COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Arkansas had no answer to Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel on Saturday.
The redshirt freshman historically shredded the Razorbacks with his arm and legs in a 58-10 win.
He accounted for 557 total yards of offense which was a new A&M school record and Southeastern Conference record. The old SEC record of 540 total yards was held jointly by Archie Manning of Ole Miss (vs. Alabama in 1969) and LSU’s Rohan Davey (vs. New Mexico State in 1998).
Jerrod Johnson had set the Aggies’ school record previously with 487 total yards against Kansas State in 2008.
Manziel completed 29 of 38 passes for 453 yards and three touchdowns for a quarterback rating of 202.5. Ryan Tannehill previously held the school record after throwing for 449 yards in 2010 for Texas A&M against Texas Tech.
Coming into the game, he’d thrown for 641 yards in the Aggies’ three previous games.
“Johnny continues to improve,” A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin said. “There are things he needs to continue to develop as a player, but for the most part he’s making strides every week. He stayed in the pocket and went through he progressions, but also created some offense on his own.”
He created that offense on his own by running for 104 yards on 14 attempts to average 7.4 yards per carry. Early in the fourth quarter, he scrambled for a 6-yard TD after looping backwards, running away from the goal line and circling the Arkansas defense.
A&M offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury said Manziel’s improvisation leaves the coaches scratching their heads at times.
“I actually let him call the play before (a designed run for no gain) and it was horrible,” Kingsbury said. “I told him he wasn’t calling any more plays, then he took the snap and ran it in himself. So he showed me, I guess.”
Manziel continued a trend of quarterbacks posting big numbers against the Arkansas defense. Kolton Browning of Louisiana-Monroe posted 481 yards of total offense in a 34-31 overtime win in Little Rock on Sept. 8.
Arkansas entered the A&M game having allowed 1,249 passing yards. At 1,747 after Manziel’s performance, the Razorbacks (1-4, 0-2 SEC) are giving up an average of 349 passing yards per game.
Sumlin said Manziel — who isn’t allowed to speak to the media yet — has improved each week of the season. But he expects more improvement as the coaches learn how to use Manziel’s varied abilities.
“He is a different guy in the fact that he is such a good athlete. His ability to creat offense is what makes him different,” Sumlin said. “Our receivers are getting a feel for him and he continues to progress as a quarterback, not just a guy who is out there. For the fourth straight week, he has done a really good job taking care of the football.”
Thanks to Manziel, Arkansas continued to give up long plays of 10 yards or more to opposing offenses. The Razorbacks had allowed 75 prior to the A&M game, which was 121st in the nation. The Aggies posted 25 more.
The longest was an 80-yard TD pass from Manziel to Ryan Swope.
Late in the second quarter, the Aggies took over at their own 20 with a 20-10 lead. On first down, Swope lined up to the right of the formation and ran a double move as Manziel faked a pass. Arkansas defender Michael Osadebey bit hard on the fake and Swope ran past him for the easy catch and score.
“That was a little double move and it was a great call,” Swope said. “I knew when he made that call it was my time to flip the switch and take over the ballgame.”
Swope — a senior — finished with five catches for 141 yards against Arkansas. He’d totaled just 95 yards prior to Saturday.
“I think it really reflected the way we practiced,” Swope said. “Everything just kind of took care of itself. … We just really executed really well today.”
As a team, A&M posted 716 total yards of offense. That’s the most yards allowed by an Arkansas defense since Southern Cal gained 736 yards in a 70-17 win in 2005.