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Sports

Johnny Manziel still has some growing up to do

Johnny ManzielFootballCollege FootballCollege SportsNorthwestern WildcatsWashington Huskies

They started calling him "Johnny Football" as a kid because, when things didn't go his way on the playground, he took his ball and went home.

Now hit me with a rim shot and a "piling on" penalty.

Unlike the paid psycho-babble experts on ESPN, I actually haven't quite figured out Johnny Manziel.

Defend him, or suspend him?

Lump me with the linebackers who also have yet to get their arms around Johnny.

I sort of liked him in a crazy way, but not as much after Saturday.

How does he affect you?

Joe Flacco, quarterback of the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens, told USA Today that Manziel is "quickly becoming my favorite player in the college football."

Yeah, just wait until Manziel spits in somebody's face.

I thought the Texas A&M quarterback showed remarkable comportment and maturity in the first half of Saturday's game against Rice.

Then they put him in the game, where he made "air signatures," rubbed his fingers together — "show me the money?" — and ultimately got benched for taunting.

We handed him the Heisman Trophy at age 20 and now wonder what went wrong?

It was decided in kindergarten, not Saturday that no parent, teacher, coach or university was ever going to stand in the way of Johnny Meal Ticket.

And now it's HIS fault?

Well, yes … and no.

Everyone in the know had to know this was going to happen.

Manziel has been co-opted, coddled and cuddled, but hopefully not beyond repair.

Texas A&M shielded Manziel from the media last season and only released his lips after it became clear ESPN was not interested in a mime act for the Heisman telecast.

Manziel came off as intelligent and personable on conference call with reporters just before fame and (his family's) fortune all apparently went straight back to his head.

Just like it might have done to … me.

After Saturday's behavior debacle, though, the school again kept Johnny from a postgame interview that might have muffled a full-blaze controversy. Manziel could have borrowed the line Phil Mickelson used after he pulled driver on No. 18 at Winged Foot.

"I am such an idiot."

It's hard to watch young people grow up on television, especially when they don't.

Manziel seems perpetually stuck in "give-him-a-lollipop" land and it's going to take an adult to sit him down fast before it's too late.

Kevin Sumlin, Mr. Head Coach, would you please step up?

Or, is anyone really looking out for Johnny?

Texas A&M seems only interested in keeping Manziel eligible enough to fill seats at Kyle Stadium.

The half-game punishment negotiated by lawyers was an insult to everyone who otherwise has a clue.

There has to be settlement line between constraining Manziel and keeping him on the playing field — he's so much fun to watch.

Manziel can't keep taunting opponents, though, or he'll end up on the Southeastern Conference's permanent disabled list.

Nor should Manziel get gang-tackled excoriated for not breaking any laws (yet) that get you sent to San Quentin.

The school and NCAA should have sent a stronger detention message by sitting Manziel for the first two games and then bringing him back for Alabama on Sept. 14.

Instead, they made him available for an opening-day fiasco but not for the postgame interview.

Stay tuned.

Weekend Wrap

— What a Labor Day weekend for a handful of worker-bee Football Championship Subdivision programs. The upstarts formerly known as 1-AA staged one upset after another: North Dakota State over Kansas State, Towson over Connecticut, Eastern Illinois over San Diego State, McNeese State over South Florida, Northern Iowa over Iowa State and Eastern Washington over Oregon State.

"It took every ounce of every minute in that sucker to get it done," Eastern Washington Coach Beau Baldwin said after his team's 49-46 thriller at Corvallis, Ore.

To the vanquished, do not despair. In 2007, Michigan rallied from its horrific opening loss to Appalachian State to beat Tim Tebow's Florida Gators in a bowl game.

— Late Saturday recap: Northwestern held off California, 44-30, in a breathlessly exciting game at Berkeley. A star may have been born in first-year Cal freshman Jared Goff, who completed 38 of 63 passes for 445 yards in his debut. Goff had three passes intercepted, but two were deflections returned for touchdowns. Cal Coach Sonny Dykes was visibly livid in thinking Northwestern was feigning injuries to slow down his up-tempo offense.

Reaction: "If anyone were to question the integrity of myself, our program, or our players, I question theirs," said Northwestern Coach Pat Fitzgerald.

— Stock check: With South Carolina leading North Carolina, 17-0, last Thursday, I received a call from a Heisman voter who said of defensive end Jadeveon Clowney's prospects: "He's toast." Other campaigns that got off to rough starts: AJ McCarron (quarterback, Alabama), Aaron Murray (quarterback, Georgia). Stock up: Quarterbacks who shined: Tajh Boyd (Clemson), Teddy Bridgewater (Louisville) and Brett Hundley (UCLA).

— Conference reports: The Mountain West had a lousy weekend starting at the top with flagship station Boise State. Washington's 38-6 win over Boise might have been the weekend's most startling result. Boise State linebacker Corey Bell said there's only one thing a Bronco can do: "Just get back on your horse."

The Big Ten (10-2) had a better weekend than the newly named American "Thank God for Louisville" Athletic (4-5). The Pac-12 South is perceived as the weaker division, but it opened 4-0 this weekend as opposed to 2-3 for the North.

Top heavy? The SEC went 10-4 but had a couple bad losses: Mississippi State scored only three points against Oklahoma State while Western Kentucky spoiled the debut of Kentucky Coach Mark Stoops.

— For what it's worth: The SEC's top six schools last year went 30-0 against the bottom eight.

chris.dufresne@latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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Johnny ManzielFootballCollege FootballCollege SportsNorthwestern WildcatsWashington Huskies
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