Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel. (Associated Press)
Last Modified: Monday, November 25, 2013 10:43 AM
BATON ROUGE — The Johnny Football Family Fortune reportedly originated in Louisiana. Something to do with oil. Something supposedly shady. That’s the gossip anyway, the juicy stuff which always seems to follow the family’s flashy entry into the gridiron business.
One thing is clear though after Saturday’s afternoon’s 34-10 LSU victory over Texas A&M.
Any football fortune will have to be hammered out somewhere else.
Johnny Manziel, the Texas A&M quarterback/pop star/unapologetic social lion, isn’t having much luck in our Bayou State.
Crazy, too. Normally Louisiana loves a good party.
You’d think he would fit right in.
But last July Manziel got sent home early from the Manning Passing Academy in Thibodaux, reportedly for having too much fun in areas other than football or counseling young quarterbacks.
So far as we know —it was admittedly hard to keep track of his travels over the Summer of Johnny — that was his last trip to the state until getting a chilly welcome in a chillier Tiger Stadium Saturday afternoon.
It didn’t go much better than the Thibodaux adventure.
By halftime he looked ready to make another early exit from the state and take it on home.
Then the second half he really struggled.
And, as opposed to the Thibodaux adventure, Saturday he was right on time, bright-eyed and clear-headed for kickoff.
He was toying with the LSU fans during pregame warm-ups as only he can, seemingly ready to have some real fun and maybe sign autographs afterwards.
But LSU clearly has his number, if not his John Hancock.
Assuming we’ve seen the last of Johnny Football — that he can tear himself away from the tradition and nostalgia of A&M’s online courses and enter the NFL draft this spring — the whole Johnny Legend thing was lost on LSU.
Quirks in scheduling meant LSU fans never got to see Herschel Walker, Bo Jackson or Peyton Manning up close and personal.
They must feel like they never got to see the real Johnny Football either, or at least what all the fuss was about.
He will leave college with LSU as the only SEC West team he never beat, Tiger Stadium as the only division venue he never won in.
Peyton Manning had his Florida, Johnny Frustration had his LSU.
It almost defies explanation.
Until Saturday he’d never completed fewer than 50 percent of his passes — 51.8 percent last year against, of course, LSU, was the worst. This time it was 16 of 41, two picks, 39 percent.
The same Manziel-fueled Aggie team — let’s face it, Manziel IS the A&M offense — that managed to score 10 points against the Tigers came in having scored 40 or more in 13 straight games. The Aggies got 299 yards in Tiger Stadium after topping 400 in 22 straight games — 500 or more for the last nine games.
That’s what LSU was dealing with — that’s what the Tigers ended up toying with.
In two games against the Tigers, Johnny Touchdown finishes responsible for one lone touchdown —by the grace of a defensive back slipping down Saturday — and six turnovers.
“It’s not that many times that we come into halftime to look at the state sheet and it’s 8-for-22,” Manziel said after the game. “Some of the other games we go 10-for-10, 7-of-8.”
It’s not that hard, really, even against LSU. Not this LSU anyway.
Ask Georgia. Ask Ole Miss.
Shoot, ask Odell Beckham.
Beckham, the noted Tiger wide receiver, not only imitated Manziel on the scout team the last two weeks, he actually outplayed him. Miles said in one session Beckham completed 8 of 11 passes against the Tigers’ starting defense.
Which, if you’ve been paying attention to that defense’s struggles this season, sounds about right.
Nobody even asked for Beckham’s autograph.
Johnny Headline had to be licking his chops in advance.
LSU fans were bracing for the worst kind of carnage, hopeful maybe that at least the Tigers had the offense to make it a fair and probably entertaining fight.
Head coach Les Miles, who’s more often accused of sticking his nose into the offense, even admitted to looking over the defensive staff’s shoulders the last two weeks.
The way Miles told it, defensive coordinator John Chavis shooed him away.
“We got this, we understand that,” Miles reported Chavis saying in dismissing the head coach.
Don’t ask questions.
It’s beyond me what Chavis saw in this defense that made him think he could put two true freshmen cornerbacks (Tre’Davious White and Rashard Robinson) alone on an island to cover taller Aggie receivers man-to-man.
But it worked — Robinson, in particular, had an interception and did most of the heavy lifting, all by his lonesome, in holding Aggie star Mike Evans to four receptions, only one in the first half when it mattered.
Goodness, whatever in this season’s past made Chavis think his front four, with one spy chosen from the previously lost linebacker corps, could provide all the rush he’d need to contain Mr. Football himself.
But it worked.
But say this for Johnny Football.
Even when he’s having the two worst games of his career, he’s still some kind of fun to watch.
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Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org