Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Manziel Cotton-pickin' great

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ARLINGTON, Texas -- Johnny Manziel tiptoed the sideline for a 23-yard touchdown on Texas A&M's first drive of the game.

The Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback known as Johnny Football and the 10th-ranked Aggies were just getting warmed up in the Cotton Bowl. There were plenty more highlights after that nifty run.

In his first game since becoming the first freshman to win the Heisman, Manziel set a Cotton Bowl-record with 516 total yards and accounted for four TDs as the Aggies capped their first SEC season with a 41-13 win over 12th-ranked Oklahoma on Friday night.

"There is too much talk about how you perform after the Heisman and about the layoff and all of that," Manziel said. "There wasn't anything holding us back. No rust, there was no nothing. We played as a unit. ... To go out and win 11 games and do what we've done, is impressive."

With first-year coach Kevin Sumlin and their young star quarterback, the Aggies (11-2) fit right in with the SEC after leaving the Big 12. They broke the SEC record with their 7.261 total yards this season (the first over 7,000 after 633 in Cowboys Stadium). They also averaged more than 40 points a game.

And they capped their debut season with an overwhelming victory in the only post-season game matching teams from those power conferences. It is the Aggies' first 11-win season since 1998, when they won their only Big 12 title.

The chants of "S-E-C!, S-E-C!" began after Manziel's 33-yard TD pass to Ryan Swope with 4 minutes left in the third quarter for a 34-13 lead. They got louder and longer after that.

"To come in and go against a Big 12 rival and do everything we wanted as a team, and send these seniors out with a win, we couldn't feel any better," Manziel said.

Texas A&M led by only a point at halftime, but scored on its first three drives of the second half -- on drives of 91 and 89 yards before Swope's score on a fourth-and-5 play.

Oklahoma (10-3), which like the Aggies entered the game with a five-game winning streak, went three-and-out on its first three drives after halftime.

The Aggies never trailed in their last six games. That included their win at SEC champion Alabama, which plays for the BCS national title Monday night.

SEC teams have won the last five Cotton Bowls, all against Big 12 teams, and nine out of 10. That included Texas A&M's loss to LSU only two years ago.

Manziel set an FBS bowl record with his 229 yards rushing on 17 carries, and completed 22 of 34 passes for 287 yards.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 5, 2013 C7

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