Tag Archives: Johnny Manziel

A memorable college football play, according to Twitter

I’m not exactly in Twitter’s target demographic, but I’m on there just the same. Call it an occupational hazard. By following a bunch of athletes and sports media types — plus William Shatner, of course — it becomes something of an instantaneous news feed for someone in my line of work.

But instantaneous is the right word. If you don’t have some device buzzing against your leg every time anybody says¬†anything¬†— and I don’t — it’s only good for the period you’re reading it.

So anyway. There was a play in the second quarter of the Alabama-Texas A&M game today that had the makings of an instant classic.

A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, the only freshman in history to win the Heisman Trophy a year ago, took a snap on third-and-eight from the Alabama 34-yard line. He retreated to pass, then retreated some more from the five-man Alabama pass rush. Crimson Tide defensive end Jeoffrey Pagan broke free and came after him. Manziel retreated some more.

Pagan carried a fistful of Manziel’s jersey from about the A&M 45 to the 42, creating the possibility a referee would judge Manziel “in the grasp” and blow the play dead.

But no referee did, so Manziel did what he does, which is escape. He spun away from Pagan, then darted right, where the rest of the Crimson Tide pass rush was still coming. Retreating just behind his own 40-yard line, 26 yards behind the line of scrimmage, Manziel heaved the ball down the middle of the field. An instant later he was knocked to the ground by Alabama linebacker C. J. Mosley.

Meanwhile, back in Alabama territory, where the play began, a small convention of white and maroon jerseys gathered for the arrival of the ball, more of them white (Alabama defensive backs) than maroon (Manziel’s receivers). But Edward Pope, a 6-foot-4-inch freshman clad in maroon, elevated above the crowd and snatched the ball, falling on his back at the Alabama 22.

To summarize: A harrowing retreat and escape by Johnny Football (becoming known in the Twitterverse as JFF, much as Peyton Manning is known as PFM, the socially acceptable alternative for the middle initial being “freaking”) followed by a 38-yard pass fired as he ran for his life laterally, still retreating vertically, which turned into a 12-yard gain and one of the more amazing third-down conversions I’ve seen.

It was not significant in terms of the outcome. Manziel ended the drive by throwing an interception in the end zone. But the play will no doubt live on forever on YouTube and elsewhere as a tribute to Manziel, college football’s biggest star, and an echo of the famous Eli Manning escape and desperation heave in Super Bowl 42 that ended with David Tyree’s “helmet catch.”

The reaction on Twitter, of course, was instantaneous. My feed is presented here without comment and in chronological order from moments after the play. This portion came within about two minutes. There was awe, humor and, of course, the scolds:

Pat Forde (Yahoo Sports): Oh my Lord, JFF.

Jason McIntyre (The Big Lead): OH MY GOSH MANZIEL

Tavarres King (Broncos practice squad): Lucky lil duck

Dan Wolken (USA Today): WHAT THE

Mike Freeman (CBS Sports): OhmyGod. #OhMyGod #Twitterexplodes

Greg Bedard (Sports Illustrated): Holy Manning to Tyree flashbacks

Bonnie Bernstein (Campus Insiders): ARE YOU KIDDING ME with that scramble? #Manzielmagic

Rick Reilly (ESPN): That’s a signature play for Johnny Manziel.

Michael Smith (ESPN): Johnny Manziel > Eli Manning LOL

David Dahl (Rockies 2012 No. 1 draft pick): Two words: Johnny Football

Erin Andrews (Fox Sports): STOP IT #thirddown

Chris Harris (Broncos cornerback): WTH lol Johnny football lucky

Kevin Corke (CBS Sports): UNBELIEVABLE!!!!! #JohnnyFootball

Josina Anderson (ESPN): You can’t tell Manziel anything now.

Jordan Hamilton (Nuggets swingman): That boy Manziel unreal!

Doug Gottlieb (CBS Sports): Incredible play, horrible decision in reality . . . no?

Bomani Jones (ESPN): bet that was frustrating.

