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Manziel, Aggies edge Duke, 52-48, in Chick-Fil-A Bowl

Manziel Fuels Texas A&M Past Duke

ATLANTA (AP) -- Even by Johnny Manziel's Heisman-winning standards, his lead role in Texas A&M's comeback was one to remember.

It could prove to be a perfect ending to Manziel's college career.

Manziel threw four touchdown passes, and Toney Hurd Jr. returned an interception 55 yards for the late go-ahead touchdown in Texas A&M's 52-48 victory over Duke on Tuesday night in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.

Led by Manziel, the Aggies rallied after trailing 38-17 at halftime. It was the highest-scoring game in the bowl's history.

Manziel, playing in what might be his final college game, completed 30 of 38 passes for 382 yards and ran for 73 yards and a touchdown.

"I was in a zone I haven't been in before," Manziel said. "Ever. I just wanted this game."

Hurd's interception return gave the No. 20 Aggies (9-4) their first lead with 3:33 remaining.

No. 22 Duke (10-4) took a 41-31 lead into the fourth quarter. The Blue Devils couldn't hold off the comeback and are still looking for their first bowl win since beating Arkansas 7-6 in the 1961 Cotton Bowl.

Hurd stepped in front of receiver Johnell Barnes for the interception, the first turnover for either team. Texas A&M linebacker Nate Askew ended Duke's next possession with another interception.

Duke's Anthony Boone passed for 427 yards and three touchdowns but was left to regret the two interceptions, especially Hurd's.

"It hurt," Boone said. "It was a very unfortunate play on my part."

Manziel, a third-year sophomore who won the Heisman Trophy as a freshman last season, is widely projected as a first-round pick if he decides to enter the NFL draft. He wasn't ready to talk about his decision after the game.

"I can't even talk about anything other than this game," Manziel said. "This was unreal. ... I haven't made (the decision) yet. I'm in the moment right now."

Asked if this would be a perfect way to cap his college career, Manziel said: "I don't know. It's an unreal feeling, I know that. The way these guys fought, it was unreal. I'm proud of them."

Texas A&M's defense opened the second half with its first stop of the game. The Blue Devils, successful on two fourth-down calls in the first half, were stopped on fourth down from the Texas A&M 35.

That set the stage for Manziel's magic.

The elusive quarterback had runs of 12 and 14 yards before his highlight play of the game. On second down from the Duke 17, Manziel danced and shuffled in traffic before vaulting a defender and dumping a short pass to Travis Labhart, who scored easily for his third touchdown of the game.

"It looked like we had him down three times," Duke coach David Cutcliffe said. "He's just strong, so strong."

Josh Snead ran and caught passes for touchdowns and blocked a punt to set up a scoring run by Boone as Duke dominated the first half.

Snead capped Duke's opening drive with an 11-yard touchdown catch. He had 17 carries for 104 yards and a touchdown and three catches for 21 yards and a touchdown. Juwan Thompson added 92 yards rushing for the Blue Devils and Jamison Crowder had 12 receptions for 163 yards and a touchdown.

All the pregame focus on Manziel and his possible farewell game failed to address the Aggies' weakness that made the 2013 season a disappointment. Texas A&M ranked last in the Southeastern Conference and 105th in the nation in total defense and 88th in the nation in scoring defense.

Duke's offense, led by Boone, ripped through the vulnerable Texas A&M defense. The Blue Devils gained 365 yards with no punts in the first half while building the three-touchdown lead.

Manziel and the Aggies couldn't match Duke's relentless attack. Mistakes hurt the Aggies, including an unsportsmanlike conduct call against receiver Mike Evans which helped to stall their first possession. Evans drew a second personal foul call later in the first quarter and then had to hear about it on the sideline from Manziel.

Duke attacked with go-for-broke play-calling.

The Blue Devils were successful on two four-and-1 plays in a second-quarter drive that ended with Snead's 25-yard touchdown run. Duke then added even more pressure by recovering an onside kick following the touchdown.

The recovery at midfield set up Ross Martin's 18-yard field goal on the final play of the half.

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Shawn Middlebroo January 01 2014 at 8:37 AM

Manziel is a spectacular athlete. However, I question his ability to have the same productivity on the pro level. Additionally, his lack of size makes him a liability. They list him generously at 6'1, which is far from accurate. A lack of size and much bigger, faster and stronger athletes on the pro level may leave him on the board for quite some time, despite is superb athleticism.

