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Dr. Saturday

Johnny Manziel’s Chick-fil-A Bowl performance put a bow on two breathtaking seasons

Sam Cooper
Dr. Saturday

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Johnny Manziel runs for a three-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter (USA Today Sports)

It was a fitting end for one of college football’s most polarizing figures.

If this indeed was the last time Johnny Manziel put on a Texas A&M uniform, Johnny Football put on an absolute show against Duke in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, and did so in comeback fashion.

Facing a 38-17 half time deficit, the stage was set for Manziel to pull off a storybook comeback and put the bow on two breathtaking seasons as Texas A&M quarterback.

He threw for a whopping 382 yards and four touchdowns on 30-of-38 passing (78.9%) and ran for 73 yards and another score.

But the numbers don’t tell the story.

Manziel does things on a football field that no one else can do. You must see it to fully grasp it.

Take his third quarter touchdown pass to Travis Labhart for example. Facing a second and seven from the Duke 19-yard line, Manziel took the snap from the shotgun and looked to throw. He looked left. He looked right. With the pocket collapsing around him Manziel instinctively took off, but a Duke defender who had been knocked down stood in his way.

What did Manziel do? He leaped over the defender, escaped his grasps, turned around and retreated through a crowd of offensive linemen, ran to the left, looked downfield and found Labhart wide open down the left sideline. While running to his left, Manziel hit him in stride with a perfectly thrown pass and Labhart did the rest. Touchdown.

That play is a microcosm of Manziel’s special on-field abilities and it’s something we might not see on a college football field for decades to come.

"I was in a zone I haven't been in before," Manziel said after the game. "Ever. I just wanted this game."

He first took the nation by storm as a redshirt freshman, wowing fans with his escapability and toughness. He led the Aggies to an 11-2 record while becoming the first freshman to win the Heisman trophy. The numbers were staggering: 3,706 yards passing, 1,410 yards rushing and 30 total touchdowns.

After an offseason of controversy, Manziel followed his Heisman campaign with vastly improved passing skills and another banner year and that culminated in Tuesday night’s magic against Duke.

All reports indicate that Manziel will declare for the 2014 NFL Draft and he is widely projected as a first-round pick. He wasn’t ready to address the decision after the game as he was still caught up in the hysteria of the win.

“I can’t even talk about anything other than this game,” Manziel said. “This was unreal. I haven’t made the decision yet. I’m in the moment right now.”

If Manziel indeed does go as expected, he made sure to leave us with one final treat.

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