Texas A&M puts exclamation mark on 1st SEC season
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — For everybody who wondered how Texas A&M would do in the SEC, Johnny Football and the Aggies had an emphatic answer.
Led by their Heisman Trophy-winning freshman quarterback, the 10th-ranked Aggies won 11 games, and never even trailed while winning the last six. They capped their SEC debut season with a 41-13 Cotton Bowl victory over No. 12 Oklahoma, a former Big 12 rival that had dominated them so often.
"It's momentum for everything. It's momentum for next year and all the people that are returning," Johnny Manziel said. "We went to the Cotton Bowl this year. A BCS bowl and national championship is the goal next year.
"For people to see what we're in the SEC and what we did this year and with the people that we have coming back it's a big exclamation point," he said.
Four weeks after becoming the first freshman to win college football's highest individual award, Manziel was finally back on the field. He responded with a Heisman-worthy performance.
Manziel accounted for four touchdowns and had a Cotton Bowl-record 516 total yards, including an FBS bowl record for quarterbacks with his 229 yards rushing on 17 carries. The redshirt freshman who wasn't named the Aggies starter until two weeks before the season opener finished with 5,116 total yards, the most for a Heisman winner and the first SEC player over 5,000.
The Aggies (11-2), barely a .500 team in their final Big 12 season, were the first SEC team to gain more than 7,000 yards.
Their only losses were by a combined eight points to Florida and LSU, current Top 10 teams. The season-ending winning streak included a win at SEC champion Alabama, which plays Monday night for the league's seventh consecutive national title.
"We never doubted ourselves. Everybody acts like I didn't know what we were getting into when I took the job. We were already in the SEC," first year Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin said. "We weren't coming in the league just trying to play games."
Texas A&M had lost in its previous six Cotton Bowl appearances, and was 0-4 at Cowboys Stadium.
"I think with the exposure that we've had, answering some questions about being able to not only compete, but win against the co-champion of the Big 12, for us to come out and play the way we did, you've got to figure out what kind of statement that makes," Sumlin said.
Oklahoma (10-3) had won 11 of the previous 13 games in the series, including a 77-0 victory in 2003 that is the worst loss in Aggies history.