On Friday night inside Cowboys Stadium for the 77th AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic, the Sooners' defense finally got to witness the gridiron craze firsthand. It's safe to say that what ensued—a 41-13 shellacking at the hands of the No. 9 Aggies and Manziel—left OU equal parts marveled and disgusted.
The Kerrville, Texas, native dashed, tiptoed and threw his way into both the Cotton Bowl and SEC record books with his performance against the Sooners. By ringing up 229 rushing yards on 17 carries, he registered the most by a quarterback in Cotton Bowl history.
In all, Manziel compiled a bowl-record 516 total yards of offense, shattering the previous mark held by former Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrell's 407 in 2009. Simultaneously, he led his offense to the most yardage in SEC history with the Aggies' 7,261 total yards on the year after adding 633 versus OU.
The offensive onslaught left both OU Stoops brothers singing the gunslinger's praises.
"Absolutely," said Bob Stoops when asked if Manziel was as good a college quarterback as he has ever played against. "Because of not only throwing the football, what he does with his feet is just incredibly difficult to handle. Even when guys are in position, he is so quick and strong running. He's just hard to get to."
Defensive coordinator Mike Stoops echoed those sentiments.
"Best player I think I've ever played. He just does so many good things. He's got magic," Stoops said. "He's throwing the ball better than he did early in the season, and then he understands what they're doing. His offensive line does a great job of stretching plays for him. He'll have a chance to win four of them if he stays healthy."
Perhaps the superstar youngster is best described as a circus act on a football field. It would seem his teammates are now fully invested in the show.
"When he's back there for seven, eight seconds, those guys weren't even running routes. They just kind of got out there and started getting open," senior safety Javon Harris said.
The blowout moved newly-minted SEC squad Texas A&M's record to 11-2—a vast improvement over last season's 7-6 finish as a Big 12 member—and signaled to the nation that the boys in College Station, Texas, will be a serious title contender when fall rolls around in 2013.
Meanwhile, for Oklahoma, the loss meant a second-consecutive 10-3 finish. And though the Sooners certainly ran into an offensive juggernaut in Manziel, much of the season was pretty lackluster defensively.
Texas A&M's performance represented the seventh time an OU opponent rushed for 200 yards or more this season, and the third time in its past four games that the Sooners surrendered 490 yards or more of total offense.
"I don't think there's any question. The second half of the year poorly in most ways," said Bob Stoops when asked to evaluate how he felt about his defense heading into 2013. "We've got to make improvements in all areas. Run defense, pass defense, pressures, whatever we're doing."
"But again, some of it, too, our players have got to make some improvements. We had guys in position a bunch of times today to make plays and they didn't make them. The schemes and that kind of stuff only goes so far. Bottom line, it comes down to when you get opportunities to execute, you got to execute."
Mike Stoops indicated some offseason soul-searching might be in order.
"This is disappointing. It hurts," Stoops said. "We gotta regroup and have enough defense to play a team like this. We have to look at ourselves and see what we need to do to improve, to move forward. These teams are pretty constant that we see, but, certainly, Manziel is an extraordinary talent."