Manziel, mistake-prone Texas A&M rolls past Vanderbilt

Suzanne Halliburton, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Drama has followed Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel throughout the season. Saturday's plotline involved whether the Texas A&M quarterback would even be able to play against Vanderbilt after sustaining a shoulder injury a week earlier.
Manziel, with a terrific first quarter, gave the 16th-ranked Aggies a big enough lead that couldn't be squandered later in the game. Despite five turnovers - four fumbles and an interception - A&M coasted to a 56-24 victory over the Commodores in front of 86,584 fans at Kyle Field.
Texas A&M upped its record to 6-2 overall and 3-2 in Southeastern Conference play. Vanderbilt, which knocked off Georgia a week ago for its first league victory, dropped to 4-4 and 1-4.
Manziel's pre-game status was described as "hopeful" by coach Kevin Sumlin. Manziel's right arm was immobilized in a sling earlier in the week. Sumlin offered no other details about the quarterback's injury, and Manziel continued his media blackout through the week.
He showed no signs of injury, especially early in the game, as A&M built a 28-0 lead during the first 17 minutes. Manziel was 10-of-10 for 70 yards on the Aggies opening series. It was the seventh straight game that A&M has scored a touchdown on its opening possession.
"In my mind, I always was going to play," said Manziel, who made his first public comments since Sept. 14. "It was going to take a lot to keep me away. This offense, this team, means everything to me."
But coach Kevin Sumlin said he didn't make the decision to start Manziel until after morning warmups.
"People thought I was being coy," Sumlin said. "We really didn't know."
Manziel threw three touchdown passes in the first quarter -- an eight-yarder to Derel Walker, a seven-yarder to LaQuvionte Gonzalez and a 43-yarder to Mike Evans.
With 13:47 to play in the first half, Texas A&M tailback Trey Williams darted 11 yards for a touchdown to give the Aggies a 28-0 lead.
That's when the game, at least from the Aggies' end, turned sloppy.
Manziel had a pass intercepted, then lost four fumbles. A&M didn't score again until late in the third quarter, which coincidentally, was Manziel's last play of the game. He threw a 14-yard scoring pass to Walker to give the Aggies a 49-17 cushion.
Vanderbilt was forced to use redshirt freshman quarterback Patton Robinette through much of the game. He replaced Austyn Carta-Samuels, who injured his left leg last Saturday against Georgia.
Robinette led Vandy to 17 second-quarter points, cutting A&M's lead to 11 at halftime.
But Aggie safety Howard Matthews intercepted Robinette's pass on the opening play of the third quarter and returned it 26 yards for a touchdown.
"Starting the second half with an interception return is difficult," Vandy coach James Franklin said. "Turnovers on the road are difficult to overcome, especially on the road in the SEC."
Vandy quarterbacks suffered two more second-half interceptions, which effectively ended any thoughts of a comeback upset for a second straight week. The Commodore defense no longer could hold back the Aggies.
"A&M was a phenomenal team, with a returning Heisman winner," said Vandy defensive end Kyle Woestmann. "They are arguably one of the most prolific offenses in the country _ up there with Oregon. We needed to play a hard-nosed defense to stop them, and we didn't do that."
NOTES: Wide receiver Josh Marshall was one of the lone bright spots for Vandy. He caught eight passes for 92 yards and broke the SEC record for career receiving yards. He needed 14 yards coming into Saturday's game to break the mark of 3,093 that Terrence Edwards posted for Georgia from 1999-2002. He had 52 of the yards after A&M took out its starting defense. ... Manziel broke the 8,000 total-yard mark in his career. He needed only 109 coming into Saturday's game. His goal now is to reach 2,000 rushing so he can become the 17th quarterback in NCAA FBS history for the 2,000 rushing/6,000 passing combo. ... A&M's four fumbles were a season high. Coming into Saturday's game, the Aggies had lost only two fumbles. ... Vanderbilt defensive end Kyle Woestmann matched a career high with two sacks. He got them both against the elusive Manziel.

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