(AP) Manziel leads No. 14 A&M over Vanderbilt 56-24
By KRISTIE RIEKEN
AP Sports Writer
COLLEGE STATION, Texas
Vanderbilt scored 17 straight points and had the ball first to start the second-half with a chance to cut the lead to four points against Texas A&M on Saturday.
But freshman Patton Robinette was intercepted on the first play of the third quarter and Howard Matthews returned it for a touchdown to extend the lead and squash Vanderbilt’s momentum as No. 14 Texas A&M rolled to a 56-24 victory.
“I think that took some air out of us,” Vanderbilt coach James Franklin said of the interception return. “But that’s life in the SEC. That’s big-boy football. It’s not going to go perfect. You’ve got to overcome it and find a way to fight through it.”
Johnny Manziel threw for 305 yards and four touchdowns in less than three quarters as the Aggies bounced back with the win.
Manziel showed no signs that the right shoulder he injured last week was bothering him. He threw three TDs in the first quarter to help A&M (6-2, 3-2 Southeastern Conference) build a 28-point lead. He tacked on another score before sitting down with 6 minutes left in the third quarter and the Aggies leading 42-17.
The Aggies rebounded from last week’s upset loss to Auburn despite playing a messy game where they had five turnovers.
Robinette had a tough time in his first start filling in for the injured Austyn Carta-Samuels for Vanderbilt (4-4, 1-4). He threw two interceptions and was sacked five times.
“We’re in a situation where our starting quarterback is not playing right now and we’re playing a redshirt freshman,” Franklin said. “I think that showed up a little bit today, but he’ll learn from that and he’ll get better.”
Mike Evans and Derel Walker had two touchdown receptions apiece for A&M.
Texas A&M was encouraged by a better performance from a defense that entered the game ranked 118th out of 123 in yards allowed a game. The unit piled up seven sacks after having just seven the entire season entering Saturday.
Jordan Matthews had eight receptions for 92 yards to become the SEC’s all-time leader in career yards receiving with 3,172. Kenny Ladler had an interception and forced two fumbles for the Commodores.
Jordan Matthews was encouraged by some things he saw from Robinette.
“There were some ups and downs with Patton, but I think he’s going to be just fine,” he said. “I’m happy with him, and he will continue to get better.”
Howard Matthews’ interception return gave A&M a 35-17 lead.
“The turnovers on offense I think were really the story of the game,” Franklin said. “Turnovers in general are hard to overcome, especially on the road against a good opponent.”
The Aggies missed an opportunity to pad the lead after that when Travis Labhart caught a 3-yard pass before fumbling. Ladler caused the fumble and it was recovered by Karl Butler in the end zone for a touchback.
Another fumble ended A&M’s next drive. Ladler forced this one by Tra Carson and Javon Marshall recovered it.
But Vanderbilt couldn’t convert after either of those miscues, and Manziel extended the lead to 42-17 with a 14-yard touchdown throw to Walker which ended the quarterback’s day.
The Aggies had great field position on that drive after a dreadful punt by Robinette that traveled just 5 yards.
The Commodores replaced Robinette with Josh Grady after that. But he didn’t fare any better than Robinette, throwing an interception on his first drive. Robinette returned in the fourth quarter and finished 15 of 28 for 216 yards.
Matt Joeckel came in for Manziel on the ensuing drive and connected with Evans on a 10-yard touchdown pass to put A&M up 49-17.
Robinette had a 7-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter for Vanderbilt and Brandon Williams bulled in from 7 yards out to extend A&M’s lead later in the fourth.
Texas A&M jumped to a 28-0 lead thanks to three touchdown throws by Manziel in the first quarter and an 11-yard run by Trey Williams early in the second.
The Commodores made it 28-3 with a 23-yard field goal by Carey Spear. Franklin gambled with an onside kick and Vanderbilt recovered.
Robinette hit a wide-open Jonathan Krause on a 30-yard touchdown pass to cut the lead to 28-10.
Ladler intercepted Manziel later in the second quarter and returned it 32 yards to the Texas A&M 27.
Jordan Matthews broke the SEC career yards receiving record on a 17-yard reception on the first play after the interception. Jerron Seymour’s 4-yard touchdown run got Vanderbilt within 28-17 just before halftime.