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   === Manziel shines in return from brief exile; No. 7 Aggies rout Rice ===
 
 College Station, TX (Sports Network) - No. 7 Texas A&M started slowly with its
 star  quarterback  on the  sidelines,  but  pulled  away when  Johnny  Manziel
 returned  to  the field in  the second half  to produce a 52-31 season-opening
 victory over Rice at Kyle Field.
 
 Manziel,  suspended for the first two quarters following an NCAA investigation
 into  several  sports memorabilia  pieces  that  the reigning  Heisman  Trophy
 recipient autographed during the offseason, threw three touchdown passes after
 entering  the  game to  help the Aggies  (1-0) pull away  after holding a slim
 28-21  lead at  halftime. The dynamic sophomore completed 6-of-8 throws for 94
 yards during his abbreviated stint.
 
 "(Manziel)  was pressing a little bit early...but he led a couple of touchdown
 drives," Aggies head coach Kevin Sumlin said.
 
 Mike  Evans  hauled in two  of Manziel's scoring  strikes and finished with 84
 yards  on  six catches, while Tra  Carson ran for  a pair of touchdowns in the
 win.  Matt  Joeckel, who started  under center in  Manziel's place, put up 190
 yards  on  14-of-19 passing and hooked  up with Ricky Seals-Jones on a 71-yard
 score.
 
 Charles  Ross  rushed for 107  yards and two  touchdowns for Rice (0-1), which
 amassed  509  total yards  on an Aggie  defense that began  the game minus six
 starters  due to  suspensions.  Taylor McHargue  threw for  a  pair of  scores
 in a losing cause.
 
 McHargue  hit  on 18-of-29 passes for  180 yards with two interceptions, while
 adding 78 yards on the ground on nine attempts.
 
 The  Aggies punted on two of their first three possessions with Joeckel at the
 command,  but the junior backup caught fire later on and strung together three
 straight touchdown drives that turned a 7-point deficit into a 28-14 lead late
 in the opening half.
 
 Joeckel went 5-for-6 for 57 yards in directing a 12-play, 80-yard march capped
 by  Carson's  1-yard plunge just  over a minute  into the second quarter, then
 found Seals-Jones wide open over the middle on Texas A&M's ensuing series. The
 true freshman wideout outraced the Rice secondary for a 71-yard go-ahead score
 with 9:32 remaining in the half.
 
 A  19-yard punt by  the Owls' James Farrimond set the Aggies up at midfield on
 their next trip, with Joeckel needing less than three minutes to put Texas A&M
 back  in the end  zone. Carson ended the 9-play jaunt by bowling over the goal
 line  from two yards  out, giving the Aggies a 14-point advantage with 3:42 to
 go prior to the intermission.
 
 McHargue  and Rice  had an  answer,  however. Two  consecutive completions  to
 Jordan  Taylor, the last  a 27-yarder, brought the Owls to the Texas A&M five,
 and  the  pair connected again  two plays later  to pull the underdogs closer.
 Taylor  snatched the ball  out of the hands of an Aggies defender for a 5-yard
 touchdown  that cut  the deficit  to  28-21 just  10 seconds  before the  half
 expired.
 
 The Aggie defense tightened after the break, however, intercepting McHargue on
 each  of Rice's  opening two series of  the second half. The first, which came
 from  Tramain  Jacobs and  was followed by  a Manziel 12-yard  run on the All-
 American's  first snap of the day, led to Taylor Bertolet's 44-yard field goal
 that extended A&M's margin to 10 points.
 
 Clay  Honeycutt  picked off  McHargue  less  than  two minutes  afterward  and
 returned the turnover 18 yards deep into Owls' territory, setting up Manziel's
 23-yard  hookup  with Evans on  a crossing route that  put the Aggies up 38-21
 just over five minutes into the third quarter.
 
 Rice  narrowed the  gap  again with  a 14-play,  79-yard  jaunt engineered  by
 Driphus Jackson, who temporarily replaced McHargue at quarterback and kept the
 drive  alive with a 19-yard scamper on 4th-and-1 that gave the Owls a 1st-and-
 goal.  Ross  punched it  in from a  yard out  on the first  play of the fourth
 quarter to make it a 10-point spread once again.
 
 The  Owls got no  closer, though. Manziel moved Texas A&M 93 yards in just six
 plays,  highlighted by a 35-yard strike to Malcome Kennedy that got the Aggies
 back  in  the red zone.  He followed  up by hitting  Ben Malena for an 18-yard
 catch-and-run that lengthened the lead to 45-28.
 
 Rice  was stopped on  fourth down deep in its own end on the subsequent drive,
 and  a  Malena 17-yard  run followed  by Manziel's  9-yard scoring delivery to
 Evans put the contest out of reach with 9:48 left to play.
 
 The  Aggies'  depletions  on defense  were  felt  early  on,  as Rice  put  up
 touchdowns on each of its two initial drives to grab a 14-7 lead.
 
 McHargue  broke loose  for a 57-yard run  on a read option to headline a five-
 play,  96-yard sequence culminating with Ross' 1-yard plunge that put the Owls
 ahead just 3:22 in.
 
 Texas  A&M countered with a 10-play, 75-yard march that Malena ended with a 4-
 yard  touchdown run,  but Ross hauled in  a 19-yard pass from McHargue to give
 Rice  a 14-7 edge near the midway mark of the first quarter. The score was set
 up by McHargue's 18-yard run on 3rd-and-4.
 
                                   Game Notes
 
 Prior  to the  game,  Texas A&M  announced that  three  defensive starters  --
 linebacker  Steven Jenkins, cornerback De'Vante Harris and end Gavin Stansbury
 --  would be suspended for the first two games along with backup wide receiver
 Edward  Pop for  unspecified violations. Defensive tackle Kirby Ennis and free
 safety  Floyd Raven had previously been suspended for the contest, with corner
 Deshazor  Everett  forced to sit out  the first half for an off-field incident
 ...  Rice  suspended cornerback  Phillip Gaines,  the Conference USA Preseason
 Defensive  Player of the Year, for the opener due to a violation of team rules
 ...  The schools  faced one another annually from 1914-95 but were meeting for
 the  first time since the Southwest Conference disbanded in 1995 ... Texas A&M
 failed  to score  first for  the  first time  since October  29, 2011  against
 Missouri, a streak of 18 consecutive games.
 
 
 09/01 01:50:56 ET

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