ARLINGTON, Texas – Maybe the realization came when Johnny Manziel scrambled for a 24-yard gain on the Cotton Bowl's third play.
Maybe it came when Johnny Football tight-roped down the sideline for a 17-yard touchdown on the game's first possession.
Maybe it came when Johnny Heisman completed his first nine passes of the third quarter, igniting a second-half rout.
Whenever it came, rest assured the revelation landed on Bob Stoops. Thank God for conference realignment. Thank God that Texas A&M bolted for the Southeastern Conference and took its freshman wizard quarterback along.
Johnny Football ran away from the Sooner defenders all night long, but at least now he's in OU's rear-view mirror. He's the SEC's problem.
And what a problem he is. Manziel ran and passed the Aggies to a 41-13 rout of the Sooners on Friday night.
“It was like watching a guy play Madden NCAA,” said OU captain David King, one of the exasperated Sooner defenders who futilely chased Manziel all over JerryWorld.
Stoops trumped that example. Stoops said Manziel was as good a quarterback as the Sooners have faced. That's a club, remember, that includes the likes of Robert Griffin and Vince Young.
“Absolutely, because of not only throwing the football, what he does with his feet is just incredibly difficult to handle,” Stoops said. “Even when guys are in position, he is so quick and strong running, he's just hard to get to.”
A game like this will make Stoops even more resolute to go to a running quarterback himself. The Sooners in all likelihood are headed for the dual-threat QB system now that Landry Jones' august career has ended. Be it Trevor Knight or Blake Bell or whoever, expect OU to employ the quarterback run game in the future.
“We're not giving up anything in throwing ability,” said OU offensive coordinator Josh Heupel. “But guys who have the ability to extend plays is something we're recruiting in quarterbacks.”
Of course, there aren't many, make that any, quarterbacks like Johnny Football. In the first half, he ran wild on the Sooners (113 yards on seven carries, most of them scrambles), who seemed content to cover tight and take their chances with Manziel's roadrunning.
But in the third quarter, the pass coverage slipped — not by design, Stoops said — and Johnny Football started acing his throws. He completed 11 of 13 on A&M's three third-quarter possessions.
The result: touchdown drives of 91, 89 and 71 yards, and a 14-13 game at halftime became a 34-13 rout.
“Johnny Manziel is everything he was billed to be,” Stoops said. “It's hard. If you got an angle on him, he stops, goes the other way. If you don't, he outruns you. All the changes of direction is tough to deal with in the open field.”
Manziel's final numbers were epic: 22 of 34 passing for 287 yards, plus 229 yards rushing.
“Embarrassing,” King said, but he's wrong about that. It's never embarrassing to get beat by a better ballplayer. Exasperating, but not embarrassing. Revelating, but not embarrassing.
“He is the best in the game,” King said. “He's able to do so much. He gets himself out of so many situations. He makes you attack him. If you miss, he's going to get away.”
It's the old schoolyard game, Tackle the Man With the Ball, where the quick guys dominate because no one can lay a hand on them. Except this sandlot whiz can throw a mean pass, too.
Johnny Football is the real deal. No one can doubt that Heisman now. Like Griffin before him, that's a trophy well-earned.
Now the Sooners want to find someone like Manziel, if that's possible. And if it's not, well, at least he's someone else's problem now.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.