ATLANTA (AP) -- Even by Johnny Manziel's Heisman-winning standards, his lead role in Texas A&M's comeback was one to remember.
Manziel threw four touchdown passes, and Toney Hurd Jr. returned an interception 55 yards for the late go-ahead touchdown in Texas A&M's 52-48 victory over Duke on Tuesday night in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
Led by Manziel, the Aggies rallied after trailing 38-17 at halftime. It was the highest-scoring game in the bowl's history.
Manziel, playing in what might be his final college game, completed 30 of 38 passes for 382 yards and ran for 73 yards and a touchdown.
"I was in a zone I haven't been in before," Manziel said. "Ever. I just wanted this game."
Hurd's interception return gave the No. 20 Aggies (9-4) their first lead with 3:33 remaining.
No. 22 Duke (10-4) took a 41-31 lead into the fourth quarter. The Blue Devils couldn't hold off the comeback and are still looking for their first bowl win since beating Arkansas 7-6 in the 1961 Cotton Bowl.
Hurd stepped in front of receiver Johnell Barnes for the interception, the first turnover for either team. Texas A&M linebacker Nate Askew ended Duke's next possession with another interception.
Duke's Anthony Boone passed for 427 yards and three touchdowns but was left to regret the two interceptions, especially Hurd's.
"It hurt," Boone said. "It was a very unfortunate play on my part."
Manziel, a third-year sophomore who won the Heisman Trophy as a freshman last season, is widely projected as a first-round pick if he decides to enter the NFL draft. He wasn't ready to talk about his decision after the game.
"I can't even talk about anything other than this game," Manziel said. "This was unreal. ... I haven't made (the decision) yet. I'm in the moment right now."
Asked if this would be a perfect way to cap his college career, Manziel said: "I don't know. It's an unreal feeling, I know that. The way these guys fought, it was unreal. I'm proud of them."
Texas A&M's defense opened the second half with its first stop of the game. The Blue Devils, successful on two fourth-down calls in the first half, were stopped on fourth down from the Texas A&M 35.
That set the stage for Manziel's magic.
The elusive quarterback had runs of 12 and 14 yards before his highlight play of the game. On second down from the Duke 17, Manziel danced and shuffled in traffic before vaulting a defender and dumping a short pass to Travis Labhart, who scored easily for his third touchdown of the game.
"It looked like we had him down three times," Duke coach David Cutcliffe said. "He's just strong, so strong."
Josh Snead ran and caught passes for touchdowns and blocked a punt to set up a scoring run by Boone as Duke dominated the first half.
Snead capped Duke's opening drive with an 11-yard touchdown catch. He had 17 carries for 104 yards and a touchdown and three catches for 21 yards and a touchdown. Juwan Thompson added 92 yards rushing for the Blue Devils and Jamison Crowder had 12 receptions for 163 yards and a touchdown.
All the pregame focus on Manziel and his possible farewell game failed to address the Aggies' weakness that made the 2013 season a disappointment. Texas A&M ranked last in the Southeastern Conference and 105th in the nation in total defense and 88th in the nation in scoring defense.
Duke's offense, led by Boone, ripped through the vulnerable Texas A&M defense. The Blue Devils gained 365 yards with no punts in the first half while building the three-touchdown lead.
Manziel and the Aggies couldn't match Duke's relentless attack. Mistakes hurt the Aggies, including an unsportsmanlike conduct call against receiver Mike Evans which helped to stall their first possession. Evans drew a second personal foul call later in the first quarter and then had to hear about it on the sideline from Manziel.
Duke attacked with go-for-broke play-calling.
The Blue Devils were successful on two four-and-1 plays in a second-quarter drive that ended with Snead's 25-yard touchdown run. Duke then added even more pressure by recovering an onside kick following the touchdown.
The recovery at midfield set up Ross Martin's 18-yard field goal on the final play of the half.
ABOUT THE comeback...
• The Aggies’ rally from 21 points down ranks as the largest comeback in school history. It eclipsed a 20-point rally from a 27-7 deficit against Baylor in 1958 (Aggies won 33-27). The Aggies went into halftime with a 38-17 deficit and Duke was receiving the opening kickoff of the second half.