Chuck Culpepper (Sports on Earth): That play will run on all our various screens in perpetuity.

Frank Schwab (Yahoo Sports): Fun play, but what a horrible pass. Worked out. You’ll see that highlight a million times.

Pete Prisco (CBS Sports): That was a horrible throw Manziel got away with. Don’t praise that

Gregg Doyel (CBS Sports): Manziel is way too good to be lucky too! Great escape. Lucky pass. Fun.

Dave Hyde (South Florida Sun-Sentinel): Will that Manziel pass be replayed more than Clowney’s hit last year?

Within a minute or two, Twitter moved on. The game turned into a memorable 49-42 shootout. A&M lost, but Manziel & Co. put up more points on the Crimson Tide than it’s seen from an opponent under coach Nick Saban. If you missed the play, don’t worry. It will be playing on SportsCenter indefinitely.

My Heisman ballot, for all the good it will do

Can we just admit right now that the Heisman Trophy does not, in fact, reward the most outstanding player in college football, or do we have to wait until Saturday?

The Heisman Trophy rewards the most outstanding offensive player in college football, and frankly, even that is too broad because the next offensive lineman to win the award will be the first.

The Heisman Trophy rewards the most outstanding offensive skill position player in college football, and if you’re a wide receiver it’s going on twenty years since somebody with your job description won it, so good luck.

This is an award for the glory hogs, OK? Of the last thirteen winners, ten were quarterbacks and the other three were running backs. Two positions out of twenty-two, thirteen years in a row.

That’s fine. Fans love the glory hogs. Just call it what it is. Don’t pretend it’s going to the best player — most outstanding player is the language in the instructions — if it’s impossible for the vast majority of positions to win it.

Charles Woodson, you say. Right. Out of 76 winners of the annual award, one had a defensive position — cornerback — listed next to his name.

Of course, Woodson wasn’t solely a cornerback in college. He also played a little wide receiver for Michigan, and was a thrilling punt returner. Without those credits, he never would have won it. So the fact remains that no one playing exclusively on the defensive side of the ball has ever won the thing.

Not only that, Woodson beat out Peyton Manning in 1997 for the 63rd Heisman, so you can bet Heisman voters won’t make that mistake again.

Keep this in mind: Woodson won in ’97 with eight interceptions. As a defensive back.

Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o had seven interceptions this season. As a linebacker. Along with 103 tackles. For the No. 1 team in the country. The best player on the best team.

Hmm. I know I’ve heard that expression before.

But no, you say. This is not an award for the most valuable player. It’s an award for the most outstanding player.

What does that mean, exactly? It means quarterback or running back, that’s what.

Of the last eleven Heismans, ten went to quarterbacks. When Johnny Manziel becomes the first freshman winner Saturday, it will be eleven out of twelve. Manziel has to win because he has more total yards than the other quarterbacks who have won, so you can see how the diminishing eligibility criteria become self-fulfilling.

Te’o will join Hugh Green of Pittsburgh in 1980 as only the second defensive player to finish second. That will have to be enough.

Well, that and the Maxwell Award, which also purports to honor the most outstanding player in college football. The Maxwell broke with tradition to assert that a defensive player as good as Te’o deserved that honorific for the first time since 1980.

Good for the Maxwell. Even as the Heisman narrows its view of eligibility for outstandingness, maybe the Maxwell will continue to expand its view.

Oh, Te’o also won the Walter Camp Player of the Year Award. And the Bednarik Award for best defensive player.

So Manti is collecting plenty of hardware. He’ll be fine. Just don’t tell me the Heisman recognizes the most outstanding player in college football. Because that’s got to be a defender occasionally. Just by the law of averages.

Anyway, my Heisman ballot, filed on time and everything, for all the good it will do:

1. Manti Te’o, Notre Dame.

2. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M.

3. Collin Klein (of Loveland, Colo.), Kansas State.

How about we just call it the Heisman Glory Hound Award? Would that work for everybody?