Sunday, September 30, 2012

Ag Football Recap: Ags Stomp Hogs, 58-10

This was a game that I wasn't completely sure what would happen in.  Arkansas has been in a complete tailspin - but we know they have talent on their roster.
Would their first game outside of state lines give them some breathing room?  How would their defense handle Johnny Football?  Would our bend but not break defense do enough to stop their potent passing attack?

No, badly, yes.

The 11:21am kickoff was a bit troublesome for us - we didn't get up to College Station until about 10:15am and we parked way off somewhere in the Southgate neighborhood so it was a good little walk to the stadium.  By the time we had met up with everyone and got everything situated we couldn't get to our seats because the new Walk of Honor entrance was set up.  So we made lemonade out of lemons and hung out to watch the players come through under the stadium.  We were squeezing down our row to our seats right at kickoff.

It has become a reoccurring theme, but Johnny Manziel was the star of the show.  He was 29-of-38 for a school record with 453 passing yards and 3 TDs.  He ran for an additional 104 yards and another TD.  He became the first D1 player in NCAA history to throw for 400+ yards and rush for 100+ yards in a single game.

He also broke Archie Manning & Rohan Davey's SEC record for total offense in a game (as well as the A&M record) with 557 yards.  This is in his 4th career start.

(and how on earth did Tim Tebow not own that record)

To me, the most impressive thing is that he is taking care of the football.

It's not even that he is putting up these crazy numbers, it's that he is a human highlight film out there.  He will run from hash-to-hash and then spin around and do it again until he either sees an open receiver or gets some running space.  It's an excitement that we haven't had in quite some time.
Ryan Swope was finally Ryan Swope again.  He had 141 yards on 5 receptions, including an 80 yard TD run. With his 100 yard performance he broke the school record - he has 10 of'em now.  Mike Evans continues in beastmode - he led the squad again with 6 receptions and had a TD and 83 yards.  Then there is Thomas Johnson who made his first big splash with 108 yards on 5 receptions.

The three headed tailback approach was pretty successful again - Ben Malena led the group again with 8 carries for 59 yards and an additional 11 yards from 3 receptions (including a TD).  C-Mike picked up a TD on the ground and Trey scored his first TD at Kyle Field with an exciting 13 yard run that he bounced to the outside when things got too congested on the interior - and dove and hit the pylon with the tip of the football before falling out of bounds.

We had 716 yards off offense on only 79 snaps.

The defense was the definition of "bend but don't break".  We gave up 515 yards but only 10 points.
We got heavy pressure on Tyler Wilson - no sacks but lots of big, clean hits on him.  Toney Hurd Jr. led the squad with 12 tackles - he was all over the field.  Steven Terrell had two big interceptions and Damontre Moore forced a fumble that was returned for a TD by JUCO corner, Tremain Jacobs.

We came out of the gates on fire, marching 72 yards on 9 plays for a TD on the opening drive of the game.  We forced an Arky 3-and-out and then drove the field again but had to settle for a FG....that we missed.  Arkansas would score a TD to tie the game and then take a lead with a late 1st Q field goal.
The turning point in the game was about half-way through the 2nd Q.  We were leading 13-10 at this point but Arkansas was moving the ball on our side of the field.  Knile Davis ripped off a big 28 yard run and then Wilson threw a 16 yard pass to get the Hogs to our 10 yard line - but the play was called back due to an illegal formation.  Arkansas backed up to our 30 and Wilson threw an incomplete pass before throwing his first INT to Terrell.  It took us 3 plays to score and extend our lead to 20-10 - and we never looked back.

It could have EASILY been 17-13 Arkansas had things not flipped around on them.  We ended up scoring 17 points on 3 Arkansas turnovers.

Here are a couple of other quick notes:
  • This game was expected to be played during a monsoon of rain.  It was a 90% chance of rain for 11am.....and it did rain but it was pretty off-and-on.  The only time I needed to put on  my poncho was just as the second half started - it rained pretty hard for about 10 minutes.....and then the sun came out and we dominated.
  • I don't think SEC officials call holding penalties.....this is going to take some getting used to
  • We finally got the SEC monkey off our back - I'm not sure when our last win over a SEC team was, but it has been a long best it was during the '90s.
  • The offensive tempo improved....we're getting to the line and getting plays called and the ball snapped much more quickly than we did against Florida
After the game we made the long walk back to the car and ran by Wing-N-More for lunch/dinner....after we were seated it took us 17 minutes to order/eat/pay.  W-N-M is a well oiled machine of greatness.

