Oct. 19, 2013
Auburn's defense sacks Johnny Manziel in the decisive fourth quarter (AP photo)
By Charles Goldberg
COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Johnny Football was poised for one of his patented dramatic finishes, putting up big numbers, coming back from a fourth-quarter injury, leading Texas A&M to the Auburn 18-yard line with less than a minute to play.
Dee Ford would have none of another Johnny Manziel fairy tale.
The Auburn defensive end sacked Manziel twice in the final 30 seconds, including on A&M's last-gasp play, as the Tigers knocked off the No. 7 Aggies 45-41 in Kyle Field on Saturday.
Both teams gave up plenty of yards, but it was Auburn's defense that saved the day. Manziel lost 22 yards on the Aggies' last play.
"That last sack was on a blitz. I have to give it to my teammates. They flushed him. I needed to be where I was, and the sacks came to me," Ford said.
It was all part of Auburn's plan.
"We wanted to contain," Ford said. "We wanted to flush him to his left and we were able to do that at times."
Manziel, trying for the win in the final 30 seconds, could find open receivers.
"We were just relying on our line to get pressure, and that they did. It was a great feeling," said defensive back Jonathan Mincy.
Mincy and the secondary had to play shorthanded. Safety Josh Holsey hurt his knee Thursday, causing a shake-up on the secondary just days before the game. Auburn intercepted two passes to raise its season total to nine interceptions after getting only two last year.
Manziel threw for 454 yards and four touchdowns, all to Mike Evans. Manziel rushed for another TD.
Auburn understood what he was capable of coming in. The Tigers wanted to outlast him.
"He's going to make plays. He's a Heisman candidate. But we've just got to keep our composure," Ford said. "That's one thing we've done all year. That's pretty second nature to us."
Auburn led once in the first half, then again at 38-34 with 9 minutes left in the game. But Manziel got his TD run with 5:05 left, setting up some big-time offense — not by Texas A&M but by Auburn. The Tigers went 75 yards on 13 plays and took the lead with 1:19 left.
Manziel wasn't through, quickly moving the Aggies to the Auburn 18. No farther, though.
"There were ups and there were downs. But we just kept fighting," Ford said.
Auburn called timeout after the Aggies got to the 18.
"It's mental at that point. It's, 'Who's going to quit first.' I just keeping going, kept fighting. The whole team kept fighting," Ford said.
When it was done, Ford said: "We just made a name for ourselves with this win and we're just going to keep moving forward."
Coach Gus Malzahn's plan was to not let Manziel run wild.
"You've got to bottle up the guy. He's phenomenal. In the fourth quarter when he came back, I think we were a little bit fresher there and we made the two big plays," Malzahn said.
The defensive line helped make that so. The Tigers had seven tackles for a loss totaling 53 yards.
"They've gotten better each week. The great thing is we play a lot of guys. That really made a big difference in the fourth quarter," Malzahn said.
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine