OU football: Containing, not stopping, Manziel will be the key for OU's defense
IRVING, Texas — Texas A&M redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel made the best defenses in the nation this season look like kids playing tag in a school yard.
Manziel made incredible plays when nothing was available with his shining moment coming in a 29-24 victory against Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Ala., that propelled him into the national spotlight and provided him with a signature moment to help him win the Heisman Trophy.
So after studying all of his game films and seeing all of the highlights, what has the Oklahoma football team learned about stopping Manziel? You don't stop him.
"I don't think you stop him," OU defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said. "I think nobody's stopped him. I think you try to contain him, and you try to limit his big plays."
So how do you contain the Heisman Trophy winner who totaled 4,600 yards and 43 touchdowns?
Junior linebacker Tom Wort said the key to trying to do so is by keeping the running quarterback in the pocket as much and for as long as possible.
"Guys up front are going to have to be real disciplined in their rush," said Wort, whose 52 tackles is tied for fourth most on the team. "I think we're going to have a better advantage if we keep him in the pocket and not let him run around — almost have a contained rush rather than trying to flush him out.
"He's almost better on the run as other quarterbacks aren't like that."
But containing Manziel is easier said than done, mainly because a lot of what he brings to the game is instinctual, Stoops said.
"He's very instinctive," he said. "Those instincts as a football player are usually ... some of the most important qualities that you can have. He knows what to do in each situation."
One of Manziel's highlight reel plays was a scrambling, almost blind pass that found a wide open receiver in the end zone against Alabama, very little of which was scripted ("rogue" as Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin described his style of play), and completely instinctual.
When asked how Manziel would defend himself if he were a defensive coordinator, he admitted he could not think of a good way to stop him.
"His ability to extend and create plays ... there's not really a defense for that," Stoops said. "Your whole defense gets stretched when you play him for 60 minutes. It's a handful."
If OU's defense cannot contain Manziel for all 60 minutes, then at least doing so early in the game will be key, Wort said. Manziel and Texas A&M jumped out to a 20-point lead in the first quarter against Alabama, and although the Crimson Tide made the game interesting, that early deficit was too much for them to overcome.
"They just started so fast on offense," Wort said. "Manziel was elusive in that game; his run game hurt (Alabama) in the first quarter, especially. I think that's going to be the key — slowing that down and not allowing them to get ahead at the start."