Next week we make our first SEC road game as we travel to Oxford, MS to face Ole Miss.

Saturday, September 29, 2012


Posted with no comment

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Ag Football Preview: Arkansas

Sadly, even that picture doesn't quite accurately describe how terrible things are in Fayetteville this season.  But that picture is the reason.

Here is the Cliff Notes version:
  • In 2011 Arkansas goes 10-2 and has one of the best seasons in school history finishing ranked #5 in the nation
  • Head coach Bobby Petrino was having secret affair with a student whose fiance worked for the athletic department
  • Petrino was in a motorcycle accident
  • Turns out his mistress was with him 
  • Rumors circulate that fiance found out and met up with the two 
  • Petrino looked like that.  Girl was fine.  I'm not sure it was a motorcycle accident.
  • Turns out the girl had just been hired by Petrino to work in the athletic department for him
  • Petrino is fired
  • John L. Smith is hired
  • Arkansas is still ranked #8 in the nation when the season starts
  • Arkansas beats Jacksonville State 49-24....all is well
  • Wheels fall off
  • Lose to Louisiana-Monroe - 1st team All-SEC QB is injured
  • 'Bama crushes them 52-0
  • Lose to Rutgers!?!
And that's where they stand today.

The thing is that they are still a VERY talented team. Their downfall has been because of what is going on between their ears and off the field.

Not only do they bring back Tyler Wilson at QB (who threw for like 400 yards in the Rutgers loss) but they have Knile Davis back who missed all of 2011 with a broken ankle following his 1st Team All-SEC season in '10.  Their WRs are still freaks - Cobi Hamilton set the SEC record with 303 receiving yards on 10 receptions (including 3 TDs) against Rutgers last weekend.  Thankfully Jarius Wright is gone (after setting the school record for receiving yards against us last season).

Wilson is one of the best QBs to ever come out of Fayetteville and I can't argue that but you can tell their media relations department is looking for anything positive they can when they list two of his eleven school records as "Most passing yards in a season opener" and "Most passing TDs in a season opener".

A&M O v. Ark D
208 (33)  Rush 146 (58)
 254 (43)  Pass 312 (111)
462 (36)  Tot   58 (99)
 45.0 (11)  Scor 36.3 (107)

Ark O v. A&M D
 97 (112) Rush  94 (18)
  294 (25) Pass  185 (29)
  392 (75)  Tot  279 (12)
 26.5 (76) Scor 12.3 (12)

The formula to score against Arkansas is clearly to THROW THE FOOTBALL.  Unfortunately, it's supposed to rain on Saturday - like a 90% chance.  Let's be honest with each other, if the weather man says it's anything over 60%, you are definitely going to get rain.

Keep in mind though that C-Mike put up 230 yards and 3 TDs against them last season.  But he's still in Sumlin's doghouse and is listed as the 3rd string RB.  And we haven't proven that we can actually run the ball against anybody yet this year.

It'll be interesting to see Kingsbury's approach.

Along those same lines, is the rain going to alter Arky's pass blitzkrieg?  Will Knile Davis have his breakout game against us?

This is a game that A&M should win.  This is a game that A&M needs to win.  This is a game that A&M, historically, does not win.  This is the type of game that crushes my soul.  But this isn't the 2006 squad or the 2011 squad and that is why they play the game on the field, and not on paper.

Should be a good one.  Stay dry and BTHO Arkansas!  WHOOP!

ps. Arkansas's historical post was done a couple of years ago when we started up the series in can read it here.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Ag Football Recap: Ags 70 v. SCSt 14

That went just about as it should have.
The biggest story was, without a doubt, Dustin Harris.  Harris set the school and SEC record with 246 punt return yards (on only 8 returns) - including a 96 yard return, which he really had no business fielding.  Sean actually called the TD just prior to the snap so he should get some sort of credit for that.

Johnny Manziel only played in the first half before giving way to Jamiel Showers for the majority of the second half.  Johnny Football had a nice night again, finishing 15-of-20 for 174 yards passing (3 TDs/0 INTs) and scrambled for another 78 yards and 2 TDs on 8 runs.  Three games in and no turnovers from the freshman - that is HUGE.  Showers didn't look as sharp this week as he did against SMU - he was 2-of-10 for 9 yards including an sloppy INT.

The one negative I'm taking away from this game is that I am officially concerned about our running game.  Like SMU and Florida, I never felt like we could line up and run the ball when we needed to.  Malena had a great night on paper, picking up 88 yards and 2 TDs on 11 carries but there was never that - OH YEAH moment.  I definitely don't think we showed improvement from SMU to SCSt.

