LSU shuts down Manziel, Texas A&M

Peter Finney Jr., The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

BATON ROUGE, La. -- The pre-game wisdom offered all the signs of a wild shootout: Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel and his point-a-minute Texas A&M offense matching fireworks with LSU's high-octane offensive machine.
But a strange thing happened in front of 92,949 fans at Tiger Stadium on Saturday: Only one offense caught fire.
Zach Mettenberger threw two touchdown passes to Jarvis Landry and No. 22 LSU used a powerful stable of running backs to amass 324 yards on the ground and an aroused defense to suffocate Manziel in a 34-10 rout of No. 10 Texas A&M.
"That's the kind of LSU defense that we're used to," said LSU coach Les Miles, who credited defensive coordinator John Chavis for the plan that held Manziel to 16 completions in 41 attempts for a season-low 224 yards, with two interceptions.
Texas A&M (8-3, 4-3 in the SEC) had averaged 49.2 points and 578 yards per game, but Manziel, who had the worst game of his career in a loss to LSU last season, once again looked mortal against the Tigers.
Manziel had accounted for at least 300 yards in 19 consecutive games, but the Tiger defense held him to 278. The Aggies were just 5 of 14 on third down and failed to convert on two red zone chances. LSU, meanwhile, the nation's best third-down offense, converted 11 of 17 on third down.
"They continued to get a free rusher at will," Manziel said. "We've got to get back to the basics -- the fundamentals of pitch-and-catch and throwing the football around. If we don't establish that, we don't have much of a chance."
The defensive dagger came with six minutes left when officials overruled Manziel's apparent TD pass to Mike Evans, which could have cut the deficit to 34-17. Manziel threw an ill-advised pass over the middle on the next play, and safety Craig Loston intercepted it at the goal line to ice the game.
"We couldn't convert on third down, and we kept sending (LSU's offense) back out there," Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin said. "In a game like this, when you're coming from behind and you start getting back in the game, you've got to stay on the field offensively. When you give a big, strong team like that the ball over and over again, they'll just wear you down."
Mettenberger completed 11-of-20 passes for 193 yards and threw scoring strikes of 40 and 10 to Landry. LSU rolled up 517 yards. Running back Terrence Magee had 149 yards on 13 carries, including a 1-yard scoring dive in the first quarter that he set up with a 65-yard burst down the left sideline.
"Mettenberger just did a good job of avoiding pressure and getting the ball to Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham," A&M defensive end Julien Obioha said. "Their two receivers just kept getting open. I think nearly every third down they converted was to one of those receivers."
In controlling the ball for 40:19, the Tigers (8-3, 4-3 in the SEC) scored on six of seven possessions in a stretch that started late in the first quarter. Kenny Hilliard had a 2-yard touchdown run and Colby Delahoussaye added field goals of 21 and 36 yards in the second half for LSU.
"We wanted to take the clock away," Miles said of an offense that ran 75 plays to A&M's 59. "What is satisfying to me is finishing ahead, period. But when you have the ball 40 minutes, they are going to have a very difficult time with snaps."
The LSU defense, which has had difficulty stopping top-tier offenses all season, came up huge in the first half until allowing a three-play, 73-yard touchdown drive in the final two minutes.
Manziel's 51-yard bullet to senior wide receiver Derel Walker on the left sideline, aided by a slip by cornerback Tre'Davious White, cut the LSU lead to 21-10 with 1:08 left. Until that series, Manziel had completed only 6-of-19 passes for 78 yards, as LSU's front four rushed cautiously in order to prevent his trademark scrambles.
At halftime, Miles said Chavis exhorted his defensive group to stick together.
"He told them, 'Listen, it's not the scheme, it's the great effort and energy of the guys playing defense. You've got 30 more minutes. Keep playing like that,'" Miles said.
LSU jumped out to a 14-0 lead on Magee's 1-yard dive and Mettenberger's 10-yard, third-down slant to Landry early in the second quarter.
Texas A&M drove 89 yards to the LSU three on its next possession, but Walker dropped a sure touchdown pass on third down. Instead of taking the chip-shot field goal, Sumlin gambled on fourth down, and Manziel was chased back to the LSU 30 before firing an incompletion into the end zone.
The Aggies finally cracked the scoreboard with a 41-yard field goal by Josh Lambo.
Mettenberger made it 21-3 1:37 before halftime with a 40-yard strike to Landry, capping a 91-yard drive.
NOTES: The loss snapped a 10-game road winning streak for Texas A&M. ... RB Jeremy Hill's 76-yard performance gave him 1,040 for the season. ... LSU continued its mastery of third down, converting 6-of-9 in the first half, including an 18-yard pass from QB Zach Mettenberger pass to WR Odell Beckham on third-and-16 from deep in its territory.

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