In between he looked like Johnny Football at his best.
After serving his first-half suspension, the Heisman Trophy winner threw three TD passes, scrambled for 19 yards — and, well, acted up — while No. 7 Texas A&M rolled over Rice, 52-31 , on Saturday.
Manziel was sitting out because of what the school called an "inadvertent" violation of NCAA rules involving signing autographs.
His first touchdown came on a 23-yard pass to Mike Evans on A&M's second drive of the half. But just before that, Manziel got into it with a Rice defender, appearing to mimic signing an autograph while getting up from a tackle.
Coach Kevin Sumlin said he didn't see that exchange, but would have "done something about it" if he did.
Manziel ended his day by getting yanked following an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for pointing at the scoreboard after a TD pass in the fourth quarter.
"A foolish penalty at the end," Sumlin said. "No matter what the comments are or what. He's going to face that every week with the people chirping. That's not OK, and obviously I addressed that on the sideline right after the play. That's something he's going to have to deal with every week."
Manziel, who was replaced by starting Matt Joeckel on A&M's last drive, wasn't made available to the media after the game.
He did address his teammates on Friday night and discussed, according to Sumlin, the "mistakes he's made." The meeting was a condition for reinstatement.
"Maybe actions you think just hurt you end up hurting the whole football team," Sumlin said. "That was the real gist of his message to the team, that everybody's individual acts affect the team and when that happens it's not good."
Manziel had been investigated for allegedly accepting money for autographs from memorabilia brokers, a violation of NCAA rules that could have led to a much longer suspension.
Instead, Manziel only had to sit out the first two quarters to start a season that followed a very special one: He became the first freshman to win the Heisman, set numerous school and Southeastern Conference records and led the Aggies to an 11-2 mark and a victory over No. 1 Alabama.
As for the opener, Joeckel threw for 190 yards and a touchdown to help the Aggies to a 28-21 lead at halftime.
Manziel came in on Texas A&M's first offensive series of the second half. He scrambled for 12 and 7 yards, threw an incompletion and then was sacked and the Aggies capped his first drive with a 44-yard field goal.
Manziel extended A&M's lead to 38-21 with the touchdown pass to Evans.
Ben Malena grabbed an 18-yard pass from Manziel early in the fourth quarter to extend the lead to 45-28.
Rice failed to convert on fourth down on its next drive and Manziel took advantage of the short field two plays later when he hit a wide-open Evans in the end zone for a 9-yard touchdown. Then he got a flag.
Asked afterward if he was ready to pull Manziel before the penalty, Sumlin said: "Nope."
Offensive lineman Cedric Ogbuehi, for one, didn't have a problem with Manziel's antics.
"That's how he is. He's a fiery guy and that's what we love about him," he said. "He's not quiet. He's not shy. He's going to be loud and aggressive and that's what makes him Johnny Football. So we love it."
For Rice, Taylor McHargue threw for 180 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions and Charles Ross had 107 yards rushing with two scores for the Owls.
Ross got Rice within 10 points with a 1-yard run seconds into the fourth quarter.
"I thought we played well," Rice coach David Bailiff said. "We are going to be a good Conference USA team. Our goals are still intact."
The Aggies struggled early in the first half, possibly due to the suspensions of five defensive starters: cornerbacks Deshazor Everett and De'Vante Harris, tackle Kirby Ennis, end Gavin Stansbury and linebacker Steven Jenkins. Backup safety Floyd Raven also was suspended.
The two-game penalties for Harris, Stansbury, Jenkins and receiver Edward Pope were announced just minutes before kickoff, meaning their first game action will be against top-ranked Alabama on Sept. 14.
Everett's suspension was for a half. He started on defense after the break but was ejected in the fourth quarter for targeting.
The Aggies wore helmet stickers to remember defensive lineman Polo Manukainiu, who was killed in a New Mexico car crash along with two others late last month. The sticker is black and white and features his No. 90 with designs in the number that were inspired by his Tongan heritage.
The Aggies relied on the running game in the second quarter to complete a touchdown drive with a 1-yard run by Carson to even the score. Malena had 82 yards rushing with a touchdown and a touchdown catch. Tra Carson added 76 yards rushing and two touchdowns for the Aggies.
A&M's first lead came on a 71-yard catch and run by freshman Ricky Seals-Jones that made it 21-14. Carson pushed the lead to 28-14 with his second score on a two-yard run.
Rice led 7-0 after a 1-yard run by Ross. With Manziel watching from the sidelines sporting a visor, A&M evened it up when Ben Malena scored on a 4-yard run, but the Owls took a 14-7 lead when McHargue found Charles Ross on a 19-yard touchdown pass with seven minutes left in the first quarter.
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