BATON ROUGE, La. — Johnny Manziel’s reputation heading into Saturday’s Southeastern Conference showdown with LSU was of a player no one could stop.
John Chavis , LSU’s defensive coordinator, would like people to reassess that belief.
For the second year in a row, Chavis’ defense stymied the much-publicized dual-threat quarterback and LSU shut down Texas A&M’s vaunted offense as the No. 18 Tigers mauled the No. 9 Aggies 34-10.
“We’ve got a lot of young guys but everybody is capable of being a great football player on this team and that’s what we came to show this week,” LSU’s Anthony Johnson said.
For the first time in his career, Manziel was held to a completion percentage below 50 percent, going 16 of 41. Two of his passes were intercepted, including the game-clincher in the fourth at the goal line by Craig Loston. Manziel entered the game completing better than 73 percent of his passes.
Meanwhile, the Aggies were converting 53 percent of their third downs this season but went just 5 of 14 in those situations Saturday.
A season ago, when Manziel was taking the nation by storm, Chavis’ defense held Manziel to just 276 yards passing while intercepting him three times. And by stopping Manziel once again Saturday, the Tigers shut down a Texas A&M (8-3, 4-3) offense that had scored at least 40 points in 13 straight games. The 299 total yards was Texas A&M’s fewest this season by 187 yards.
Meanwhile, LSU Coach Les Miles was comfortable calling a somewhat conservative game. Zach Mettenberger needed to throw it only 20 times and finished with 193 yards and two touchdowns, both of which went to Jarvis Landry.
The Tigers (8-3, 4-3) largely relied on the ground game to eat up clock. Seven different players, led by Terrence Magee’s 149 yards, combined for 324 yards on 55 carries as LSU held the ball twice as long as Texas A&M. It helped that LSU converted 11 of 17 third downs.
“We knew we were going to have to keep their offense off the field,” Tigers running back Jeremy Hill said. “They’re a high-powered offense and they score a lot of points. For us to beat them, we’d have to run the ball successfully and keep them off the field and control the time of possession.”
The defensive domination began early.
LSU’s defense bailed out Miles early when the offense failed to gain a first down on fourth-and-inches at its own 39. Manziel threw two incomplete passes and was tackled a yard short of the first down on fourth.
Two series later, junior running back Terrence Magee broke the first big play of the day, sprinting for 65 yards down the far sideline, getting pushed out at the 1 by Texas A&M’s DeVante Harris. And after two plays netted no yards, Magee picked up his just reward, plunging in from the 1 to give LSU a 7-0 lead.
After forcing its third punt of the game in the first half, LSU went right back at the Aggies, starting with a 36-yard completion to tight end Dillon Gordon. Then, on third-and-six, Mettenberger found Jarvis Landry for a 10-yard touchdown and a 14-0 lead.
The Aggies nearly responded, driving 89 yards in a little more than five minutes. They needed 92. LSU stopped Texas A&M on three straight plays from the 3, including on fourth-and-goal when D.J. Welter pressured Manziel into an uncatchable throw into the end zone.
However, LSU nearly put Texas A&M right back in the game after Jamie Keehn’s 14-yard shank to the Tigers’ 26. Once again, the defense did the job once more thanks to Danielle Hunter’s nine-yard sack on first down.
The Aggies settled for a 41-yard Josh Lambo field goal and with just six minutes to go in the first half, LSU’s lead was down to 14-3.
It didn’t take the Tigers long to extend the lead to 21-3. After Mettenberger’s 19-yard completion to Beckham on third-and-16, the quarterback finished the drive with a 40-yard scoring strike to Landry.
“Mettenberger just did a good job of avoiding the pressure and getting the ball to Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham,” Texas A&M’s Julian Obioha said.
But Manziel was able to get Texas A&M back in it quickly. LSU defensive back Tre’Davious White slipped, giving the Aggies’ Derel Walker plenty of room to make the catch, turn and sprint the rest of the way for a 51-yard touchdown. LSU’s lead was suddenly down to 21-10 in the blink of an eye.
The Tigers opened the second half with a six-minute drive that ended with a Colby Delahoussaye 21-yard field goal and a 24-10 lead.
It took only four plays for LSU to get the ball back. Rashard Robinson caught an underthrown Manziel pass, tapped his right foot inbounds and gave LSU possession at its own 39. The Tigers then chewed up nearly six more minutes off the clock before boosting its lead to 31-10 on Kenny Hilliard’s two-yard touchdown run.
A 36-yard Delahoussaye field goal midway through the final quarter put the bow on the win.