ARLINGTON, Texas — Mike Stoops, his Oklahoma defense having just allowed another confounding onslaught to conclude a season largely defined by them, couldn't have been more blunt.
“They're a hard matchup for teams that don't have teams that don't have extraordinary personnel on defense,” said Stoops late Friday after Oklahoma's 41-13 loss defeat to Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl Classic.
“They can expose you. Certainly we got exposed in some areas tonight. We've been kind of average all year, and that's not good enough when you play a guy like this.”
The Sooners struggled against running quarterbacks in late-season shoot-outs, but always managed to eek out victories.
Not this time.
Not against this quarterback.
Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel was brilliant Friday, rushing for 229 yards and two touchdowns and completing 22 of 34 passes for 287 yards and two more scores.
It started early; on the game's opening offensive series, Texas A&M faced a third-and-9 on the Oklahoma 23-yard line.
Oklahoma linebacker Frank Shannon burst through the offensive line on third down and charged Manziel.
The Heisman Trophy winner coolly spun from Shannon, sprinted by defensive linemen David King and Geneo Grissom, tiptoed past defensive backs Javon Harris and Gabe Lynn along the sideline, then merrily skipped into the end zone for a 23-yard touchdown run.
The game would never be tied again.
“We couldn't execute, much less do anything tonight,” King said. “Johnny went out there and did everything that he has done all year.”
Mike Stoops, Oklahoma's defensive coordinator from 1999-2003, returned to his brother's staff after a seven-and-a-half year stint as Arizona's head coach. Early in the season, the Sooner defense appeared vastly improved from last season's unit, which collapsed in Oklahoma's losses.
But the Sooners' problems with running quarterbacks became evident Nov. 10, when Baylor quarterback Nick Florence surprised OU with 83 yards and a touchdown.
It only got worse from there, which led many to believe Manziel, who became the first-ever freshman Heisman winner with his 3,419 passing yards, 1,181 rushing yards and 43 total touchdowns during the regular season.
Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops quipped during the Cotton Bowl's lead-up that a defense's worst mistake against Manziel could be to cover all of A&M's receivers because of Manziel's dangerous ability to improvise.
“It's nothing but respect for him,” said Oklahoma senior safety Javon Harris, who intercepted a first-half Manziel pass in the end zone off a tip.
“In the first part of the game, we tried to keep him contained and stay in the box, but once he slipped out, we were chasing him.”
In the second half, Manziel displayed his passing prowess, tossing 33- and 34-yard touchdowns.
“We had him contained and then all of a sudden he got away and makes a pinpoint throw,” King said.
During Friday's game, Manziel set the all-time FBS bowl record for rushing yards for a quarterback, and set a Cotton Bowl record for total offensive yards in a game.
“Best player I think I've ever played,” Mike Stoops said. “He just does so many good things.
“He's got magic. He's throwing the ball better than he did early in the season and he understands what they're doing. His offensive line does a great job stretching plays for him. He'll have a chance to win four (Heisman Trophies) if he stays healthy.”