COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) — Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel did almost everything right in Texas A&M’s spring game on Saturday.
Well, everything except for giving the coaching staff a few new gray hairs by throwing his body into a block of safety Sam Moeller to help free Brandon Williams for a touchdown.
“I told Johnny, ‘Don’t ever do that again,’” offensive coordinator Clarence McKinney said. “His instincts came into effect. He wanted to go and block for the guy. But we’re in the spring game; we don’t need to lose him on a busted play. We don’t want to see that.”
Manziel threw for 303 yards and three touchdowns to lead the maroon team over the white team 43-23. Manziel looked sharp, completing 24 of 30 passes, with a long throw of 60 yards. He sat down after one series in the second half. Manziel and the first-team offense played against the second-team defense.
The Aggies are coming off an 11-2 record in their first season in the SEC after moving from the Big 12. Manziel led the Aggies to a win at national champion Alabama, and became the first freshman to win the award and A&M’s first Heisman winner since 1957.
Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin was impressed with Manziel’s work this spring.
“He continued to improve,” Sumlin said. “What you saw today — it was improvement in the pocket. He wasn’t very sloppy when he took off and ran. He got out of the pocket and wasn’t careless with the ball. That’s what we’re working on.”
Manziel ran three times for 18 yards on Saturday.
Excitement over the Aggies is high after last year’s big season, with the game, which was televised on ESPN, drawing a spring record 45,212 fans.
Manziel propelled himself into the legs of Moeller on a play where Williams took a short pass from him on one side of the field and dashed to the other side and just past the block into the corner of the end zone for a touchdown.
Manziel knew it was a mistake as soon as he made the block.
“They were just more worried about me being safe and being more careful than anything,” Manziel said of his coaches. “I went up and apologized to Sam after it. The way that I am and the way that my motor drives me, it was just an instinct play.”
Williams received a penalty on the touchdown for a hip gyrating dance after the score, one of several unsportsmanlike conduct penalties the Aggies received for touchdown celebration penalties. Manziel said he explained to the referees why they were over-celebrating in a spring game.
“I told them … ‘we’re going to celebrate every time. We don’t get to be on ESPN for a spring game like this every day. So we might as well have fun with it and get the recruits to have fun.’ Everybody is here to have fun. It’s spring ball. It’s been a grind. It’s the last day to go out and really show that we’ve been working, so we were going to have fun with it regardless.”
Manziel said he will spend some time next month working with quarterback guru George Whitfield in San Diego. He’ll then return to College Station to take some classes this summer.
He said he wants to continue fine-tuning his mechanics to improve this season. He worked with Whitfield last summer, but said this time will be different.
“It’s more serious this time around,” he said. “It’s almost personal with all the stuff that’s kind of being tossed around about my arm strength and this and that. It’s getting kind of personal to me and so we’re going to get after it.”
He waved his hand dismissively when asked if he’s worried about a sophomore slump or Heisman hangover this year. Manziel threw for more than 3,700 yards and added more than 1,400 yards on the ground last year to win the award.
He said Whitfield told him before the Alabama game last season to be a dragon slayer. This season he has a new dragon on the horizon.
“Now there’s a big dragon out there for us with all the people who are doubting A&M, all the people who are doubting me that last year was a fluke,” Manziel said. “So that’s a chip on my shoulder and that’s a dragon I need to slay this year.”
Williams had seven carries for 59 yards and a touchdown. Trey Williams added seven carries for 67 yards and another score. LeKendrick Williams had seven receptions for 105 yards.
Manziel raved about Brandon Williams and A&M’s depth at running back.
“He’s impressive,” Manziel said of Brandon Williams. “He works hard and he’s one of my favorite people on the entire team. You have Ben (Malena) who is a workhorse, and then you’ve got Trey Williams who is just a freak of an athlete and Tra Carson. They all run different packages and they’re all competing with each other to see who’s on the field more. It’s rare to see that.”