Johnny Manziel has accounted for 29 touchdowns this season, with 14 coming on third down.Texas A&M freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel has been a revelation, leading the Aggies to their best start since 2007. And this success story has been built on Manziel’s proficiency on third downs.
Manziel has accounted for 14 touchdowns –- seven running and seven passing -- on third-down plays this season, most in FBS. It’s no surprise that Texas A&M converts 54.0 percent of its third-down conversions, the third best rate in FBS.
Among players with at least 40 pass attempts on third down, Manziel is second in the nation averaging 10.8 yards per pass attempt.
But as efficient as he has been passing the ball, he’s probably been even more dynamic outside of the pocket. Manziel leads FBS in rushing yards on third down with 406 and is tied for the lead in rushing touchdowns with seven.
Most of that damage has been done scrambling. Manziel leads the SEC with 793 yards rushing and 537 of them have come on scrambles. That’s 105 more yards scrambling than Denard Robinson, Braxton Miller and Collin Klein have combined.
Forcing Texas A&M into third-and-long situations hasn’t been the solution either. Facing third-and-5 or more, Manziel has rushed for an FBS-high 14 first downs, including 11 on scrambles. Texas A&M leads FBS in these situations in both yards per play (8.9) and touchdowns (11).
Johnny Manziel Scrambles
Four weeks ago, Ole Miss saw firsthand how dangerous Manziel can be. Trailing 27-17 with 8:35 left to play, Manziel led two touchdown drives to win the game.
On the first drive, he faced a third-and-19 from his own 3, which he converted through the air. Two plays later, he scored on a 29-yard touchdown run.
On the second drive, Manziel converted a third-and-3 into a 20-yard touchdown strike to give the Aggies the lead with less than two minutes left.
Mississippi State's third-down defense this season has been respectable, allowing opponents to convert 34.6 percent of the time (seventh-best in the SEC). On third downs of 5 yards or longer, that percentage drops to 19.2 percent, ninth best in FBS. It also has allowed just four plays of 20 or more yards on third down (Manziel leads FBS with 16 such plays).
However, Dan Mullen’s team has yet to face a dual-threat like Manziel. The seven FBS quarterbacks Mississippi State has faced this season have a combined 156 yards rushing this season. Manziel by himself averages 99.1 yards rushing yards per game.
For Mississippi State to get a rare home win against a ranked team (4-23 since 2001, most losses in FBS), it will need to find a way to contain Manziel.