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Texas A&M puts exclamation mark on 1st SEC season

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Texas A&M puts exclamation mark on 1st SEC season

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) For everybody who wondered how Texas A&M would do in the SEC, Johnny Football and the Aggies had an emphatic answer.

Led by their Heisman Trophy-winning freshman quarterback, the 10th-ranked Aggies won 11 games, and never even trailed while winning the last six. They capped their SEC debut season with a 41-13 Cotton Bowl victory over No. 12 Oklahoma, a former Big 12 rival that had dominated them so often.

``It's momentum for everything. It's momentum for next year and all the people that are returning,'' Johnny Manziel said. ``We went to the Cotton Bowl this year. A BCS bowl and national championship is the goal next year.

``For people to see what we're in the SEC and what we did this year and with the people that we have coming back it's a big exclamation point,'' he said.

Four weeks after becoming the first freshman to win college football's highest individual award, Manziel was finally back on the field. He responded with a Heisman-worthy performance.

Manziel accounted for four touchdowns and had a Cotton Bowl-record 516 total yards, including an FBS bowl record for quarterbacks with his 229 yards rushing on 17 carries. The redshirt freshman who wasn't named the Aggies starter until two weeks before the season opener finished with 5,116 total yards, the most for a Heisman winner and the first SEC player over 5,000.

The Aggies (11-2), barely a .500 team in their final Big 12 season, were the first SEC team to gain more than 7,000 yards.

Their only losses were by a combined eight points to Florida and LSU, current Top 10 teams. The season-ending winning streak included a win at SEC champion Alabama, which plays Monday night for the league's seventh consecutive national title.

``We never doubted ourselves. Everybody acts like I didn't know what we were getting into when I took the job. We were already in the SEC,'' first year Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin said. ``We weren't coming in the league just trying to play games.''

Texas A&M had lost in its previous six Cotton Bowl appearances, and was 0-4 at Cowboys Stadium.

``I think with the exposure that we've had, answering some questions about being able to not only compete, but win against the co-champion of the Big 12, for us to come out and play the way we did, you've got to figure out what kind of statement that makes,'' Sumlin said.

Oklahoma (10-3) had won 11 of the previous 13 games in the series, including a 77-0 victory in 2003 that is the worst loss in Aggies history.

It is only the Aggies' fourth 11-win season, and the first since 1998 when they won their only Big 12 title. That was the only time in their 16 Big 12 seasons that they won more than nine games and they left that league with a 7-6 record only after beating Northwestern in a bowl game.

``It's been a rough and long ride, but we ended it with a success,'' senior cornerback Dustin Harris said.

The Aggies have scored first in 18 consecutive games, and went ahead to stay in the Cotton Bowl when Manziel tiptoed the sideline on a 23-yard touchdown run to end the game's opening drive. He had already had a 24-yard run.

His other TD run was a 5-yard bootleg when he got into the end zone untouched, two plays after his impressive fake throw before a pitch to a receiver who then threw a 20-yard pass.

Among the other highlights for Manziel was a 44-yard run when he started left, then reversed and ran parallel to the line of scrimmage before finding a seam and not getting tackled until the Oklahoma 11.

Manziel completed 22 of 34 passes for 287 yards with two touchdowns, one a short pass to Ryan Swope on fourth-and-5 that became a 33-yard score and the other hitting Uzoma Nwachukwu in stride for a 34-yard pass.

There was an interception, but that pass deflected off the hands of receiver Malcome Kennedy and was picked off in the end zone.

Texas A&M had 633 total yards in the Cotton Bowl even without offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury, who was hired last month as Texas Tech's new coach.

And there was obviously no Heisman hangover for Manziel, the 20-year-old who did plenty in the aftermath of winning the award. He made late-night show appearances with David Letterman and Jay Leno, played golf with members of the Jonas Brothers and was seen in a suite at a Dallas Cowboys game and sitting courtside at a Dallas Mavericks game.

```They weren't distractions. People tried to make it out to be `He's doing all these things; he's going to games; he's going everywhere.' I just did the same thing before and people just didn't care,'' Manziel said. ``My teammates never changed on me. I never changed on them. It was never any different after I won the Heisman, and it never will be.''

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Derrius Guice understands why Redskins fans are frustrated, but he's looking ahead

Derrius Guice understands why Redskins fans are frustrated, but he's looking ahead

Derrius Guice is a very positive person. Unfortunately, he's playing for a team right now that's shrouded in negativity.

The Redskins have played 10 games this season, and they've walked off the field as losers in nine of those contests. They've gotten rid of their head coach, and many are wondering how many other major changes will come.

And when it comes to the fans, many — if not most — are furious with the direction of the franchise. Guice is noticing that, too.

"It just sucks when I score, or someone else scores, and our team posts a picture to Instagram or Twitter and everything under it is just, 'Fire this, fire that, we suck," Guice told JP Finlay in a 1-on-1 interview on the Redskins Talk podcast. "That doesn't help anything."

The running back understands that frustration. However, he wants those who are angry to know one thing: While this current roster is obviously responsible for the 2019 issues, they aren't responsible for the two-decade-long slump that's affected the organization.

"I'm new here," Guice said. "I understand some of these fans have been here 20-30 years, but like, there's a lot of guys on this team that are new. Y'all can't bring all that negativity to us like we've been here 20 years. I don't think that's fair to us players."

That's what makes this situation so difficult for those on the field and those who watch those on the field. Fans have been on this unsatisfying ride for far too long, yet most of the players hopped on a stop or two ago. 

So people who post those hateful comments or send those angry DMs are doing so because they've seen a handful of free agency and draft classes bust, and because they've seen numerous coaches come in and fail, and they've been lied to repeatedly about how "close" the Redskins are. They aren't necessarily trying to take it out on Guice or Dwayne Haskins or Landon Collins, it just appears that way.

Guice, for one, is trying his best to improve how he handles that side of being an athlete. He's also choosing to focus on those who've stayed on his side through what's been a trying first couple of seasons in the league.

For all the negativity he encounters, he's grateful for those who remain positive like him.

"A guy that's been there two years and has only played two real games, there's a lot of fans that have still never left my side since I got drafted," Guice said. "That's something I always have to cherish."

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Report: Phillies sign another National, bring on assistant hitting coach Joe Dillion

Report: Phillies sign another National, bring on assistant hitting coach Joe Dillion

When you win a championship the way the Nationals did, other teams are going to try and capture that magic in any way they can. 

Of course, Anthony Rendon and Stephen Strasburg are at risk of leaving town and free agency, but now the Davey Martinez will have to make changes to his coaching staff as well. 

According to Jim Salisbury, the Phillies hired Washington's assistant hitting coach Joe Dillon as their new hitting coach under manager Joe Girardi. 

Working with hitting coach Kevin Long, Dillon helped the Nationals lead the national league in on-base percentage while ranking second in batting average and OPS. 

The Phillies struggled at the plate in 2019, ranking 22nd in batting average, 19th in on-base percentage and 17th in OPS. Despite acquiring Bryce Harper, Jean Segura and JT Realmuto last offseason, Philadelphia boasted an anemic offense under former hitting coach John Mallee. 

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