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Saturday, January 5th, 2013

McKnight Trophy Winner (Defensive MVP) - Texas A&M DB Dustin Harris

Photo By: Photo by Ian Halperin/CBAA
The Texas A&M Aggies defeated the Oklahoma Sooners, 41-13, in the 77th AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic January 4, 2013 at Cowboys Stadium.

Trailing by one midway through the second quarter, Landry Jones had Oklahoma on another time-consuming drive intended to keep the electric Johnny Manziel on the sidelines.

But facing a second-and-long, Jones took his shotgun snap, stepped up in the pocket and fired a pass down the sidelines to what was supposed to be an uncovered Kenny Stills. Instead, Texas A&M’s Dustin Harris looked off a separate “in” route intended to bait him inside and slunk underneath the “smash” pattern to pick off the pass, changing the entire game’s dynamic.

That game-changing turnover, coupled with his 10 tackles, earned Harris the Felix McKnight Trophy as the Most Outstanding Defensive Player in Texas A&M’s 41-13 dismantling of Oklahoma at Cowboys Stadium in the 77th AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic.

With the Aggies averaging 9.59 yards per play, it was crucial for the Sooners to maintain control of the ball and keep the Heisman Trophy winner off the field. Jones had done a nice job in the early going establishing the pace that Oklahoma wanted to keep, but Harris’s interception put the ball back into Manziel’s hands, where he proceeded to frolic into the end zone just three plays later.

For Harris and the rest of the Aggie seniors, the rout of Oklahoma capped an 11-2 season.

“We've been in it for four years. It's been a rough and long ride, but we ended it with a success. I'm just thankful,” Harris said.

During the week, Texas A&M defensive coordinator Mark Snyder said the Oklahoma receiving corps was the best group the Aggies will see all season. Thanks to the play of Harris, it turned into a non-issue.

Harris didn’t just make the big play when Texas A&M needed one — he was a shutdown cornerback that made Jones look off his side of the field for most of the night. And when Oklahoma ran to his side of the field or tossed a bubble screen out his way, he made the play. He finished with more tackles (10) than anyone else in the game.

While Damontre Moore made headlines by announcing his intentions to go to the NFL Draft after the game, the cornerback who made a name for himself with his electric punt returns during his four-year career finished with a defensive gem that left a lasting impression on the dozens of NFL scouts in attendance.

“I bought into what coach [Kevin] Sumlin and coach [Marcel] Yates and coach [Mark] Snyder were saying,” he said. “Our success comes from them because all they had to do is tell us what to do. If we did it, we’d end up where we are right now.”

And for someone off the national radar, Harris seems to have a knack for making an impression when he’s leaving for the next level. After his high school career ended in 2008, Harris was electric in a Texas high school all-star game. He stole the show by returning a kickoff for a touchdown, returning a fumble 95 yards for a touchdown, grabbing an interception, and taking a punt to the end zone that was called back for holding.

He’s the first Texas A&M defensive back to win the award since Domingo Bryant earned it in the 1986 Cotton Bowl win over Auburn.

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