By David Brandt
The Associated Press
OXFORD, Miss. — Johnny Manziel and Josh Lambo provided the fourth-quarter heroics that helped Texas A&M escape Mississippi with a thrilling 41-38 victory on Saturday.
Now the No. 7 Aggies (5-1, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) head back to Kyle Field for a four-game homestand that could vault the Aggies right back into the national championship discussion.
The conversation is possible because of an impressive comeback by Texas A&M. The Aggies fell behind 38-31 with 6:05 remaining, but Manziel led a 75-yard drive, capped by his 6-yard touchdown run, to tie the game at 38 with 3:07 remaining.
After Texas A&M’s defense held, Manziel had runs of 12 and 13 yards during the Aggies’ final drive, and Lambo booted the 33-yard field goal as time expired for the victory.
It was another example of Manziel’s uncanny ability to rise to the occasion. The sophomore completed 31 of 39 passes for 346 yards and rushed for 113 yards and two touchdowns, helping the Aggies’ offense overcome an uncharacteristically slow start.
He also fought off an injury scare in the first quarter. He rolled out to his left and threw a long pass before falling to the turf while clutching his left knee. After a few minutes lying on the ground, he limped to the sidelines, but just one play before rejoining the offense on the next drive.
“The thing that makes him different — and I’ve said this before — is he’s so competitive,” Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin said. “He plays on the edge. He only knows one way and that’s who he is. There’s only one way to do things and if he can’t go 100 percent, then he won’t go. I asked him, ‘Are you sure you can go?’ and he said he could - I knew he had to be OK.”
Now the Aggies will face No. 24 Auburn on Saturday at Kyle Field. Then it’s Vanderbilt (Oct. 26), UTEP (Nov. 2) and Mississippi State (Nov. 9) before the team’s next road game against LSU on Nov. 23.
Texas A&M still has plenty of concerns, including a defense that’s given up 32 points per game this season. That ranks 13th in the 14-team SEC.
Sumlin said the defense played fairly well on Saturday as the Aggies built a 14-10 lead by halftime. The second half was a different story.
“They made some adjustments in the third quarter, but we just made enough plays in the fourth to win,” Sumlin said. “It’s about third-down conversions. We were 8 of 13 and they were 6 of 14.”
It also helps to have Manziel, the defending Heisman Trophy winner who continues to deliver spectacular performances.
He’s completed 73.2 percent of his passes this season for 1,835 yards, 14 touchdowns and five interceptions. He’s also rushed for 427 yards and five touchdowns.
He actually had a few bad mistakes against Ole Miss — including a third-quarter interception in the end zone and a fourth-quarter fumble — that helped the Rebels climb back into the game.
But when the game’s on the line, there are few better than Johnny Football.
“Johnny’s a beast,” Lambo said. “Week in and week out, we can expect greatness from him. It’s so awesome to be part of a team that he gets to lead.”
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