For the second consecutive season, Texas A&M Aggies quarterback Johnny Manziel was stifled by the LSU Tigers defense in Saturday's 34-10 loss in Baton Rouge.
While the lackluster performance against a quality SEC opponent is a setback for both Manziel's Heisman Trophy hopes and his NFL draft prospects, the superstar sophomore will end his 2013 season on a high note.
Tigers defensive coordinator John Chavis is one of the best in college football and could easily have a head coaching job by now. His aggressive style combined with the slew of speedy athletes at his disposal has helped stymie Johnny Football.
ESPN Stats & Info highlighted the extent of the damage LSU did to Manziel:
Today was the 1st game in his career that Johnny Manziel did not complete at least 50% of his passes (39% today)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 24, 2013
The signal-caller completed just 16 of 41 passes for 224 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Manziel was off-target on several throws, including a potential early scoring toss to his best receiver, Mike Evans, that would've tied the game at seven.
But not all the blame can fall squarely on Manziel's shoulders. With the way the game unfolded, even the most majestic Johnny Football magic might not have been enough to turn the contest in the Aggies' favor.
For all of his pro-Manziel bias, ESPN personality Skip Bayless alluded to two keys that contributed to Texas A&M's disappointing offensive effort:
A&M fell behind fast, gave up awful 323 rush yards. LSU kept ball away from Manziel for 40:19 of clock to his 19:41.— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) November 24, 2013
Did Johnny Manziel lose his chance at the Heisman on Saturday?
LSU's rushing attack overwhelmed a putrid Aggies defense and allowed the Tigers to have an insurmountable command in time of possession.
According to NCAA.com, the Aggies defense ranks 107th out of 123 teams in the FBS in yielding 460.1 yards of total offense per game.
As the afternoon progressed, Manziel was forced into an increasing amount of obvious passing situations.
While his second interception came at a juncture in which the game was already out of hand, his first one was simply a misunderstanding between him and Evans. Manziel threw toward the sideline for a back-shoulder throw, while Evans continued to run upfield.
There wasn't much else to say when Manziel summarized what happened on both sides of the ball afterwards:
Johnny Manziel: "We got punched the mouth today and it wasn't fun." #LSU— Bruce Feldman (@BFeldmanCBS) November 24, 2013
That is the type of accountability that a star quarterback is expected to bear, even in embarrassing defeat. With such a bad defense to complement him, Manziel could have thrown his teammates under the bus but opted not to.
Manziel has dealt with borderline impossible expectations, immense controversy after an eventful offseason and intense scrutiny. He has passed all these tests with flying colors, and this was the first clunker game Manziel has really had since last season.
Gregg Doyel of CBSSports.com still felt that this game should not determine the entire perception surrounding Manziel:
This is not a good game, but big picture Johnny Manziel is the best college player I've seen since Barry Sanders.— Gregg Doyel (@GreggDoyelCBS) November 23, 2013
He's right, and that should be the perception of Heisman voters when they decide whether or not to give Manziel the award in back-to-back years. That should also be the perception of NFL draft scouts projecting where Manziel will go as a pro.
Even with Saturday's downer, Manziel still has completed 69.1 percent of his passes for 9.94 yards per attempt and accounted for 40 total touchdowns and 4202 yards of total offense.
The Aggies have a road trip to take on the Missouri Tigers in a marquee SEC clash, along with a bowl game. There is plenty of time for Manziel to redeem himself.
If the other games in Manziel's sensational sophomore campaign are any indication—along with the way he's bounced back from adversity in the past—the legend that is Johnny Football will continue to grow.