Deficit Score Opp., Year Final
-21 38-17 Duke, 2013 W, 52-48
-20 7-27 Baylor, 1958 W, 33-27
-17 0-17 Oklahoma St., 2007 W, 24-24
-17 0-17 Baylor, 1986 W, 31-30
-15 12-27 Kansas St., 1998 W, 36-33 ot
-15 7-22 Oklahoma St., 1997 W, 28-25 ot
ABOUT THE WIN ...
• The Aggies won bowl games in three successive seasons for the first time in school history.
• It was the first time that Texas A&M has won three bowls in a row since a three-game streak comprised of wins in the 1978 Hall of Fame Bowl, the 1981 Independence Bowl and the 1986 Cotton Bowl.
• The win was the 20th of the Kevin Sumlin era. It was the seventh time that Texas A&M has won 20 or more games in a two-game span. No other head coach has more than 18 wins in his first two seasons at Texas A&M.
• It’s the first time A&M has had consecutive seasons with at least nine wins since 1997-98. It was the 22nd time A&M has had at least nine wins in a season.
Manziel takes down Tannehill
Record-setting QB Johnny Manziel took down the season school record of 3,744 passing yards set by Ryan Tannehill in 2011. Manziel needed 13 passing yards to break the record and did it on his first completion of the game -- a 15-yarder to Mike Evans.
Kaser takes down Lechler
Sophomore punter Drew Kaser wasn’t credited with a punt (punt blocks are credited to “team”) and thus ended 2013 with a 47.4 average that breaks Shane Lechler’s school record of 47.0 from 1997.
Manziel just shy of 10,000
Johnny Manziel needed 466 total yards to become the first sophomore with 10,000 career yards. He finished just 11 yards shy of 10,000 with 455 yards against Duke. After his sophomore years (26 games), Manziel has 9,989 total yards, which is the most-ever by a sophomore.
In two bowl games, Manziel has generated 971 yards, nine touchdowns and two wins.
Texas A&M bowl recordS
• Senior WR Travis Labhart set the A&M bowl record with three touchdown catches (old record of two by Jimmie Williams in the 1981 Independence Bowl). He also tied the game TDs record of three, which has been done four times previously (most recently by Ja’Mar Toombs in the 2000 Independence Bowl).
• Sophomore QB Johnny Manziel set A&M bowl records for completions (30) and passing yards (382), breaking Jerrod Johnson’s bowl records of 29 and 362 from the 2009 Independence Bowl.
records challenged or broken
• The Aggies passed for 382 yards to bring their season total to 4,593, which breaks the school (4,114, 2012) and SEC record (4,534 by Florida, 1998).
• The Aggies fell just a yard shy of gaining 7,000 for a second straight season with 6,999 total yards. A&M’s 2013 total ranks No. 2 in SEC history behind last year’s 7,261 yards.
• With 30 first downs against Duke, the Aggies improved their season total to 356, which was one short of the SEC record of 357 set by the Aggies in 2012.
• The 30-of-38 passing night by Johnny Manziel raised the Aggies’ season completion percentage to a school record 69.3, which is a school record and ranks No. 3 in SEC history.
• The 52 points scored by the Aggies raised the season total of 575, which was just three points behind last year’s school record of 578. A&M’s points per game was 44.2, which is No. 4 in SEC history (No. 2 in school history).
• A&M finished the year with 78 touchdowns, which ties the school record set originally the 2012 squad and ranks No. 2 in SEC history.
12th MAN, POLO, CAPTAINS, COIN TOSS
• For the 13th straight game, sophomore defensive back Sam Moeller was the 12th Man.
• Wearing the #90 jersey in memory of fallen teammate Polo Manukainiu was junior gavin stansbury (normally wears #72). Manukainiu died in a tragic car accident last summer.
• The Aggies’ team captains at the coin toss were senior captains Toney Hurd Jr., Ben Malena and Jake Matthews. Texas A&M won the toss and elected to receive.
COACH KEVIN SUMLIN
TONEY HURD, JR.
COACH SUMLIN: It's New Year's. Let's get questions and get going.
Q. It was obviously a tale of two halves. How were you able to keep them out of the end zone in the second half?
COACH SUMLIN: We missed a bunch of one‑on‑one situations I thought. Play‑action pass got us. Some deep balls, some missed tackles. We had a little bit of a discussion at halftime about doing your job, not trying to do everything, take over the whole thing in one big chunk, but play each play, do your job, be accountable, be accountable to the next man.
