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So Long, Johnny Football!

Quarterback's late game heroics end likely final season on high note
Rod Machen, 7:51am, Thu. Jan. 2

Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel should announce his intentions shortly as to his availability for the NFL draft. Tuesday night at the Chick-Fil-A Bowl in Atlanta, he wrote a fitting final chapter of his short, spectacular collegiate career.

Down three touchdowns to Duke at the end of the first half, the Aggies went wild in the second to secure a 52-48 victory.

The key player in the comeback, as usual, was Manziel. He threw (30-38 for 382 yards), ran (11 for 73), and willed the Aggies to a win in a supremely exciting game.

Stats are only half the story. Manziel gave the announcers plenty to gush about all night. On one unforgettable play, he attempted to hurdle a Duke defender, but didn't quite make it over the player. Instead of falling down, he landed, quickly uprighted, circled to his left, and found a wide open Travis Labhart for a touchdown. Jaw-dropping, head-shaking stuff.

More amazing than Manziel was the fourth quarter play of the much maligned Aggie defense. Time after time the unit broke down, allowing five touchdowns in the first half. But they stepped up in crunch time. In the span of five minutes late in the fourth quarter, the Aggie defense intercepted Blue Devil quarterback Anthony Boone twice, sealing the win with minutes to spare before midnight.

The game started auspiciously for the boys in maroon and white. After driving into Duke territory, star wide receiver Mike Evans got flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct after he thought he had been interfered with and let loose with some choice words for the officials. The resulting penalty pushed the Ags back fifteen yards, and Josh Lambo proceeded to miss the ensuing field goal. A couple drives later, the Blue Devils blocked a punt.

The second half was a different story. The defense got a couple stops, and Manziel worked near-flawlessly up the field. It wasn't until the first interception, a pick-six by nickelback Toney Hurd, that the Aggies finally took the lead. The second interception, this one by LB Nate Askew, was the result of a cornerback blitz by Deshazor Everett. Causing two turnovers was a fantastic way to end the year for a squad that struggled early and often.

With Manziel almost certainly gone – as well as Evans, his main target – the Aggies will have a very different look next year. Defensively, that could be a blessing, but only time will tell if excellent recruiting turns into similarly excellent play on the field. For now, a season-ending victory – a thrilling one at that – will have to hold Aggie fans until the 2014 season arrives.

It’s only eight months away.

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