See ya, Sooners: A&M, Manziel roll Oklahoma in Cotton Bowl

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It’s been a busy few weeks for Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel. Trips to the late night talk show circuit, meeting celebrities and finally coming out of A&M’s media shell could have been enough to distract the redshirt freshman from Friday night’s Cotton Bowl against Oklahoma.

Instead, showing maturity beyond his years, Manziel looked just like the player that earned the Heisman the month before. Manziel accounted for 287 passing yards, 229 rushing yards (a bowl record for a quarterback) and four touchdowns as the No. 10 Aggies handed No. 12 Oklahoma a Texas-sized beating in the Cotton Bowl, 41-13.

But it wasn’t just Manziel who had a big day. Senior receiver Ryan Swope finished with 104 yards and a score, playing the second half after apparently rolling his ankle. And, of course, A&M’s offensive line deserves credit for giving its quarterback ample time to throw, and when there were simply no opportunities downfield, run. The Sooners had no answer for any of it.

O-line play was a major reason A&M finished with 633 yards, a Cotton Bowl record. The Aggies concluded the 2012 season as the first SEC team with over 7,000 yards of offense and Manziel finished with over 5,000 yards. It won’t get as much attention as the offense, but A&M’s defense held too when it mattered most. Oklahoma had two early chances to score touchdowns inside the 10-yard line and had to settle for field goals both times.

Not bad for the SEC rookies.

The Cotton Bowl win brings to mind A&M’s first appearance during SEC media days this summer. First-year coach Kevin Sumlin was asked repeatedly about what he thought life was going to be like in the SEC with an undertone indicating that the Aggies would be in for a bloody debacle resulting, at absolute best, in five or six wins.

How’d that work out? A&M has surpassed just about every expectation this year except its own. Then, the Aggies came back and beat the co-champions of their former conference. It’s a disappointing end for the career of Sooners quarterback Landry Jones and another tough bowl loss for Bob Stoops, once known for his record in big games.

Although too much is often made of bowl games for better or worse, the Aggies will undoubtedly be near the top of a few more preseason polls heading into the 2013 season and Manziel will be an early favorite to repeat as Heisman winner.

That’s a good eight months away and plenty can happen in a year. For one, A&M’s O-line — the same one that allowed Manziel to do anything he wanted tonight — will be replacing key starters, but the talent and the coaching is there. With some good fortune,  A&M will have the chance to eye bigger goals.

Florida’s statement on Jim McElwain’s death-threat claim is interesting, to say the least

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Maybe it’s nothing, maybe it’s something.  Regardless, it’s something that bears watching.

Losers of two in a row and off to a 3-3 start to the season,  Florida has underperformed and underwhelmed to say the least.  So much so, in fact, that head coach Jim McElwain indicated Monday that he, his family, his coaching staff and players have been subjected to death threats by unknown individuals.

The head coach went into no detail publicly regarding the nature of the threats.  Apparently, it was the same privately when discussing the situation with his employer.

OK then.

Again, it could be in the same neighborhood as naked shark humping — nothing. Bears watching, though, as one very outspoken member of the Florida media is very much already doing publicly about a situation that was apparently reported to the media before it was reported to the police or even the university.

LOOK: Arizona State to wear Pat Tillman-themed uniforms

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Pat Tillman is essentially the Knute Rockne of Arizona State football, the central figure that will be as important to the program 100 years from now as he is today. And while Notre Dame will wear Rockne-themed uniforms later this season, so, too, will Arizona State.

The program revealed Tillman-centric uniforms on Monday for their Nov. 4 game with Colorado, based on the uniform Tillman wore as a member of the U.S. Army while fighting in Afghanistan.

Tillman played linebacker at Arizona State from 1994-97 (he was named the Pac-10’s Defensive Player of the Year as a senior) and then spent four seasons with the Arizona Cardinals before the events of 9/11 inspired him to join the U.S. Army. He was a member of the Army Rangers before he was killed in action in Afghanistan on April 22, 2004, at age 27.

Arizona State unveiled a Tillman statue at Sun Devil Stadium at its season-opening win over New Mexico State.

“Pat spent his whole life trying to be the best person he could possibly be,” Kevin Tillman, Pat’s brother, said at the unveiling. “He didn’t focus on money, he didn’t focus on fame, he didn’t focus on a pretty statue. It was, ‘How can I make myself a better person in all these different facets of my life?’ And ASU gave him an opportunity to do that.”

Jim McElwain says family, players have received death threats over 3-3 start

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Florida has lost two in a row and is off to a 3-3 start, and that streak will probably reach three on Saturday after the Gators meet No. 3 Georgia. While everyone knows SEC fans are passionate about their football, some have taken Florida’s struggles too far.

How far? By threatening to kill the players and coaches.

“I think it’s a pretty good lesson for the way things are,” head coach Jim McElwain said, via Only Gators. “There’s a lot of hate in this world and a lot of anger. And yet, it’s freedom to show it. The hard part is, obviously, when it’s threats against your own players, death threats to your families, the ill will that’s brought upon out there. And yet, I think it’s really one of those deals that really is a pretty good testament to what’s going on out there nationally. There’s a lot of angry people, and in this business, we’re the ones you take the shots at. And that’s the way it is.”

In my experience, it seems people lodging death threats are far more serious about the threat part than the, uh, other. But that’s easy for me to say, I’ve never received one.

Report: Sam Darnold expected to return to USC in 2018

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Sam Darnold was appointed the No. 1 pick of the 2018 NFL Draft on the second day of 2017. As a redshirt freshman, Darnold torched Penn State to the tune of 33-of-53 passing for 453 yards with five touchdowns and one interception in a 52-49 Rose Bowl win.

One problem, though. Darnold hasn’t played like a No. 1 pick this season.

While he hasn’t been the most disappointing player on what’s turning out to be a disappointing USC team, Darnold has posted pedestrian numbers (for him): hitting 63.5 percent of his passes for an even eight yards per attempt with 17 touchdowns against 10 interceptions. He ranks 38th nationally in passing efficiency. This puts him, coincidentally, one spot ahead of former USC quarterback Max Browne.

On Monday, NFL Draft analyst Benjamin Allbright shared a report that Darnold is expected to return to USC next season.

Considering Ronald Jones could return next season and that Stephen Carr is just a freshman, the prospect of Darnold returning in 2018 has to take the sting out of a lost 2017 for Trojans fans.