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1 reply
filupd Shawn Middlebroo January 01 2014 at 9:33 AM

Love to watch the talented Manziel play but I think you are probably correct in your assessment that his size may be a negative factor in his future as a pro.

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hfm329 January 01 2014 at 10:53 AM

As a Duke alum, I must say that I am happy to see the Duke football program back among the living. For too long, all the interest has only been in our basketball program....and for good reason.

The article speaks of the 1961 Cotton Bowl as Duke's last bowl win. As a Dukie of a certain age, I can go back further than that. I remember the Orange Bowl in the 1950's when the Blue Devils beat Nebraska. Those were the days. ;) Hope they come again!

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dredselw January 01 2014 at 10:53 AM

I hope if Manzeil is drafted they let him play and don't try to retrain him like they did Tebow! If you are successful doing it your way, go for it! I witnessed too many managers who wanted to retrain successful salesmen only to have them fail when I was in the car business. Don't micromanage!

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Luv1nl1fe January 01 2014 at 7:46 AM

Should "The Man" go pro, a team that might want to look at him is Cleveland. The defense for Cleveland is so so but apparently better than Manziel's college team. His offensive line looked darn good, though, which would make any QB look good no matter what the ability is for a lesser QB. Just thinking out loud... lol

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Don's January 01 2014 at 8:12 AM

Manziel did have a great game, second half! But as far as being a pro QB, I see somewhere those legs crushed by some much faster Lineman than he has seen..
As far as Duke They played one heck of a game! Do have to wonder, why no calls, Their Receivers were being Mauled, and no flags? Not that I want the game to be longer because of Replays, but someone needs to keep watch on the Refs!!

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chckpope January 01 2014 at 12:41 PM

He's good, but the NFL is a whole lot different than college. He's not as big as many of the QB's which may be a problem for him. He should stay in college, enjoy another stellar year and then decide. It's hard to turn down the fame and fortune offered but he's still young enough he doesn't have to rush into anything.

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2 replies
Michael chckpope January 01 2014 at 1:45 PM

I agree. There aren't many short QBs that make it in the NFL anymore.

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cfinde chckpope January 01 2014 at 3:27 PM

Please let him go to the NFL and stop wasting tax payer dollars to foot his tuition & room & board...
This arrogant punk should be sacking groceries instead of draining scholarship money from other students that may actually want to contribute to society as doctors, teachers, etc...instead of someone that can play with a ball for about 10 years.

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HEIDE January 01 2014 at 9:03 AM

How can you not love Johnny Manziel? And Duke needs not be hanging their heads. They played a fantastic game. I love college football, because the players show so much heart and spirit.

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skidog199596063 January 01 2014 at 8:41 AM

Great game no matter who you pull for, Duke suprised a lot of people nationally last night. If you live in ACC country, you were optimistically happy . Coach Cutcliff excellent for their program, has put the " P" in positive thinking. Manziel great team leader, he definitely can play at the next level. Heart and desire is wriiten all over his jersey. I,m pretty sure his physical talents speak for theirselves.

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ncroyals January 01 2014 at 12:00 PM

There were actually 6 seconds in the first half where ESPN were not showing Johnny Manziel on the field, showing JM on the sideline, showing him in the suit or talking about him. Lets try not to let that happen again ESPN. At all times we must talk about JM.

Lets be real. It was a poor defensive team versus a poor defensive team which results in a high scoring affair. Not willing to give either team or player any more accolades than that.

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1 reply
djhotsmoke ncroyals January 01 2014 at 12:50 PM

I was getting tired of seeing Johnny M's face on the screen also. I believe the Duke QB was a better in the game last night. Hopefully when JM goes to the pros. he will find out that he should of stay in school.

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1 reply
billdavidison djhotsmoke January 01 2014 at 3:49 PM

I believe the Duke QB threw 2 interceptions.

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oldman1410 January 01 2014 at 11:07 AM

On the last Duke position there was pass interferance on second and third down that was not called. And the replay showed it was not even close. Why wasn't it called?

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1 reply
benblanken oldman1410 January 01 2014 at 1:54 PM

These blown penalties even out, sir. How about when Manziel was forced out of bounds and the Duke tackler kept driving him into some sideline sign a good 5 yards from the field. The tackler should have been banned.

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