Sunday, October 16, 2011

Ag Football Recap: Ags 55 v. Baylor 28

Eternal Scoreboard.

Honestly, this is one of the games I circled on the schedule and said, "We have to win this game - I don't think I could take listening to Baylor fans overplay this game for all of eternity if we lost."

There was never a Baylor game that I burned to win more than this one. Normally it was just another game on the schedule that I anticipated a victory in but this year was different. Whether it be the entire SEC roadblock, all the RG3 hype, or the fact that they were, not only ranked, but somehow ranked ahead of us - I wanted our boys to crush them.


The Battle of the Brazos ends with A&M dominating the series with 22 wins in the final 25 meetings and the Bear's winless streak at Kyle Field will stay frozen at 13, dating back to 1984.

It was a great game - it was close enough, long enough for the fans to be into the game and have some suspense but we finished so strongly that we ended up completely blowing them out. The perfect combination.

Let me start by saying that Robert Griffin III is a great player. It's a shame that he is being wasted away in Waco. He threw for a school record 430 yards and had 3 TDs.

Our defense did get after him though, picking up 5 sacks. We should have had 4 or 5 more but he is so incredibly elusive he slipped out of them - usually resulting in a nice scramble or even a long completion - very impressive. We did also pick him once. It was our first forced turnover since the first quarter of the SMU game and it was only the second INT he has thrown all season.

I'm not sure what on earth he was thinking, but that INT was probably one of the worst I've ever seen. It was 1st & 20 on their own 20 with 9:46 remaining in the game and we were up by 20 at that point. He was flushed out of the pocket and just hurled the ball deep downfield - he was standing flat footed and wasn't even looking - it was a jump ball that Dustin Harris won.

One place that has completely killed us all season is getting off the field on third down....especially in 3rd & long (they converted on a 3rd & 19 and 3rd & 11).

On offense everything finally clicked on all cylinders. Holy cow we have the ability to just roll a team up when that happens. We finished with 681 yards of offense and only failed to score on our opening drive (when Tanny was picked on a tipped shuttle pass). My favorite part was that in the second half the offense actually stuck around - we scored 31 points in the last 30 minutes.

Ryan Tannehill found Ryan Swope over, and over, and over, and over. Swope finished the day with 205 yards (5th most in school history) and a school record 4 TD receptions on 11 receptions. Jeff Fuller had a couple of drops but he made up for them with 71 yards on 5 receptions - when he had the ball in hand he fought like a dog for yardage. EZ also had 94 yards and a TD on 4 receptions.

Fuller also passed Terrence Murphy for the top spot in the school's all-time receiving yard list. He now sits atop all three of the school's big receiving categories for a career -receptions, TDs, and yards.

Tannehill finished the day 25-of-37 with 6 TD passes and 1 INT and 415 yards passing. He added 55 yards on the ground.

CMike and Cyrus Gray are so incredible to watch. Cyrus had 42 yards on 12 carries while CMike had 105 and a TD on 21 carries.

Other notes:
  • Steven Jenkins make his first career start at ILB
This was my first game to sit in my actual season ticket seat and I'm still crispy red from sitting so close to the sun. The lady next to us was probably in her 50s and she was there by herself and was as loud as Sean and I. At one point in the 3rd quarter she turned to me and gave me instructions on what to do if she had a heart attack. And I think she was serious. That is redass.

This coming Saturday we travel to Ames to face ISU and the following weekend we get another 11am kickoff at Kyle Field with Mizzou.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Ag Football Recap: Ags 45 v. tech 40

The tension was high my my living room as I watched this one play out - it was Jennifer's birthday on Saturday so we went out for dinner and after she went to bed I stayed up into the wee hours of the morning to watch the game - and it was so hard to keep quiet and not wake everyone up.

It wasn't our best game, and we certainly looked bad at several points, but I will take a win in lubbock any day - any way necessary.

It wasn't Tannehill's best game, but I thought he did a good job leading the team and being athletic enough to turn a handful of negative plays into positive ones. He threw for 188 yards and 1 TD but ran for 55 yards and added two TDs on the ground.

Cyrus ran for 115 yards and a TD while CMike added 52 strong yards and another TD.

There were two times that Cyrus was whistled down but his knee never hit the turf (he was sitting on a defensive player) - we noticed this also once in the Arkansas game. The coaching staff or someone needs to point this out to the officials because at least two of the three times he got up and took off and they would have been easy TDs.

Everyone has been ranting and raving about the defense over the last three weeks but what might be a bigger concern is the offense consistently disappearing in the second half.
1st Half: 301 yds/20 pts
2nd Half: 170/7

1H: 424/35
2H: 234/3

1H: 326/31
2H: 82/14
Seven of those second half points against tech came on a blocked kick (by Dustin Harris) that was returned by Terrence Fredrick for a TD so the offense doesn't even get credit for it.

This has way more to do with those late game comebacks that we've seen than the defense does.

On the defensive side of the ball three players jumped out at me as guys who stepped up.
  • Sean Porter continues to be our best (and most consistent) defensive player
  • Terrence Fredrick not only returned that blocked FG for a TD but he had a couple of big pass deflections - I thought it was his best game of the season - he also did a great job (along with Porter) at breaking through his blocks on the bubble screens and making the tackle on the receiver
  • True freshman, Howard Matthews, who made his first start of the season - he was all over the field and played the run very well and brought pressure constantly (4 QB hits including a sack)
We had a couple of injuries - Jeff Fuller came out of the game with a concussion and Brandon Alexander dislocated his elbow. Ryan Swope was on the field a lot but was MIA - I think they are really trying to keep him out there as a decoy and not give him the ball as he recovers from his concussion.

Is there a team in the conference that gets away with more holds than tech? It seems like they, more than anyone else, get away with big obvious holds every single time we play them.

While I'm talking about penalties, I'm going to mention the officiating. You aren't allowed to complain about it if you lose so I'm going to do it when we win. They were bad.

I already mentioned the whistles on Cyrus and the holds but there was some sort of phantom pass interference call on T-Fred just before tech's last TD of the first half - probably the worst PI call I've seen in a few years. There was also a really badly missed block in the back on a return where Tony Hurd Jr. was shoved right out of the path of the return guy - right in front of the official.

I know there are missed calls in every game but some of these were egregious.

One thing is for sure - I couldn't be happier to never have to play tech again. I dispise tech more than any other school in the Big 12, including texas, and I pray that the Big 12 still falls apart simply so tech gets dropped to the MWC or something similar/more deserving.

Next Saturday we host the Robert Griffin IIIs in what will be the biggest Battle of the Brazos ever. Not only is there bad blood about the whole SEC move/attempted block but they a) are ranked for the first time we've played them since I've been around; and b) have somehow leapfrogged us in the AP poll after their mighty home win against fellow bottom feeder Iowa State.

Typically, this is a game that is just another blip on my radar because it means that I get to see my Ags play....but this year, I actually care about it. The Bears haven't won a ballgame at Kyle Field since the early-80s and since this is the last time we'll face the Bears there is no one in this state wants that record to hold tight for the rest of eternity than me. I truly hope that we beat them 2003-style.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Ag Football Recap: Ags 38 v. Arky 42

We walked out of the stadium on Saturday and there was no speaking. We were completely stunned.

How on earth can a team, in back-to-back weeks, blow a 17 point halftime lead and then an 18 point halftime lead.

We had the football world right where we wanted....where we had dreamed for it to be. It was a Top 20 matchup - another big game - and we were in the process of rolling up our opponent (a future SEC rival) and we blew it - AGAIN.


We can't quite take advantage of momentum.

The weekend itself was fun. Jennifer and I drove up Friday night with the kids after I got off work. Saturday morning Jennifer dropped me off at her Dad's house and they went to the State Fair and we went to the game, where we met up with my brother, my dad, and my brother-in-law. After the game we met back up with the Fair group for dinner and had an evening at GrandAggie's place.

Our running game was outstanding. It was probably the best rushing performance I've ever seen from us....the '06 Nebraska game where J-Train and McGee each ran for 130+ is the only other game I can think of that would be in the conversation.

Christine Michael led the way with 230 yards and 3 TDs. He was like a man amongst boys. It was the most rushing yardage by a single player since Darren Lewis put up 232 back in 1990 against tech....tied for 3rd most in school history. And he did it on only 32 carries (7.2 ypc).

He's probably my favorite running back to watch since I got to school. He runs with such passion and strength. J-Train was lots of fun to watch in short yardage situations but C-Mike has him beat when it comes to doing it from anywhere on the field.

