Posted: 9:36 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013
By Brandon Larrabee
On one hand, it's hard to figure out exactly how Texas A&M won this game. Mississippi State slightly outgained the Aggies, 556-537. The Bulldogs had the edge on first downs, 30-29. Mississippi State also won the turnover battle (3-1), committed fewer penalties for far fewer yards (4-40 against 10-105), and held the ball for almost ten more minutes -- a must for any team hoping to beat A&M's up-tempo offense.
But then, Johnny Manziel was playing what will probably go down as his last game on Kyle Field. Maybe it didn't make sense, but the chances that anyone was going to beat A&M in this game were always remote. Whenever Mississippi State pulled within striking distance of the Aggies -- sometimes after a Manziel error -- the reigning Heisman Trophy winner always seemed to have an answer. Even with the three interceptions he tossed, Manziel was largely brilliant: 30-of-39 for 446 yards, five touchdowns and the three picks.
As you might expect, that included a lot of big plays. Manziel connected on 10 passes of 15 or more yards, including completions for 75, 41 and 33 yards. (And one particularly ridiculous one where he bobbed and weaved to avoid pressure before throwing a 26-yard pass on 3rd-and-25 to keep a drive going.) Love him or hate him, you have to admit that Manziel thrives on the largest of stages, and the stages don't get much bigger than what could be your final game in front of the fan base that adores you.
The bystander to all of this, Mississippi State, now falls back below .500 at 4-5, but has a fighting chance at bowl eligibility. Not against Alabama, of course, but the following weeks bring games at Arkansas and against Ole Miss. The Bulldogs are not likely to be favored in the last game, but stranger things have happened in rivalries generally and the Egg Bowl in particular.
And there were signs of the future for Mississippi State beyond this season. Dak Prescott was 14-of-26 for 149 yards, two touchdowns and an interception while rushing for 154 yards on 16 carries. And he's a sophomore who will be back and could very well be better next year. If that happens, Mississippi State might have its own start quarterback that can scramble and throw. Not to say he could be the next Johnny Manziel -- it's not fair to put that label on anyone -- but you don't have to be quite as good as Manziel to be very good indeed.