BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Johnny Manziel found himself running toward the wrong end zone on fourth-and-goal.
LSU defensive ends Danielle Hunter and Jemauria Rasco kept Texas A&M’s dynamic quarterback from breaking outside while linebacker D.J. Welter came charging through with more pressure, and all Manziel could do was loft a desperation pass in the second quarter that bounced incomplete in the LSU end zone, several yards from a well-covered receiver.
Manziel managed only one touchdown in the least productive day he and coach Kevin Sumlin’s normally prolific offense have had in two seasons, and the ninth-ranked Aggies were overpowered by No. 18 LSU 34-10 on Saturday.
“We just got punched in the mouth tonight and it wasn’t fun,” Manziel said. “It wasn’t fun to get beat like that. We will see how we handle adversity. This team with a bunch of young guys — we just have to see how they bounce back.”
Manziel’s first visit to Tiger Stadium was among the worst outings of his otherwise brilliant career. He passed for 224 yards and a TD, but completed only 16 of 41 attempts, was sacked twice and intercepted twice. Manziel’s hopes for a second straight Heisman Trophy took a hit, and the Aggies’ road winning streak ended at 10.
Two weeks ago, LSU’s young defense appeared to grind down in the second half of a 38-17 loss at Alabama, begging the question of how vulnerable the unit might be against Texas A&M (8-3, 4-3 Southeastern Conference). The Aggies’ SEC-leading offense came in averaging a whopping 578 yards and 49.2 points per game.
Instead, the Tigers (8-3, 4-3) became the first to shut out Manziel in a first quarter since September 2012, and ended A&M’s 13-game streak of scoring 40 or more points. The Aggies’ point and yardage totals were their lowest since Sumlin arrived last season, when Manziel became the starting quarterback as a redshirt freshman.
LSU coach Les Miles counted himself among the least surprised by way the Tigers made Manziel’s visit a miserable one.
“They look forward to playing a quality opponent with marquee written all over it,” Miles said. “Competition: It’s a long word and there’s a lot to it. … This is a team that knows how to play in big games and will fight you.
“The defense rushed and maintained leverage and we put speed on the field and covered,” he said. “That’s the kind of LSU defense that we’re used to.”
The Tigers gave some credit to Odell Beckham, who’s been chosen as a semifinalist for the Biletnikoff Award, given to the nation’s top receiver.
His five catches for 50 yards helped, but it was his work imitating Manziel with the scout team in practice that gave LSU’s defense a good sense of how to contain a dynamic scrambler.
The Aggies’ Biletnikoff candidate, Mike Evans, was held to four catches for 51 yards by freshman Rashard Robinson, who also made his first career interception.
“Times where we needed to execute and times where we needed to make plays, we just didn’t make them,” Manziel said.
LSU “did a great job of containing our high-powered, high tempo offense,” he added. “I guess it was just kind of one of those days.”
New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton was among the 92,949 in attendance, eager to get a firsthand look at two of the top quarterbacks in college football.
He may have left more impressed with LSU’s Zach Mettenberger, who completed 11 of 20 passes for 193 yards and two touchdowns without an interception in chilly, wet and windy conditions. He found Jarvis Landry four times for 87 yards, including touchdowns of 40 and 10 yards. LSU piled up 324 yards on 55 carries, with Magee and Kenny Hilliard each powering in for short scores. LSU also outgained Texas A&M in total yards, 517-299.
LSU finished with a time-of-possession advantage of 40:19 to 19:41. That kept the Tigers’ defense fresh, and it showed.
“We were not able to stay on the field offensively. Because of that our defense just got grounded down. You have got to give LSU credit across the board,” Sumlin said. “Offensively, LSU stuck to their plan and I thought our defense held up for a long time, but we gave up a couple of big plays that separated it. That’s something we need to learn from.
“You get on the road and the crowd gets into it; I thought we started pressing a little bit offensively,” he said.
The Aggies’ frustration on offense only began with their failed fourth-down play from the LSU 3. Later, A&M had to settle for Josh Lambo’s 41-yard field goal after Danielle Hunter’s sack. Senior safety Craig Loston intercepted Manziel in the end zone in the fourth quarter.
The temperature at kickoff was 51 degrees and dropping, with a chilly breeze powering a soaking, sideways mist. Manziel went 2 for 11 in the first quarter, an omen of a tough day ahead.
The LSU offense opened with run-heavy play calling and controlled the line of scrimmage, creating the game’s first explosive play on Magee’s career-long 65-yard run to the A&M 1. Three plays later, Magee powered in to complete a five-play, 71-yard scoring drive during which he ran on every play — and the Tigers had the lead for good.
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