No. 24 Duke and No. 21 Texas A&M refused to wait until midnight to start the fireworks.
The two teams combined for 1,202 total yards of total offense and 100 points during Tuesday night's Chick-fil-A Bowl, but it was a fourth-quarter pick-six by Toney Hurd Jr. that capped a 21-point A&M comeback and propelled the Aggies to a scintillating 52-48 win in a (really, really) late contender for the best game of 2013.
Of the 22 total drives in this one, 12 went for touchdowns (13 if you count the pick-six), and 15 featured points. There was a whopping one punt all game, which came in the first quarter.
In what many believe was his collegiate swan song, Johnny Manziel put on a next-level show. He completed 30 of 38 throws for 382 yards and four touchdowns and ran for another 73 yards and a score, leading the Aggies back from a 21-point halftime deficit.
From Manziel's unbelievable throws to his motivation of his teammates on the sideline to his game-changing plays, Hollywood honchos couldn't write a better ending for the game's MVP.
Johnny Manziel: 1st career game with 300+ passing yards, 4 TD & 0 INT— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 1, 2014
It wasn't easy, though.
Anthony Boone threw for 427 yards and tallied four total touchdowns for Duke. In the first half, he carved up an A&M defense that resembled a colander—which may be an insult to colanders—but he came up just short of giving the Blue Devils their first bowl win since the 1960 season.
The Blue Devils scored on all six of their possessions in the first half, with the first five going for touchdowns and the sixth—following a surprise onside kick—only going for a field goal because they ran out of time.
David Cutcliffe's squad entered the locker room with a 38-17 lead.
But the Aggies didn't quit. The defense began to string together some stops in the second half, and it opened up an opportunity for Manziel to work some of his magic.
After a slow start, he led the Aggies on six straight touchdown drives, including four consecutive in the second half to cut the deficit to 48-45 with 5:44 remaining.
Five plays later, Texas A&M's defense finally delivered, as Hurd picked off the previously red-hot Boone and went 55 yards down the sideline for the game-winning score:
It's a disappointing defeat for Duke, but Cutcliffe has done an unbelievable job, and his boys should hold their heads high:
When David Cutcliffe took over at Duke the Blue Devils' ACC record the previous eight seasons was 3-61.— Tony Barnhart (@MrCFB) January 1, 2014
As for the Aggies, this marks a third straight bowl win. All eyes now turn to (or stay on) Manziel, whose decision regarding the NFL draft will help determine whether or not they can make it four in 2014.
Anthony Boone, Duke: B+
It's probably important to note that Texas A&M's secondary made this seem like a walk-through for Boone and the Blue Devils, but that shouldn't take away from his performance. He simply made a bad defense look even worse with some absolutely stellar play.
While the junior QB may have been dealing with soft coverage, he was getting the ball out quickly, hitting receivers in stride and delivering some absolute dimes on long balls. Exhibit A:
Also, he was on another planet on third downs:
Anthony Boone is now 11 for 11 on 3rd-down throws for 8 first downs— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 1, 2014
Two late interceptions, one of which went for a pick-six on a poor decision, are likely what most will remember, which is unfortunate. For almost every other play of the game, Boone was terrific.
Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M: A+
Johnny Football did everything that could be imagined.
Duke brought lots of pressure on later downs in an attempt to keep Manziel in the pocket (of course, he still managed to rack up 73 rushing yards on the night), but he took it in stride and looked terrific throwing the ball.
He slightly missed on a couple of deep balls early in the game, but Manziel made the right reads, worked through his progressions and connected on countless big-time throws, including this silly-good toss late in the fourth quarter:
Ridiculous throw— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) January 1, 2014
That was a ridiculous pass, doh.— Vincent Frank (@VincentFrankNFL) January 1, 2014
Manziel reinforced the claim that he is much more than a running quarterback: He's a throwing quarterback who can make enthralling, transcendent, elusive plays with his legs, such as this one, which will be replayed for a long time:
College football will miss Johnny Football.
Josh Snead, Duke: A
You want versatility? Josh Snead ran for 104 yards and this electric touchdown:
He also caught three passes for 21 yards and another touchdown—and he blocked a punt late in the first quarter. It's tough to make more of a wide-ranging impact than that.
Mike Evans, Texas A&M: C+
It was a roller-coaster game for Evans.
On the one hand, he made some terrific grabs, pulling down three throws that went for 15 yards or more. He finished with four catches and 72 yards.
On the other, though, he had two early unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, and on those two drives, the Aggies finished with a missed field goal and a punt. Those were the only two drives of the game on which Texas A&M didn't come away with points.
Looking to improve his draft stock, this likely wasn't the kind of night Evans anticipated.