AUSTIN, Texas — This isn’t your father’s Manning. Or even your grandfather’s Manning.
Well, perhaps Texas Longhorns freshman quarterback Arch Manning has more in common with his Hall of Fame grandfather Archie than he does with his legendary uncles, Peyton and Eli, in one area, at least.
After all, Archie Manning, the scion of football’s first family, ran for close to 2,200 yards and 18 touchdowns over his 11-year NFL career thanks to the type of athleticism that manifested more in passing talent in his two sons who played quarterback. Arch flashed similar — or perhaps better — running ability on Friday at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium in his much-anticipated debut against the Texas Tech Red Raiders in the 57-7 win.
When Manning replaced starting quarterback Quinn Ewers late in the third quarter with backup Maalik Murphy in the locker room after a freak injury sustained during the 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Keilan Robinson to open the second half, an electric current pulsed through the sold-out stadium.
“I told him from the beginning, they’re going to go crazy when he goes in,” said Ewers. “I mean, it was cool to see.”
On Manning’s first drop back, he flashed the athleticism that allowed him to hit 20 miles per hour in a preseason scrimmage with a five-yard scramble to pick up a first down, then scrambled for 12 yards on another called pass play to pick up critical yardage in the red zone.
Arch Manning showing some wheels to pick up the first down. pic.twitter.com/7b9VySd57G— CJ Vogel (@CJVogel_TFB) November 25, 2023
Prepare to see “sneaky athletic” for the rest of time when folks describe Arch Manning’s game. pic.twitter.com/p0qwhnkGPV— CJ Vogel (@CJVogel_TFB) November 25, 2023
“Yeah, he’s quick. Y’all probably didn’t know that very well,” said Ewers.
When Manning finally was able to attempt his first two passes, coming on 3rd and goal and 4th and goal from the Texas Tech 6-yard line, both fell incomplete, albeit with the velocity and quick release that helped make Manning the consensus No. 1 recruit in the 2023 class and one of the most coveted players in modern recruiting history.
Manning’s third pass found its target, freshman wide receiver Johntay Cook, also a consensus five-star prospect in the 2023 cycle, on a rollout right on a 3rd and 3 as Cook found a hole in the Texas Tech zone defense.
5⭐️ to 5⭐️— 247Sports (@247Sports) November 25, 2023
Arch Manning's first collegiate completion is to composite 5⭐️ WR Johntay Cookpic.twitter.com/5QjRPWAJVW
A throw intended for junior wide receiver Casey Cain didn’t connect, but facing a 4th and 5 from the Texas 49-yard line, Manning went back to Cain for 13 yards to set up three runs by freshman running back Tre Wisner that produced 38 yards and the game’s final touchdown to cap a 13-play, 91-yard drive.
While Manning did fumble a snap that cost the Longhorns 10 yards in the red zone prior to his 12-yard scramble, his debut showed flashes of the player he could become at Texas thanks to his athleticism, ability to throw on the move, and arm strength.
“He went out there and made some plays and had some fun about it,” said Ewers. “We were talking after, he’s like, ‘It’s so much more fun in game.’ I was like, ‘Yeah, man, of course.’ He got some good playing time and it was good to see everyone showing love.”
Sarkisian suspected there were some butterflies and anxiousness for Manning in his debut.
“Definitely things to build upon moving forward, but happy he was able to get into the game.”