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Manziel benched early, late as A&M rolls

The SportsXchange

COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Johnny Manziel can't seem to ditch the controversy.

The Texas A&M quarterback and reigning Heisman Trophy winner sat out the first half of Saturday's 52-31 victory over Rice.

Then his coach yanked him in the fourth quarter when officials flagged Manziel for an unsportsmanlike penalty after the quarterback threw his third touchdown pass.

"He's going to face that chirping every week," A&M coach Kevin Sumlin said. "That's not OK. Obviously, I addressed that on the sideline."

When asked if he had plans to pull Manziel before the penalty, which came with just under 10 minutes to play in the game, Sumlin said a firm no.

Manziel was not available for interviews, although he was requested by reporters. He has not spoken with the media since the Aggies started training camp on Aug. 4.

That was the day news broke that the NCAA was investigating whether Manziel took thousands of dollars from sports memorabilia brokers in exchange for his autograph.

Manziel was suspended for half a game and the NCAA announced it could find no evidence that the quarterback accepted money.

Early in the third quarter, cameras caught Manziel air-signing an autograph in response to something a Rice defender said to him. Sumlin said he did not see the exchange.

"If I'd seen it, I would've done something about it," Sumlin said. "If it did happen, I'll address it."

Sumlin wasn't happy with a number of his players.

In pre-game, the school announced the suspension of four Aggie players, three of whom are defensive starters. A statement to the media said the players violated athletic department rules.

Three key defenders already were set to serve suspensions for all or part of the Rice game.

Then, two Aggies were ejected from the game in the fourth quarter. They will be forced to miss the first half of next week's game.

Manziel showed flashes of last year's play. He led the Aggies to 24 second-half points, throwing three touchdown passes, two to Mike Evans, and rushing for 19 yards on three carries.

The depleted A&M defense couldn't initially handle Rice.

The Owls began the game with a 96-yard scoring drive and at the end of the first quarter, the Owls were averaging 15.3 yards per play.

Running back Charles Ross rushed for 107 yards and quarterback Taylor McHargue accounted for 78, including a career-high 57-yard run on a scramble.

"To look what we did great and to look at the mistakes we made, it shows we're going to be a really good team," Rice coach David Bailiff said.

Texas A&M's second-string quarterback, Matt Joeckel, who received the start in place of Manziel, did his job, babysitting the Aggie offense until the star could return.

Joeckel guided the Aggies on three second-quarter touchdown drives to give A&M a 28-21 lead at intermission.

His best pass was a 71-yarder, when he hit freshman wideout Ricky Seals-Jones over the middle on an intermediate crossing route. Seals-Jones, A&M's top recruit, glided his way to the end zone to break a 14-14 tie.

Joeckel returned to finish out the game, one series after Manziel was flagged.

McHargue was 18-of-29 for 181 yards and two touchdowns, with two interceptions.

As they grew more confident, the young Aggie defense began blitzing more, which seemed to befuddle McHargue. With his team down only 28-21 to begin the second half, McHargue threw interceptions on consecutive possessions.

The Aggies turned those miscues into 10 points.

NOTES: The four Aggies who were suspended Saturday were cornerback De'Vante Harris, linebacker Steven Jenkins, receiver Edward Pope and defensive end Gavin Stansbury. In addition, defensive tackle Kirby Ennis and defensive back Floyd Raven missed the game because of offseason arrests. Cornerback Deshazor Everett missed the first half, then was ejected for taunting. Defensive tackle Daeshon Hall also was kicked out of the game for fighting. Both penalties require the players to sit the first half of the next game. ... Charles Ross of Rice scored two touchdowns to go along with his 109 yards. It was the fifth 100-plus performance of his career. "The offense did a really good job of getting a hat on a hat," Ross said. ... Freshman cornerback Clay Honeycutt of Texas A&M intercepted a pass in his first start and returned it 18 yards, setting up Johnny Manziel's first touchdown drive. He also had seven tackles. ... Sophomore punter Drew Kaser of Texas A&M averaged 62.7 yards on three punts. His best was 76 yards, the sixth longest in A&M history. ... Junior quarterback Matt Joeckel had thrown only 11 passes in his career coming into Saturday's game. In his first start, the twin of Luke Joeckel, last year's Outland Trophy winner and No. 2 pick of the NFL draft, was 14-of-19 for 190 yards and a touchdown. "He was a distributor," coach Kevin Sumlin said of Joeckel. "He gained a lot of confidence and the team gained a lot of confidence in him."
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