FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Bret Bielema watched plenty of Johnny Manziel before he ever thought about pursuing the Arkansas job.
While at Wisconsin last season, Bielema saw the Texas A&M quarterback from afar as Manziel ran circles around the Southeastern Conference — all the way to the Heisman Trophy.
The first-year coach of the Razorbacks will have the opportunity to witness Manziel in person on Saturday when Arkansas (3-1) hosts the Aggies, who are making their first trip to Razorback Stadium since 1990.
Bielema can only hope the Razorbacks fare better in their second go-around again Manziel than they did in their first — a 58-10 drubbing at the hands of Texas A&M (3-1, 0-1 SEC) last season. The quarterback accounted for 557 yards of total offense (453 passing, 104 rushing), a coming-out game in a season-long, coming-out party for the talented signal caller.
“I just don’t want him to be great on Saturday,” Bielema said.
Manziel hadn’t even been born the last time the Aggies played a game in Fayetteville. The two schools were both members of the Southwest Conference at the time, before Arkansas jumped to the SEC in 1992.
Though Texas A&M joined the SEC as well last season, this will be its last trip to Arkansas for the foreseeable future. The schools, which played three nonconference games in Cowboys Stadium from 2009-11, are slated to renew their rivalry there next year through the 2024 season.
Arkansas hopes a return home is enough to at least slow down Manziel and the Aggies.
Senior defensive end Chris Smith, who leads the SEC with 5 1/2 sacks, knows all-too well what a difficult challenge Texas A&M — in particular, Manziel — provides this week.
“Johnny’s going to be Johnny,” Smith said. “That’s one thing about him is he is a great player, and I feel like he might win the Heisman again this year. We’ve got to be able to contain him.
“... We don’t want to get Manziel-ed.”