Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel. (Associated Press)
Last Modified: Friday, October 19, 2012 7:07 PM
COLLEGE STATION, Texas — LSU’s defense has been its usual ornery unit this season. But halfway through the schedule the No. 6 Tigers have clamped down on fairly pedestrian offenses.
Texas A&M’s offense is definitely in the fast lane, leading the Southeastern Conference in most of the pertinent, high-octane categories. But the fast-paced No. 20 Aggies were held in check by the only top-notch defense they faced when Florida handed them their lone loss, 20-17.
Those contrasting philosophies figure to be your ballgame when the two old rivals get together today for the first time as conference opponents.
And did anybody mention the Aggies’ precocious freshman quarterback?
LSU (6-1, 2-1 SEC) definitely hasn’t seen anything like Johnny Manziel, although his fast-growing legend is already known in these parts as “Johnny Football.”
“Very capable quarterback,” LSU head coach Les Miles said. “Very exciting.”
Kind of, yeah.
The Aggies (5-1, 2-1) have played six games as new members of the SEC, yet already hold the top two individual total offense performances in the league’s long and storied lore, history that recently included Heisman quarterbacks Tim Tebow and Cam Newton.
Eye witnesses dismiss comparisons to those two, both of whom did significant damage to good LSU defenses, with veteran observers comparing Manziel’s style more to Boston College’s Doug Flutie.
But Manziel’s 576 total yards in last week’s 59-57 track meet victory over Louisiana Tech — he also accounted for six touchdowns — broke the SEC record of 557 yards he personally rang up two games earlier against Arkansas.
Neither of those defenses will be confused with LSU’s.
But, land or air, it doesn’t really seem to matter to Manziel.
The Aggies quarterback leads the SEC in rushing — 112.7 yards per game with 10 touchdowns — to go with 280 yards per game passing with another 14 touchdowns.
Manziel is a perfect fit for first-year Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin, who brought his quick-gulp offense up from Houston and leads the SEC with a whopping 47 points and 543.7 yards per game.
“The good news is that our defense will one of the fastest he has seen,” Miles said. “Hopefully we can contain (him), that’s the first piece.”
But there’s more than one.
“Any time the quarterback has the ability to run it — he’s their leading rusher — and the ability to throw it as well as he does and extend plays, that’s the package. That guy makes most offenses just hum.
“You want to mix strategies, you want to come get him, you want to keep him in the pocket, cover his routes and give him the pressure of coverage.
“It’s going to take all the strategy and all the calls to defend a guy like that.”
But Miles discounted that LSU might use a spy, football jargon for dedicating a defender to pay attention to Manziel.
“I don’t know that we’d use a spy effectively,” Miles said. “We’ll certainly keep a wary eye on him, one or two guys on our defense knowing that the quarterback can leak out. But not necessarily one guy.”