Trey had 3 carries for 9 yards and was not very impactful - I think he's still adjusting to the speed of the game and I have no doubt that at some point it will just click for him.  I really remember that happening with Mike Goodson and C-Mike, where there was a game during their freshman season where it all came together for them - and surprisingly both of them did it against Baylor.

C-Mike is apparently working his way out of Sumlin's doghouse - it was clear that he wasn't allowed to play in the first half but was in on the first snap of the second half.  He finished with 26 yards and TD on 7 carries.  Who on earth would have thought that an injury-free C-Mike would have 59 yards on 20 carries after three games?

I'll be completely honest, I don't know enough about the Xs & Os to tell you what the problem is.  I don't know if it is because the defenses are stacking the box full of defenders because we haven't shown the ability to throw down field consistently, or if it's because our best/most experienced RB has only played a fraction of the season, or if the RBs aren't finding their holes, or if the linemen are having problems adjusting to playing in a 2-point stance rather than a 3-point stance, or if it just a philosophy/scheme problem.  It's probably a combination of all of those.....but it needs to get sorted out.  We have one of the best OLs we've ever had with a backfield of some of the best RBs we've ever had - this should be a big strength for us but it has been far from it.

Mike Evans led the WRs again with 5 catches for 41 yards, but it was EZ who had the best night scoring twice on two receptions (and picking up 46 yards).  One of those TDs was a really exciting play where he leapt over a defender who was on the ground and then turned on the boosters and blew past the safety down the sideline who had the angle on him.

The defense was again very solid.  We held them to 223 yards of total offense (189 passing & 34 rushing) and had our first pick-6 in a couple of years as Deshazor Everett took one to the house.  Damontre Moore had another sack putting him at 6 through 3 games.  It has been YEARS since our top four tacklers on the season were all LBers - and it is a nice thing to see.

Personally, I'm not a real fan of games like these - for many reasons.  One, it doesn't count towards bowl eligibility because they are not a FBS team.  Two, it makes it very difficult to judge where we stand when we are playing a clearly inferior opponent.  Three, if something bad happens it becomes magnified x100 because nothing bad should every happen in a game like this (but something bad is always going to happen at some point regardless of opponent).  They are good in that you get to put a ton of kids on the field with live ammo - and it's good to get experience in that way.....and everyone likes to win.

A big tip of the cap needs to go to South Carolina State - they played hard, and clean - and that isn't something you always get.

Next week we jump back into SEC play as Arkansas limps into town in the midst of a complete nightmare of a season.  The next three weeks (Arkansas, at Ole Miss, at La Tech) are HUGE for the Ags and will essentially determine how this season will shake out.  We should be favorites in all three but none of them are gimmies.  Arkansas is a very talented team who has crumbled for various off-field reasons, Ole Miss is our first conference road game, and La Tech is putting together a nice little season - and again we're on the road.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Ag Football Preview: South Carolina State

  • Mascot: Bulldogs
  • Location: Orangeville, SC (45 miles south of Columbia, SC)
  • Enrollment: 5,000 students
  • Conference: Mid-Eastern Atlantic Conference (MEAC)
  • National Championships: 4 (1976, '77, '81, '09)
  • Famous former players: Deacon "Secretary of Defense" Jones & Robert Porcher
  • This season: Beat Georgia State (33-6) and has lost to Bethune-Cookman (27-14) and Arizona (56-0)
  • What to expect: We should get to see a good bit more of Jamiel Showers in this game
  • That is really all you need to know

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Ag Football Recap: Ags Roll Pony, 48-3

Although my brother and I went to the game together, this was a little different than our normal weekend football road trips in that we didn't road trip together.

My wife is from Dallas so we took the kids up to see the grandparents.  Friday night the kids were loaded up in the mini-van and we headed up to the Big D (stopping in College Station for dinner).  We arrived at my MIL's house around 11pm and just crashed.

Saturday morning we got up early.  The Mrs. went out, so we took the kiddos to the park for about an hour and then came back.  Sean and his girlfriend, Katie, were just outside of Corsicana at that point so I went ahead and started to get ready.

This was to be Katie's first game day experience with Sean and me.  Going in I think she had a solid understanding of how nuts we are, but I'm not sure if she truly understood.  Ha Ha- I tricked her on this occasion by taming it down a bit this weekend.  I didn't want to screw things up for my brother by scaring her too much.  Girls are all about mind games anyways, right?

We decided to take the DART (public transit train) from out near where we were staying down to Mockingbird Station and walk the few blocks.  It was $4/person round trip so it wasn't too bad of a deal and it worked out pretty smoothly.

