Nov 23, 2013; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; Texas A
The countdown to the 2013 Chick-Fil-A Bowl sits at 19 days, and today we’ll be taking a look at probably the most lobsided matchup of the game: Duke’s quarterback play vs Texas A&M’s quarterback play.
270-391 | 3,732 yards | 33 TDs | 13 INTs | 170.4 rating
177-277 | 1,833 yards | 10 TDs | 11 INTs | 123.5 rating
90-145 | 1,212 yards | 13 TDs | 6 INTs | 153.6 rating
Boone & Connette Combined
267 – 422 | 3,045 yards | 23 TDs | 17 INTs | 132.8 rating
Nov 9, 2013; College Station, TX, USA; Texas A
Any time you mix a talent like Manziel’s with an Air Raid offense, you can expect off-the-chart stats and near-optimal efficiency, and that is exactly what Texas A&M got from Manziel for the second consecutive year. His 170.4 passing efficiency was the fourth best mark in the country, with only Zach Mettenberger (LSU), Bryce Petty (Baylor), and Jameis Winston (FSU) finishing higher.
He has a strong arm and elite athleticism for a quarterback, making him dangerous even when the pocket breaks down or on the run. Even the elite linemen of the SEC had trouble bringing him down, so I’m sure Duke will find it nearly impossible to get their hands on the electric quarterback.
That said, he isn’t totally perfect.
He doesn’t have great size at 6-foot-1 and 210 pounds, but that hasn’t seemed to effect him at all so far and I don’t see it being much of a factor in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl.
He also has a problem with technique, as pointed out by Sporting News’ Eric Galko:
"Adding to his concerns, Manziel has developed (though improved in 2013) bad habits with his footwork in the pocket. His steps in his dropback are inconsistent, leading him to unnecessarily throw off balance. He has improved, especially on designed, in-pocket half-field reads, but he still makes far too many throws more difficult than he has to. An elusive runner, his desire to make defensive players miss appears to also be a factor in his inconsistent footwork."
When he is forced to stay in the pocket, he tends to be far less effective and a bit more antsy, sometimes leading to poor decision making (throwing into double coverage, fitting balls into tight spaces, etc..).
Dec 27, 2012; Charlotte, NC, USA; Duke Blue Devils quarterback Anthony Boone (7) throws a pass prior to the start of the game against the Cincinnati Bearcats in the Belk Bowl at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports
It was a year of inconsistency for Boone in 2013, with most of his performances falling more on the bad side. It is difficult to say how much he was affected by the broken collarbone he suffered against Memphis back in the second week of the season, but he struggled all year with interceptions, quick reads, and deep throws, amongst other things.
It appeared he was starting to bounce back down the stretch when he threw for a combined 530 yards and five touchdowns in road games against Wake Forest and North Carolina to close the regular season, but a miserable performance against Florida State (20-40, 138 yards, two interceptions) in the ACC Championship has left us all wondering where he currently stands as a reliable quarterback.
If he has another slow performance out of the gates, Cutcliffe could turn to…
Sep 21, 2013; Durham, NC, USA; Duke Blue Devils quarterback Brandon Connette (18) warms up prior to a game against the Pitt Panthers at Wallace Wade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports
Connette doesn’t have as strong of an arm as Boone, but he has been decent in brief appearances throughout the season, including a three-game stint in Boone’s absence where he threw for seven touchdowns and 769 yards.
Even if Boone is sharp, expect to see plenty of Connette, who has been incredibly effective in his listed ‘Phantom’ role; he can line up at virtually any skill position and is Duke’s most diverse option in short yardage situation. He runs well for his 6-foot-2, 225 pound size and is considered a big enough threat with his legs that the passing game has the tendency to open up a bit when he is under center.
While Connette has left fans begging for an increased role amidst Boone’s down year, it would probably be a really bad sign if he ends up receiving significant playing time in the end. Cutcliffe has been hesitant to turn to his backup, usually giving Boone plenty of time to work through his struggles. I can’t really see this changing in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl, and a few weeks off may be the spark Boone needs to return to form.
It will take a big performance from Boone and Connette to match the output of Manziel. Missouri is the only team to hold Manziel under 270 total yards all year (he only played one half against Rice) and while Duke’s secondary has vastly improved, I wouldn’t depend on the Blue Devils being the second.
If Duke is going to win this game, they’ll need a major bounce back from Boone, who, as I previously mentioned, may be sparked by the amount of time off before the game.