Texas A&M vs. Missouri: 10 Things We Learned in Aggies' Loss
The Texas A&M Aggies wrapped up their regular season with a 28-21 loss to Missouri on Saturday. The loss drops the Aggies to 8-4 on the season, 4-4 in SEC play.
Quarterback Johnny Manziel, coming off the worst performance of his career against LSU last week, completed 24 of 35 passes for just 195 yards. Manziel also rushed the ball 11 times for 21 yards. Missouri's defense consistently put pressure on Manziel and he didn't get a lot of help from his receivers.
The Aggies' defense was outstanding in the first half, holding the Tigers scoreless for much of the half. However, things changed on Missouri's first drive of the third quarter and A&M struggled to slow the Tigers down for most of the second half.
The loss ends a disappointing regular season for a team that came into 2013 with national title aspirations. While it may not be of much comfort to Aggie fans, three of the team's four losses came to teams currently ranked in the Top Five.
Here are 10 things we learned in Texas A&M's loss to Missouri on Saturday.
Johnny Football Wasn't Sharp
Against LSU last week, Manziel completed just 16 of 41 passes. It was, by far, his worst performance as the Aggies' quarterback in two years.
According to the Houston Chronicle, Manziel said last week he has been playing with an injured right thumb. Early in Saturday's game, Manziel was off with his accuracy. While he didn't seem to be favoring the thumb, the accuracy issues were a bit puzzling.
As the game progressed, Manziel seemed to settle down, but it was tough to fairly assess his accuracy. He was often pressured and had to settle for short, quick throws or throw the ball away to avoid a sack.
While Manziel wasn't as bad as he was last week, he still didn't look like the Johnny Football we've come to know over the last two years.
No Heisman Repeat for Manziel
After his dismal performance against LSU last week, Manziel's hopes to repeat as a two-time Heisman winner were seemingly dashed.
However, in a year where there is no clear-cut favorite, Manziel could have put himself back into the mix with a big game at Missouri. He didn't do so, therefore eliminating himself from contention.
Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston should win the Heisman, but his current legal situation could complicate things. Manziel repeating as the Heisman winner would have been exciting for the game, and up until last week, it looked like a real possibility.
Was This Manziel's Last Regular-Season Game as an Aggie?
All signs point to this being Manziel's last regular-season game for the Aggies.
Remember his notorious tweet before the season? ""Bulls--- like tonight is a reason why I can't wait to leave college station...whenever it may be."
After that tweet and him attending online classes because of his burgeoning celebrity, it was apparent his stay in College Station would come to an end once he completed three years of eligibility.
It has been a roller-coaster ride for Manziel in College Station, but in just two years, he became an Aggies' legend and the college game is better with him in it.
Aggies Have a Plethora of Talented Running Backs
Four different Texas A&M running backs carried the ball against Mizzou and the results were good: 24 carries, 163 yards and two touchdowns.
That begs the question, why didn't the Aggies run the ball more?
Brandon Williams, Trey Williams, Tra Carson and Ben Malena each carried the ball six times. Brandon Williams ran for 57 yards, while Trey Williams finished with 48.
The good news for Sumlin, three of those backs are sophomores. Trey Williams is the speedster, Brandon Williams does a little bit of everything and Carson is the power back who refuses to go down.
Regardless of who is playing quarterback next season, Sumlin needs to do a better job of incorporating his talented backs into the game plan each week.
Travis Labhart Was Solid
Senior Travis Labhart was Manziel's only consistent weapon in the loss to Missouri. Labhart finished the game with seven catches for 81 yards.
Often, when Manziel was under pressure, Labhart would work back to him and make clutch catches. He was the only receiver who did this consistently.
Labhart is far from the most talented Aggie wideout, but he was the most consistent on Saturday night.
Wide Receivers Struggled to Gain Separation
The Aggies finished the night with just 195 yards passing. The game plan was heavy on quick passes to help slow down Missouri's pass rush. So that explains, to an extent, the lack of downfield throws.
However, when Manziel did attempt to go downfield, he often had to scramble around only to eventually throw the ball away. His receivers—with the exception of Labhart—failed to get separation.
Manziel's longest throw of the night was the 32-yard touchdown pass to Derel Walker. Outside of that, the Aggies were devoid of the big plays that they've been known for over the last two years. Much of that was due to his receivers failing to get open or working back to him when he was under pressure.
Paging Mike Evans
The Aggies' star receiver, Mike Evans, finished the game with four receptions for eight yards. Evans looked disinterested at times and it was a bad time to have his worst performance of the season.
There were several occasions against Missouri where Manziel looked for Evans, only to find him locked down in single coverage. Evans rarely worked back to the quarterback and it hurt the passing game on a night when Manziel was constantly under pressure.
With all of the talk about Manziel going pro, there was also a lot of chatter about Evans leaving, too. If he plans on turning pro, he better turn it up a notch in the bowl game.
The Aggies Need to Build a Defense
Entering Saturday's game, Texas A&M was ranked No. 107 in total defense. The Aggies did little to improve that ranking by allowing 463 total yards to Missouri, including 225 on the ground.
If the Aggies expect to take the next step, the solution is rather simple: put together a quality defense.
It doesn't matter if Manziel returns or not, if the Aggies play defense next year like they did this season, the results will be the same. If Manziel does go to the NFL, A&M will have less margin for error in 2014.
Where Will the Aggies Play Next?
Now that the regular season is over, it's time to look at where Manziel could play his final collegiate game.
With a 4-4 record in the SEC, the Aggies are essentially at the mercy of bowl representatives. Having Manziel on the roster will make the Aggies an appealing choice for any bowl.
One projection that makes sense is the Chick-fil-A Bowl in Atlanta. The Chick-fil-A Bowl generally takes the ACC's No. 2 team, which could be either Clemson or Duke, and the SEC's No. 5 team. Depending on what happens in the BCS, the Aggies could be a fit in Atlanta.
How exciting would a matchup be between Tajh Boyd of Clemson and Manziel?
At Least Kevin Sumlin Is Staying Put—for Now
Earlier today, Texas A&M announced that head coach Kevin Sumlin had agreed to a six-year extension that should keep him in College Station for a long time.
Well, unless he pulls a Chip Kelly and decides to bolt to the NFL.
For now, though, with a big-time opening at USC, the Aggies wanted to lock Sumlin up for the foreseeable future. The bigger issue, and why Baylor also locked up Art Briles, is the potential vacancy at Texas in the near future. The Longhorns would be crazy not to covet Sumlin or Briles.
Now that it appears Sumlin will be back in College Station for the 2014 season, will Manziel return with him?