As a coach, I think you get two of the greatest compliments you can be given is if your team plays hard and doesn't ever quit. That kind of leadership comes from the locker room and the guys that are on the field.
These guys, what we talked about at halftime was don't go back out there unless you think you're going to win the game. That belief, looking at each other in the eye, counting on the next guy, I couldn't be happier for the win, accomplished what this senior group has accomplished, something that you'll never be able to take away from them, a story that has set a tone for this program, winning 20 games in two seasons, moving to a new league, getting a new coach, the whole bit. It's a tribute to the players.
Q. You said you had a meeting on the sidelines. What was said?
JOHNNY MANZIEL: The whole thing all night was, Don't quit. We got down really big. But the main thing I kept stressing to everybody, offense, defense, special teams, kickoff, whatever it was, Don't look at the scoreboard, don't look up. No reason to do it. The game is 0‑0. I kept trying to reiterate to them we worked hard, fought all year, specifically talking to the offense, it all starts with them up front. You guys are dogs. You worked hard all year, you're the strength of our offense. You need to start pushing some guys around. And I think they did a great job.
With the receivers I said, Continue to make plays. We're close. We were just a little bit off I felt in the first half. We settled down, stopped really pressing. I don't know how many incompletions we had in the second half, but it wasn't many. I know that.
JOHNNY MANZIEL: One.
Q. (No microphone.)
JOHNNY MANZIEL: I don't know. It's an unreal feeling, I know that. I know the way these guys fought, unreal how proud I am of them, biggest comeback in school history. Wow.
Q. (No microphone.)
TONEY HURD, JR.: I mean first and foremost, I want to take my hats off to my coach and my teammates. We had a lot of adversity in the first half and we found a way to bounce back. It's a blessing.
Q. (No microphone.)
JOHNNY MANZIEL: We had a little play‑action bubble pass out. I didn't get a very good look. Tyrell told me it was an easy touchdown. I think the way things go down, I could make it a little bit harder.
When I left my feet originally, I thought I was in trouble because somebody from Duke was staring up at me. I don't know what happened. I kind of shot backwards, bounced off of somebody, got out of there and looked out and saw Lab sitting wide open.
COACH SUMLIN: That's coaching (laughter).
Q. Were you surprised at all finding yourself way down?
COACH SUMLIN: I said this all week, I told these guys, you get to this time of year, you don't have bad football teams. You don't beat Miami and Virginia Tech, Carolina, win 10 games luckily. David Cutcliffe and his staff did a great job. That is a really, really well‑prepared, well‑coached, well‑disciplined football team.
That being said, you give them credit for their execution, how they played, how they came out. We had a little meeting with everybody, I think it's called a meeting. I thought we pressed early. I think we were just a little bit off, and they were on. That's a tribute to how they approached the game. They were prepared.
'Surprised' would not be the word. I said all week, you guys don't know me that much, but guys around me, if I say I think a team's good, I'm going to tell you. If I don't, that won't come out of my mouth.
JOHNNY MANZIEL: For me, I think the biggest thing was, when I came away from that game, I'll speak about this forever, I think that team plays with more heart than anybody in the entire country. I think those guys they have on their team, they play for Coach Cutcliffe and they played for their coaches and for their fans and university maybe harder than anybody in the country. It really was unreal to see how much passion, fire, energy they did coming into that game. It was pretty darn good.
It was a real credit to them how they played today. It was pretty darn good.
Q. (No microphone.)
JOHNNY MANZIEL: Biggest thing that I kept stressing, Don't give up. No matter how dark it gets, if they come out, score, go for two, whatever the score got to, never stop quitting. I won't stop quitting on those guys. They won't quit on me. That was it, settle down, no matter what.
TONEY HURD, JR.: As a team we came out and each and every one of us was a man. We just stepped up in the end and made plays when it counted, came out with a W.
Q. (No microphone.)
COACH SUMLIN: It's big. You get confidence from a situation like this, particularly from where we were at halftime, the atmosphere, the stage, national TV. I said at the end of the game, for the seniors it's a big deal, for them moving on, setting the tone. But for our young guys who played a lot of football this year, got on the stage like the one tonight, national television with everybody watching and responding, not quitting, that really sets the tone for things to come.
A bunch of those freshmen that played a lot this year, they're going to have to draw on these experiences and get better and be leaders for us going into next year.
