Oct. 21, 2013
Johnny Manziel has yet to be stopped, but can he be slowed down? That is a question facing every Texas A&M opponent, and Vanderbilt is next in line.
One week after holding Aaron Murray - the SEC's all-time leading passer - to the third-fewest passing yards of his career, Vanderbilt's defense will face an even larger challenge this week when the Commodores play at Texas A&M Saturday. The Aggies (5-2, 2-2 SEC) and Commodores (4-3, 1-3 SEC) will meet for the first time at 11:21 a.m. on SEC TV.
Unlike Murray, who primarily hurts defenses with his arm, Manziel is as lethal of a dual-threat quarterback as there is. Through seven games he is averaging 327 yards passing and 69 yards rushing, and leads the team in both categories.
Three times this season Manziel has eclipsed 400 yards passing, including Saturday against Auburn when he threw for 454 yards and four touchdowns, while rushing for 48 yards on 18 attempts. It was his lowest rushing total against an SEC opponent since totaling 27 yards against LSU on October 20, 2012.
Manziel's success on the field has been well documented and is noticeable to anyone who has watched Texas A&M the last two years. And his play is even more impressive to those who break it down on film.
"You just gain a better appreciation of what they do, how they use him and how affective he is," said Franklin of watching film on Manziel. "I think he is a much better passer than people give him credit for."
To Franklin, the scariest part of Manziel's play is his ability to make something out of nothing.
"Most of his yardage is backyard football," Franklin remarked. "He's a playmaker. He creates plays. Where he hurts you is the plays that really aren't drawn up and designed in the playbook. It's him just creating plays that aren't necessarily designed."
The challenge of facing Manziel is something members of Vanderbilt's defense are embracing.
"It's very exciting to watch (him) and will be even more exciting to play against," said linebacker Karl Butler, who will play a big role in containing the mobile quarterback.
Butler and his defensive teammates will get to test their ability against another athletic quarterback during the week. To help emulate Manziel's athletic ability in practice, Franklin said that the Commodores will use C.J. Duncan as a scout team quarterback. Duncan, a freshman running back, played quarterback in high school.
"We need that movement at the quarterback position and being able to chase him around," Franklin said of using Duncan.
Behind Manziel, Texas A&M ranks fourth nationally and leads the SEC in scoring offense at 46.9 points per game. Texas A&M also leads the SEC in total offense.
The timing of facing Texas A&M's offense comes after arguably its best defensive game of the season. The Commodores held Georgia to season lows in most every offensive category, including rushing yards (107), first downs (16), total yards (221) and points scored (27).
Texas A&M's offensive numbers are impressive, but they are somewhat overshadowed by the team's defense, which is last in the SEC in scoring defense (33.9 ppg) and total defense (494.4 ypg).
"Their style of offense, I think, sometimes creates some challenges for them on defense because time of possession they are going to be on the field a lot because their offense has a tendency of being a quick-strike offense," Franklin said.
Vanderbilt's Quarterback Update
Senior Austyn Carta-Samuels was injured in the first half of the game against Georgia and did not return. The injury came just a few days after the passing of his grandfather, Tom Samuels, who played baseball at Vanderbilt from 1957-60.
Because of the loss of his grandfather, Carta-Samuels is currently in California with his family.
"With him being gone right after the game, he has not been able to see the doctors the way we need him to," Franklin said. "We'll just see how it goes from there. Right now it is either or with him and Patton Robinette based on practice."
Franklin added that upon his return to campus, Carta-Samuels will "see the doctors and depending on practice (Vanderbilt) will either name a starter or wait until after the game."
Robinette had spent the last few weeks working as the backup, but was previously third string behind Josh Grady when the season began. Depending on what is determined with Carta-Samuels, Franklin said that he could see Grady playing a role as well.
"I wouldn't even say at this point that Josh doesn't factor into this as well," Franklin said. "We'll look at how this whole thing figures out."
Robinette had success in relief of Carta-Samuels, finishing 9-of-15 passing for 107 yards in leading Vanderbilt to a comeback win against Georgia on Saturday.
If Robinette has his name called on Saturday, the Commodores have full confidence in the redshirt freshman to perform once again.
"Patton has been a winner his whole life," center Joe Townsend said. "He's won his whole entire life on the field and in the classroom. He came in, he took control and we didn't lose a beat."
Preparing for Texas A&M's Environment
Texas A&M's stadium - Kyle Field - is not the largest in the country, but it has a reputation for being one of the loudest and most intimidating venues.
Kyle Field has a capacity of 82,589 and towers three decks on either sideline, which forms an imposing structure.
"I do think that this place has a reputation for having one of the best environments in all of college football," Franklin said Monday of Kyle Field. "Crowd noise will be significant this week."
To help ready for the environment, Vanderbilt plans on piping in music and sound throughout this week's practices.
Those walking near Vanderbilt's athletic facilities this week can expect to hear a heavy dose of Texas A&M's alma mater, Spirit of Aggieland, as well as the Aggie War Hymn being played on the practice field.
Krause Breaks Down His Big Catch
Jonathan Krause made one of the biggest plays for the Commodores on Saturday against Georgia. The senior wide receiver hauled in a spectacular 41-yard reception on first-and-10 from Vanderbilt's 17-yard line.
The pass was thrown by Patton Robinette and Krause was able to beat Georgia's Damian Swann for the reception. Vanderbilt would kick a field goal to pull within three, 27-24, a few plays following the catch.
"It was just all about readjusting to the ball," Krause said. "(Swann) was playing bell coverage and my responsibility was just to run up his backside and basically try to beat him over the top. The ball was thrown a little bit inside, I just readjusted and caught the pass."
Facing Two Straight Ranked Opponents
On Saturday, Vanderbilt will be facing its second straight ranked opponent for the first time since 2011 when Vanderbilt ventured to No. 12 South Carolina and No. 2 Alabama in back-to-back weeks.
A quick scan of the fact book shows that Vanderbilt will be shooting for consecutive wins over ranked opponents for the first time since the 1955 season when Art Guepe led his team to wins over No. 17 Kentucky on November 5 and No. 8 Auburn on December 31 in the Gator Bowl. Vanderbilt has never defeated ranked foes in two consecutive weeks.
Vanderbilt's last road win over a ranked foe came in 2007 when the Commodores defeated No. 6 South Carolina, 17-6.