By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Ole Miss defensive players have a plan for “Johnny Football.”
If they execute the way they did against Alabama, they may slow down Texas A&Mquarterback Johnny Manziel and get to the fourth quarter in an SEC game, the next step, Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze says, for his rebuilding program.
“We have a lot of plays that we’ll always have somebody watching him,” Rebels safety Cody Prewitt said. “The defensive backs are going to really stay disciplined with our scramble rules, and if we do that and have somebody watching him all the time, we’re going to get him.”
Manziel, a redshirt freshman, has played in only four college games, but he hasn’t been gotten much.
The Aggies are seventh in the nation and lead the SEC in scoring offense at 48.3 points a game.
That’s an offense led by Manziel in both rushing and passing.
He had been scheduled to make his college debut on Aug. 30 against Louisiana Tech, weather conditions postponed the game that was set for Shreveport, La.
That left Manziel to take his first college snaps against Florida a week later. The Aggies lost 20-17, but Manziel held his own, rushing for 60 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries and completing 23-of-30 pass attempts for 1,094 yards. Since Florida, Manziel has thrown 10 touchdown passes – three in last weeks’ 58-10 drubbing of Arkansas – and has not thrown an interception this season.
“Based on results, he’s been pretty good. You see him getting better. That’s all part of it. As a young guy, you have to handle success at all positions, more so at quarterback. Like me, you get too much credit when you win and all the blame when you lose,” Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin said.
Struggling Arkansas is last in the SEC in total defense – giving up more than 500 yards a game – and in scoring defense.
Manziel’s other numbers have been put up against SMU and South Carolina State.
The Oxford trip will be Manziel’s second road game, the first away from home for all the Aggies against an SEC opponent.
Manziel has shown maturity on the football field but has not yet been made available to media.
Texas A&M offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury, who quarterbacked Texas Tech to a win over Eli Manning and the Rebels in Lubbock in 2002, believes Manziel’s work ethic will help prepare him for the SEC road.
‘Eager to learn’
“He’s a football player and he knows it’s his No. 1 priority. He shows up every week eager to learn and get better and I’ve been really excited about that.”
Manziel broke the SEC total offense record held by Archie Manning and former LSU quarterback Rohan Davey when he rushed for 104 yards and passed for 453 against Arkansas.
He accounted for four touchdowns, three passing and one rushing.
“We have to do a great job of keeping our rush lanes, because this quarterback can get out of the pocket and make plays with his feet,” Ole Miss defensive end C.J. Johnson said. “It’s a big challenge for us defensively, the way they showed themselves against Arkansas. Then going even farther back, we know they can throw it.”