the rest he needs and deserves.
It's understandable why Manziel trails Mariota and Winston in the Heisman running right now since they are both having great seasons, and their teams are undefeated, but the win-loss record shouldn't be the main determining factor. The Heisman Trophy goes to the best college football player, and the case can be made the Manziel is precisely that, especially after decimating the Commodores despite a shoulder ailment.
Manziel will have to close things out with a strong month in order to win his second consecutive Heisman Trophy, but it isn't outside the realm of possibility.
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