In what may be his final home game as an Aggie, Johnny Manziel walked away with a comfortable 51-41 victory over Mississippi State.
Although Texas A&M (8-2) started slowly, it came on strong toward the end of the first quarter and didn't look back against the Bulldogs (4-5).
Manziel might dominate the highlights, but his performance was overshadowed by that of Sam Moeller. As he has in every game this season, the sophomore walk-on defensive back was designated as the 12th man for the Aggies, only this time, he made his presence felt in a big way.
Not content to be anonymous in the final home game of the season, Moeller came up with what was arguably the play of the game by blocking a punt with 1:28 to go in the first quarter.
Prior to that, the game was tied 7-7.
A&M scored first, after Manziel tossed a 12-yard touchdown pass to Malcome Kennedy. Josh Robinson followed up with a 51-yard touchdown run on the first play of the Bulldogs' next drive, via SEC on CBS.
Then the time came for Moeller to take center stage.
Manziel threw an interception at the Mississippi State 1-yard line to squander what was a great chance to score. With their offense backed up in the end zone, the Bulldogs offense wasn't able to move the ball and went three-and-out.
That also meant Bulldogs punter Devon Bell didn't have much room to work with. Moeller burst through the line and blocked the punt. The ball went out of the end zone for a safety.
Following the ensuing kickoff, the Aggies got great field position. Just four plays into the drive, they were in the end zone and up 16-7. Manziel was the driving force, completing three of four passes for 62 yards. The quick drive was capped off with a 33-yard pass from the sophomore signal-caller to Travis Labhart.
With that touchdown, Manziel has now gone 16-straight games with two or more total touchdowns, via ESPN Stats & Info.
Johnny Manziel now has at least 2 TD responsible for in 16 straight games, longest active FBS streak. Nobody else has more than 8 straight.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 9, 2013
Mississippi State looked like it might be clawing its way back into the game when it scored a touchdown with 54 seconds left in the half to make it 16-14. The touchdown was notable for how it was scored.
Dan Mullen used the jump pass that he had so much success with at Florida while Tim Tebow was under center. Dak Prescott tucked the ball and was looking to run, before quickly finding De'Runnya Wilson in the end zone.
Unwilling to let the Bulldogs have too much fun, the Aggies mounted a 38-second drive capped off with yet another Manziel-to-Labhart connection for a touchdown. Just like that, Texas A&M was carrying a 23-14 lead into the half.
That quick TD was a microcosm of the entire game. The Aggies did enough to keep the Bulldogs at a distance, and anytime Mississippi State built any momentum, A&M was there to kill it.
The second half was much of the same.
The Aggies took a 30-14 lead with Malcome Kennedy's second touchdown catch of the game, this one going for 21 yards.
That touchdown was Manziel's fourth of the game, which marked his fourth game in a row where he hit that number. He's the first quarterback in the SEC to do that in the last 10 years.
Johnny Manziel now has 4 Pass TD in 4 straight games for the 1st time in his career. He's the only SEC QB in the last 10 seasons to do so.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 9, 2013
Mississippi State cut the deficit to 30-20 with 44 seconds left in the third quarter when Prescott hit LaDarius Perkins for a 12-yard touchdown pass. The Bulldogs went for, and failed, the two-point conversion.
But once again, A&M responded. Following the kickoff return, Manziel connected with Mike Evans for 75 yards, putting the ball on the Bulldogs 15-yard line. Trey Williams ran it in on the next play to make it 37-20.
Prescott wasn't done, though. On the next play from scrimmage, he broke free for a 44-yard run to get down to the A&M 31-yard line to end the third quarter. Sensing an opportunity, Mullen opted for some trickery. Wideout Jameon Lewis hooked up with Joe Morrow for a 31-yard touchdown pass to again get the Bulldogs within 10 points just seven seconds into the final quarter.
As they did the entire game, the Aggies fired back. Williams took the ensuing kickoff 97 yards to the house; however, his flip into the end zone drew a 15-yard penalty, meaning the ball was taken back to the 18-yard line.
That was no problem for Texas A&M. It was just more yards to add to the stat sheet. Manziel got his fifth touchdown of the day—a two-yard pass to Nehemiah Hicks.
With that score, the Aggies essentially closed the door on Mississippi State. Try as they might, the Bulldogs couldn't stop the A&M offense consistently enough to stage a comeback.
Key Player Grades
Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M: B+
It's shocking just how numb many fans have become toward Johnny Manziel's performances. It's almost expected of him to have 400 yards and five touchdowns every game. He finished with 446 yards and five touchdowns passing to go along with 47 yards rushing.
His three interceptions could've ended up looking much worse had the Bulldogs offense been able to take advantage. The two picks in the red zone were especially frustrating. He'd have a higher grade were it not for those turnovers.
At least Manziel was able to surpass 3,000 yards on the season, becoming the first Texas A&M player to do it twice, via A&M football's Twitter account.
Johnny Manziel surpasses 3,000 passing yards for the season ... He is the first Aggie to ever do it twice. #MSSTvsTAMU— Texas A&M Football (@AggieFootball) November 9, 2013
Even when he's off his game, Johnny Football is still one of the best players in college football.
Sam Moeller, Texas A&M: A
While this is mostly a sentimental grade, Sam Moeller did make a play that swung the game almost immediately toward the Aggies. It erased any damage done by Manziel's interception and then gave the offense another chance to score.
As much as it helped the team, that play was all about Moeller. That blocked punt is a moment he can cherish forever.
Dak Prescott, Mississippi State: A
Dak Prescott did about everything humanly possible to keep Mississippi State in this game. Especially in the second half, the sophomore stepped up at all the right moments. Whether it was with his feet or with his arm, Prescott found the holes in the Aggies defense.
He finished with 158 passing yards and three touchdowns, complemented by his 154 rushing yards.
Were it not for the efficiency of the A&M offense, Prescott might have been able to make this a closer game.
And all of this was done after Prescott attended his mother's funeral on Wednesday, via ESPN.com's Joe Schad.
The Aggies have a week to recover, which could be big for Manziel, as he didn't look healthy on Saturday. In two weeks' time, A&M travels to Death Valley for a tough game against LSU.
Mississippi State might have to wait a while to get back to .500. The Bulldogs welcome in the top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide next Saturday.