Q. (No microphone.)
TONEY HURD, JR.: Our front seven got a little bit of pressure. The number one receiver ran a slant. I saw the ball come out of his hands. The rest is history. It was a great play.
Q. (No microphone.)
TONEY HURD, JR.: It's a great feeling. Not only Johnny, but the entire offense. Coach Spav and Coach McKinney throughout the whole season have dialed up great plays. It's fun to be exact.
On defense, we have to step up, make plays. It's fun to be able to watch our offense make plays each and every game, as well.
Q. (Question regarding the NFL.)
JOHNNY MANZIEL: I feel like they dared us to beat one‑on‑one coverage a little bit. They like to play some man in the NFL, I know that. We did a great job in the second half. Our receivers ran great routes. They continued to get open. Just tried to put it on them as much as I could.
One completion in a whole half of football, that's a pretty good deal by both me, I guess, and the receivers. But mainly in the second half it was up front, those guys were unreal.
Q. (No microphone.)
JOHNNY MANZIEL: This is uncharacteristic of Mike. This is not Mike. A little bit out of his element, a little bit out of his comfort zone. He was just a little frustrated. Tried to settle him down. If anybody could kind of come to him and settle him down and get him out of that little zone he was in, I felt like I might have been the person to do it. He's a guy that I've roomed with all year. He's a guy I love like a brother. Tried to settle him down and get him to be the guy that he is, the incredible receiver he is.
Q. Talk about your career at Texas A&M.
JOHNNY MANZIEL: Unreal. To be with Coach Sumlin, have him come in, didn't expect him to be there when I first came there, that's for sure. But it was unreal how things played out in my career so far at Texas A&M. It's been a blessing for sure to have Coach Sumlin, guys like Coach Kingsbury and Coach Spav, everybody on the staff that does a great job week in, week out, making sure we're prepared, making sure our goal is to put partnerships up on the board and they have the game plan to do it.
Most of all I'm extremely proud to have played on the offensive line with guys like Luke, Jake, (indiscernible). Everybody on offense the past two years, it's been unreal towards me, they've been awesome towards me. They've helped me get to where I am today. Without them I wouldn't be anything.
Q. (No microphone.)
COACH SUMLIN: Here is a guy who we gave a scholarship to during fall camp. Nobody even knew who he was. He has a couple hundred‑yard gains. I'll be honest with you, it is offensive guys kept talking about him during camp. Particularly this guy over there. He's put, Put Lab in the game.
I'm like, What? We recruited the number one receiver class in the country last year, and you want me to put Lab in the game?
That says a lot. He's a guy that really represents our university, really represents Texas A&M. Here is a guy that was basically playing with the women's basketball team, helping them as a scout team for the women's basketball team. Then he comes over, he's a scout team guy for our football team. Now he's got a couple hundred‑yard games. What did he do tonight? 76. I think he gives hope to everybody. A guy that works at it, didn't quit, plays extremely hard.
I think when you recruit, you try to recruit at the level we recruit at, I think there's always room for that guy. That's why we put him on scholarship during fall camp. That was money well spent, obviously. That's a great reward for him.
Q. (No microphone.)
COACH SUMLIN: I don't know. I thought our game plan was good. We incorporated some other players. Cam Clear got a few more touches at tight end. Added him really in the formations a little bit more. All our runningbacks did a nice job. Our O‑line did a nice job.
We were probably a little bit more multiple with utilizing different formations and multiple players. Whenever you do that, you have an opportunity to really heighten the energy level because more people are playing.
I think, you know, you like to see that with Cam because he can be a real force for us going into next year.
Q. What does a win like this tonight do for the team going into next year?
JOHNNY MANZIEL: It's unreal. Like I said, that's the word I can use to describe this game. From coming back, getting the game to three points, watching the guy tiptoe down the sideline. How he didn't go out of bounds is unreal. I was talking to people on the sidelines, saying it was unreal. ESPN Classic on NCAA football for sure.
Now it's 20‑14. Feel like we got our first win 20‑14. Gave us momentum going forward.
COACH SUMLIN: It was interesting. I walked down to him and I said, We're going to get the ball, we're going to score, and then we're going to onside kick and we're going to win the game.
He said, I know that.
About that time I looked up, he was going the other way. That eliminated that part of the game. We did have that discussion right there.