The Johnny Football the nation fell head over heels for last season has all but disappeared following Saturday's 28-21 loss to Missouri. Statistically, Johnny Manziel has been unbeatable, but Texas A&M's 8-4 record says otherwise, as the sophomore quarterback—along with seemingly the rest of his squad—has misplaced his clutch factor.
Last year, it caught no one off guard for Manziel to engineer a miraculous comeback, or stave off disaster with the flick of his wrist or slash of his cuts. Throughout the course of this season, though, Manziel has sustained four losses, three of which were within reach for his potent offense at some point late in the game.
Instead of SportsCenter-worthy rallies, Manziel and the Aggies fell short.
Defensively, the loss of crucial senior leadership and the infusion of inexperienced, but talented, freshmen has made the unit, as a whole, unreliable. Moments of positive exposure has helped put a gleam on the season—i.e., holding Ole Miss to a three-and-out in a game-deciding drive—but the overall performance has been subpar by SEC standards.
The absence of a "clutch factor" has been the difference between an 11-1 regular season and an 8-4 year, as the magic from last season's double-digit win total has obviously faded. The key separation between this and last year's finishes?
Surprise. The Aggies have lost it, as their explosive entrance into the conference following July 2012's official realignment painted a target on the program's back. Every team gave A&M its best shot, and in four cases, got the better of the Aggies.
No one knew who Manziel was until he burst onto the stage midway through last season, and not a single expert believed A&M stood a chance against its SEC competition. Instead, the Aggies surprised just about everyone, upsetting top-ranked Alabama and finishing the season in the Top Five of the BCS.
With Manziel at the helm, though, A&M's expectations for this year have fallen short, despite starting the year in the Top 10. The surprise has faded, and so have Manziel's clutch capabilities on the field.