Loss won’t knock Manziel off the national radar

Sports Commentary

The prayers of many seemed to be answered Saturday. But let me quickly throw in a note of caution.

For those of you suffering from the malady known as “Manziel Overload,” that is, getting sick and tired of hearing about Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, you got some good news Saturday. That’s because Manziel and the sixth-ranked Aggies lost the latest “Game of the Century,” falling 49-42 to No. 1 Alabama.

So the Aggies’ national-title hopes have taken a hit, meaning there will be less overwhelming coverage of every move made by “Johnny Football.”

But before you get too excited, don’t forget Alabama lost to A&M last year and still got to play for the national title. So the Aggies are not going to just disappear, as they could still factor into the championship chase if everything else goes their way.

“This wasn’t the Super Bowl,” Manziel said. “Alabama lost a game last year and still went on to win the national championship. Our season isn’t over.”

Neither is Manziel’s. Some pundits floated the idea before the contest if Manziel had a great game and led A&M past Alabama again, as soon as the game was over they should just hand the sophomore the Heisman Trophy for the second straight year. But that didn’t happen.

And other talking heads trying to drum up support for other Heisman candidates said a loss to Alabama would hurt Manziel’s chances of going back-to-back. Again, some perspective is in order.

Manziel didn’t get the win, but he didn’t exactly hurt his chances with his stat line. Yes, he did throw a pair of costly interceptions (including one that was returned for a touchdown), but he also completed 28-of-39 passes and threw for five touchdowns and a career-best 464 yards. Not exactly numbers to sniff at, especially considering the Alabama defense is usually one of the best in college football.

So while Manziel’s behavior both on the field (taunting and trash talking) and off (signing autographs for money and overall immature behavior) makes him unsympathetic, he’s certainly still a force to be reckoned with when it comes to the outcome of games.

Don’t believe me? Just listen to the man who returned that interception for a touchdown Saturday, Alabama’s Vinnie Sunseri.

“There’s a reason he won the Heisman,” Sunseri said. “He’s an unbelievable player, I don’t care what he does off the field. He has great receivers and everything. We knew it was going to go back and forth and we just had to try to slow him down.”

And it’s hard to believe slowing him down consisted of allowing 628 yards, the most ever given up by the Crimson Tide.

As a team that snuck up on everyone last year, A&M didn’t have to deal with managing expectations. By the time the expectations arrived, they had already surpassed them. The same goes for Manziel. Before the weight of the world was put on his shoulders, the season was already over.

It’s different this time around. Everyone — especially the media and close behind, the fans — are expecting the Aggies to factor into the hunt for the national championship. If they can right the ship quickly and win out, they’ll be right there in that hunt.

Which means for better or for worse, we haven’t heard the last of Johnny Football.

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