Not only did C-Mike run all over the Hogs but Cyrus added 95 yards and 2 TDs and Tannehill tacked on 56 more.

Everytime C-Mike or Cyrus scored I turned to Sean and said, "C-Mike/Cyrus did it for your birthday." Because it was Sean's birthday. I feel like I said it a lot during that first half.

We went into half-time with a 35-17 lead and I told Sean, "The winner of this game is going to have more than 35 points. We're either going to put up 70 or finish with 35."

The frustrating thing was that I was pretty close to being right. We scored 3 points in the second half, including a highly scrutinized FG late in the game. The game was tied with 4:22 remaining after Arky had marched back with 18 unanswered points and we had the ball in a 4th & 2 on their 6 yard line. I turned to my father-in-law and said something along the lines of, "Wow, he thinks we're going to stop them." (referring to Sherman). I then turned to my brother and moaned, "We're not even going to have enough time to get back down field and score after they score."

Arkansas marched down the field and scored a TD and we got the ball back with a little under 2 minutes remaining - which actually was enough time, we just couldn't move the ball.

I understand that Sherman plays a conservative style and that his background in the NFL is much more of a play it by-the-book approach but in college football you're dealing with 18-22 year old kids who can unravel when things go wrong. The ones that don't and are able to rise to the occasion are the ones that go onto the next level where you can have a more by-the-book approach.

How did Arkansas manage to mount this sort of comeback? They threw the pigskin off the ball. 510 yards passing.

Now the two things that I find interesting is that they actually threw for more yards in the first half when we were romping them than they did in the second half when they mounted their comeback (271 in 1st H and 239 in 2nd H). Their leading receiver, Jarius Wright, had a school record 281 yards and 2 TDs....but he only had 54 of those yards in the second half.

The difference was that the offense stalled out in the second half. It wasn't that Arkasnas wasn't scoring in the first half, they were, it was that we were just tacking on points faster.

Here's a look at the blow-by-blow scoring....
We did have two turnovers. Tannehill threw an INT in the first half that led to Arkansas's first TD drive of the game and C-Mike fumbled a ball. We are not getting turnovers - we are -5 on the season and haven't forced one since the first quarter of the SMU game (excluding the oSu Blackmon self-inflicted fumble into the endzone for a touchback). Even with that gimmie fumble we are 112th in the nation in turnover margin. That has to change.

Lots of people pointed to the C-Mike fumble as the turning point in the game but I'm not completely sure it was because our defense came out and forced the only 3-and-out of the second half and got the ball back. I think that the turning point came on our drive following the 3-and-out:
1-10 C-Mike ran for 5
2-5 C-Mike ran for 10
1-10 Cyrus ran for 7
2-3 Cyrus ran for 11
1-10 Cyrus ran for 10 (called back on a illegal block)
1-15 Pass to Fuller for 9
2-6 C-Mike ran for 2
3-4 Pass to Cyrus for 3
4-1 Punt
That illegal block killed what was looking to be a MONSTER drive. A backbreaking drive.

Jeff Fuller is playing on a bad hamstring and as a result our passing game has looked pretty weak - particularly down field. Ryan Swope had the play of the game (and long pass of the game) when he leapt over a diving defender and picked up major YAC but beyond that I don't think we had a single pass go for more than 15 yards.

Somehow, amidst the roller coaster of emotion, Sean and I noticed that Arkansas's players all seemed to have some sort of abdominal bleeding.

What a horrible uniform design.

What is happening? I'm not sure. I don't think we're getting enough pressure without having to blitz an outside linebacker or a defensive back. Dustin Harris and Terrence Fredricks each had a sack and Sean Porter had two. On the season we have 18 sacks but 10 of those are from CBs and Porter.

I don't think it is our defensive backs that are the problem - we returned everyone from last season. It has to be our DL and our LB corps (particularly the inside LBers).

Even with our 112th ranked turnover margin and our 120th ranked pass defense - we lost to the current #6 and #10 teams by a combined total of 5 points. It's amazing to me how slim the margin is. If we fall on that Arkansas fumble in the endzone 1/10th of a second faster than we did they don't score that TD and we probably win the ballgame and we're riding high as the 10th or 11th ranked team in the country. We didn't - and it's the end of the world and we're just hanging onto a #25 ranking.

It's a funny game. A game of inches. And emotion.