The Arkansas nickel defense wore itself down chasing Manziel in the first half, then Texas A&M turned to a two-back set to run through the Razorbacks after intermission in a 45-33 victory Saturday at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
"What you want is to get Texas A&M to run the ball," Arkansas linebacker Jarrett Lake said. "We did that, but they ran the ball really great. They have three great running backs.
"We didn't stay in our gaps. You have to have the proper fits and this is a lesson for us that in the fourth quarter when they go to pound, pound, pound, you have to stay disciplined and fill your gaps.
"We got in a position to make a comeback, but we just didn't finish. It comes down to that again, not finishing in the fourth quarter."
Manziel and big-play wide receiver Mike Evans put on a show in the first half, but they were just decoys in the second half as the Heisman Trophy quarterback did it the easy way, via the handoff.
The Hogs were spread too thin to do anything to stop the Aggie running game. A&M ran it nine straight times, then seven in a row for its two offensive touchdowns in the second half.
Arkansas rolled ends, tackles and linebackers in various combinations, but none of them could get off blocks or get Aggie runners Tra Carson or Trey Williams on the ground.
"We finally had to go back to our base defense to slow them down," Arkansas coach Bret Bielema said. "We had to get guys in there (against Manziel) because some of our guys just couldn't tackle him. We had to get two defensive tackles back in there. They were running the inside zone and we were out of our gaps and impatient."
Carson and Williams combined for three carries and 37 yards in the first half but finished with 83 and 64 yards, respectively.
Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen returned from a shoulder injury two weeks ago with a marvelous performance. He executed a wonderful game plan put in by offensive coordinator Jim Chaney, but his pick six to start the second half was all the help the Aggies needed on a night when neither defense had many answers.
Bielema did more than retrieve Allen from the injury list late in the week. He shuffled the deck in the offensive line, moving true freshmen Denver Kirkland and Dan Skipper to the starting guard slots. Brey Cook, who had played right guard, rotated with Grady Ollison at right tackle.
Allen was written off by some as unavailable, but there were tweets late in the week that he was making a recovery and "back." He was all the way back, thanks to some extra padding and a "tape job," Bielema said.
"He got something maybe to relieve the swelling and he took a big step forward as a football player today."
Allen shrugged his beat up shoulder when told of Bielema's comments.
"I'm not sure what he means by that, but give Matt Summers and the training staff credit," Allen said. "They worked with me and got me back.
"Maybe Coach Bielema was talking about my toughness. But the main thing, I think we took a step forward and competed hard as a team. No one let down."
Running back Jonathan Williams said Allen "gave us a lift with the way he played and just saying that he was back no matter what. He wanted to give us everything he had and that was a boost to us as our leader."
Allen called his injury "just a sprained shoulder" and thinks he's fine moving forward. He said there were no worries with tucking and running with the ball.
"My offensive line kept me clean," he said. "As far as running, the coaches told me that was OK, but to slide feet first or get out of bounds. I was going to run if the opportunity was there.
"I knew the shoulder wasn't going to hold me back if I got a chance to run. I just wasn't."
In the end, there were two interceptions in the second half to did in Allen.
"The first one, I told the team it was all on me," he said. "I messed that up. They rolled to a coverage late and I got stuck on one side. The one at the end, I was going for a back shoulder throw and I missed.
"I thought our team responded to that one and fought back. We knew they had a high-powered offense and fought back. We knew we had to match them with our offense.
"Defensively, our guys were playing hard. Manziel is tough. I give credit to our defense because they did chase him.
"It was fun to go against him. Anytime you go against a great player, it's fun. I thought we were going in the right direction tonight. We got rolling a few times on offense. I'm proud of some of the things we did and we'll go get ready for Florida and the rest of the season."
Center Travis Swanson was proud of the fight in the Hogs.
"I think that's the biggest thing," he said. "Obviously, that is a good football team, give credit to them. The result just didn't work in our favor.
"I thought Brandon played great, especially after having a hurt shoulder and coming back from that and having the week off."
The Hogs did catch Manziel once, a collaboration between Chris Smith and Deatrich Wise.
"The A&M offense was very good," Smith said. "No matter what people say about Johnny, he's a great player. We got him only one time. He didn't win the Heisman for nothing.
"The two touchdown drives running the ball, we have to go back to the drawing board. They have a good offensive line with top 10 players coming up in the draft. They keep Johnny clean.
"We gave effort. He's a competitor. We shook hands afterwards. I told him he is a great player."