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Texas A&M Handles UTEP

Easy win showcases Manziel's theatrics, Aggies' improving defense
Rod Machen, 11:27am, Mon. Nov. 4, 2013

The concept of the money game is simple: The big school pays the little school to play an acknowledged non-competitive game. Thus is the nature of big-time college football. The local economy needs a certain number of home games, and small-budget teams need these paychecks to fund their school’s athletic department.

When the Texas A&M Aggies beat the Miners of the University of Texas at El Paso 57-7 to go to 7-2 on the year, it evidenced this arrangement was simply in effect. Even so, some interesting storylines developed while another one got shut down prematurely.

The Aggies got off to a slow start offensively, something so rare in the Kevin Sumlin era that it seemed far more extreme than it was. The first points were actually scored by the defense, when safety Floyd Raven, Sr. blocked a punt into the end zone for a safety.

The two teams traded touchdowns before the brakes fell off the mine car. During an eight-minute stretch in the second quarter, the Ags scored four touchdowns, sandwiched around three UTEP turnovers. A too-close contest turned into a boat race by halftime with the Aggies up 36-7.

Scoring in bunches is nothing new for this offense, but the defense showing up in this manner certainly was. On the night, they caused four turnovers and held the Miners to less than 200 total yards. Young players like LB Darian Claiborne and DE Daeshon Hall are getting more playing time and evidently using it to full advantage.

Both QB Johnny Manziel and WR Mike Evans started off out-of-sync, with sloppy drops and overthrown balls. By the time they took their seats in the third quarter, Manziel (16-24 for 273 yards) had rushed for two TDs and thrown for four more, including a 26-yard strike to Evans.

The most exciting play of the night came, unsurprisingly, thanks to a contribution from Manziel. On a third-quarter play reminiscent of the good old days of 2012, Johnny Football evaded a blitz by escaping the pocket then turning upfield for 49 yards and a score, dodging defenders like a skier racing through slaloms. Manziel has a made a conscious effort to stay in the pocket more all year, which made this play all the more special.

The UTEP quarterback position was supposed to be front and center in this game. Jameill Showers, Manziel’s back up last year, transferred for a chance to start before his eligibility ran its course. This was scheduled to be his return to Kyle Field, but an injury last week against Rice put him out of commission. Even though he’s a Miner right now, Showers has already earned his degree and Aggie Ring, and even joined his former teammates for the post-game War Hymn.

The night had a scary moment when Aggie RB Tra Carson sustained a painful neck injury in the fourth quarter and had to be removed from the field on a stretcher. A silent stadium watched as the ugly side of college football reared its troubled head once again. (Early indications are that Carson is fine and will make a complete recovery.)

Next week the Aggies face Mississippi State for what they hope will be the program’s 700th all-time win, a total that would make them the 18th team in FBS history to achieve this milestone.

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