COLLEGE STATION — The legend of ‘Johnny Football’ continues to grow.
Texas A&M freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel bolstered his Heisman Trophy campaign Saturday by throwing three touchdowns and running for two more after missing four plays in the first quarter with a knee injury.
Manziel combined for 439 yards of total offense in No. 9 Texas A&M’s 59-29 rout of Missouri at Kyle Field for the Aggies’ first 10-win season since 1998.
“At the beginning of the season, I said that Johnny would win the Heisman and I think he should win it,” said A&M senior receiver Kenric McNeal. “Have you ever seen anybody like Johnny? I think he is the only person in the world that can do what he does. You can’t teach what he does. I think he deserves it, freshman or not.”
Texas A&M (10-2, 6-2 Southeastern Conference) led 14-0 when Manziel had his knee twisted on a tackle by Missouri defensive back E.J. Gaines following a 7-yard run. He returned for the first play of the second quarter and completed 12 of 15 passes for 121 yards and three touchdowns to give the Aggies a 42-7 lead at halftime. He scored rushing touchdowns of 18 and 1 yards in the second half.
Manziel was 32-of-44 passing for 372 yards with one interception and ran for 67 yards to lead the Aggies to their fifth straight win and first over their fellow Big 12 defectors since 2006.
“I consider all of us blue-collar guys. We roll our sleeves up and work hard for what we get,” said A&M senior defensive lineman Spencer Nealy. “It’s been a phenomenal season. It makes me proud to be a part of it. It’s been absolutely extraordinary.”
Missouri (5-7, 2-6 SEC) played without starting quarterback James Franklin, who suffered a head injury in the Tigers’ loss to Syracuse last week and still showed concussion symptoms before game time Saturday. Redshirt freshman quarterback Corbin Berkstresser was 20-of-38 for 276 yards passing with two touchdowns and one interception, but the Tigers had just 154 yards of offense at halftime. Manziel had compiled nearly 300 by that point and the Aggies finished with 647 total yards.
“They have scored a lot of points against a lot of teams this year,” said Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel of the Aggies. “We are talking about a great quarterback. Johnny made most of his plays running around back there just like John Elway used to do for Stanford. The things he did to us he did to a lot of people.”
On his first play back from the injury, Manziel completed a 13-yard pass to Ben Malena that broke the SEC single-season total offense record. Manziel has 4,600 yards of total offense so far this season to top Cam Newton’s previous mark of 4,327 yards set in 2010 when the former Auburn quarterback won the Heisman Trophy and the BCS National Championship. Manziel finished the drive with a 4-yard touchdown pass to Ryan Swope.
For his second and third passing scores, Manziel showed off the elusiveness that has the freshman contending for college football’s most coveted individual award. He eluded two sure-fire sacks to throw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Malcome Kennedy for a 35-0 lead. He found Uzoma Nwachukwu on an 8-yard score after scrambling around the pocket and reversing field once for a 42-0 lead with 3:33 left in the half.
Manziel wrapped his two rushing touchdowns around a Taylor Bertolet 50-yard field goal for a 59-23 lead in the fourth quarter.
“I think you put Johnny’s number against anybody in a single season — not just this year, but any year, anybody who has ever played the game — and they speak for themselves,” said Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin. “It doesn’t matter what year you are, you’re talking about the types of numbers. You put that in perspective with the league that we’re playing in, I think the combination of those two things tell you all the things you need to know about voting.”
Kendial Lawrence scored on a 4-yard run for Missouri before halftime. Andrew Baggett booted a 43-yard field goal to open the third quarter followed by touchdown throws of 74 and 25 yards by Berkstresser.
Christine Michael carried four times for 60 yards and scored his two touchdowns in the first quarter, including a 38-yarder on the play after Manziel’s injury for a 21-0 lead. Ben Malena scored on a 2-yard run in between Michael’s two scores.
Former Shoemaker quarterback Jameill Showers, who was the front-runner to be the Aggies’ starting quarterback this season, completed two of three passes for 35 yards playing in place of Manziel in the first quarter and finished 3-of-5 for 38 yards passing.
“He was a big question mark and when he was named starting quarterback, he took off from there and he hasn’t slowed down,” said A&M senior receiver Ryan Swope. “He is a tremendous player and has a passion for the game. He is exciting to watch and the scary thing is that he is only a freshman.”