Once we entered the stadium and were walking around we ran into my Father-in-Law and his wife, who are kind of like my other game day posse.  We talked about how many other Ags there were, got our game faces on and then headed to our respective seats.
I've mentioned before that I had purchased two season tickets (in the end zone) in anticipation for the small stadium/high demand but what I didn't mention was that with those season tickets I got rights to purchase two additional tickets (which we did).  Those seats ended up in section 224, which is right between the 40s.  The original plan was to sell the end zone seats and for Sean and I to use the good ones but the plan kind of unraveled and then I found out Katie wanted to come so we ended up just keeping the extra pair.

What we wanted to do was trade the two good seats for the seats next to/in front of/behind/around the other two so we could sit together and enjoy the game.  To our surprise the two seats right next to ours were two recent SMU grads.  They refused to take the upgrade, or remove their Prada sunglasses.  Luckily, there were two Ags on the other side of them that were willing to trade so I swapped with them and then asked the SMU boys if they would scoot down one seat.  "Yeah, I'm willing to do that."  Thanks champ.
I don't want to speak for everyone in our travel group, but I was particularly THRILLED to discover that SMU has an actual live pony mascot.  Not a full grown, tough, long-striding, wild mustang - like the logo on their helmet would indicate - but a little 4' tall pony you would see at an elementary school carnival.

Those two cowboys with the reigns ran it up the field just before kick-off, like Colorado does with Ralphie....minus every ounce of coolness.

The game started off pretty much exactly like the Florida game ended.  The defense played well and we couldn't move the football on offense.  It was 0-0 at the end of the first quarter.

Then it all clicked.  Johnny Football hit Ryan Swope for a 29 yard TD pass.....two drives later Johnny ran it in himself on the first snap for a 48 yard score....the next drive he found EZ on a 26 yard TD pass....before we knew it the score was 20-0 at the half.

It was some time during this run of scoring prowess that we realized that the guy sitting directly behind us was the MOST passionate SMU fan ever.  If he used 3,000 words during the game at least 2,200 of them rhymed with the words truck or trucker.  You have to really care about the Ponies to put together that  level of anger.  I can't even begin to imagine how he handled the 1990s.

Mike Evans is a monster.  I knew that when Sherman signed him he was primarily a basketball player who played some football but I didn't realize he was unknown because he didn't START PLAYING football until his senior year of HS.  He has been the leading receiver in both games and has 13 receptions for 183 yards.  He had 123 yards in the first half against SMU and didn't need to touch the ball again in the game.

I am raising my eyebrow at our running game.  Yes, we had 225 yards on the ground - but Johnny had more than half of that.  C-Mike did not make the trip (along with Stephen Campbell) for violating team policy, which was a huge shock to me because he is a good kid.  Trey Williams and Ben Malena split the bulk of the carries but we didn't put up huge numbers (42 yards on 12 carries & 34 yards on 8 carries).

I'm not really concerned about the numbers so much as the fact that I didn't feel like we could have run the ball at will if we wanted to.  This was an opponent that we should have easily been able to accomplish that against.

For three quarters we thrashed the tune of 605 yards of offense, thanks mostly to Maziel.  Johnny finished 20-of-36 passing for 394 yards and 4 TDs....and with 2 more TDs and 124 yards on 13 carries.  He didn't even play a snap in the 4th quarter and he was named the SEC Freshman of the Week.

He also had his second consecutive week without a turnover (the team did too for that matter). 

Johnny Football was phenomenal and he is very likely going to be a star.  He was a little more patient than he was against Florida and he did a much better job looking for guys down field while he was scrambling....BUT....

He is still very young and very inexperienced and good defenses are going to make him look that way.  He completely out-athleted SMU.  An awful lot of those plays don't come to be against most SEC opponents so we know he has a looooooong way to go still.

Coach Sumlin said it very well in his weekly press conference on Tuesday,
"The big improvement in Johnny on Saturday was his ability to stay in the pocket and  keep his eyes down the field.  I think as the season goes on, that will continue.  What he is finding out is that he's not the fastest, most talented guy on the field. A lot of players who go through that have to figure out their strengths and what they can do, and their weaknesses. You start to learn the speed of the game and what you can get away with and what you can't."

"The only way to do that is to play. We can talk until we're blue in the face about what we want and what we don't want, but he's a talented guy who will have to continue to learn. He has to move from an athlete playing quarterback to a quarterback who's an athlete. There's a big difference."

Jamiel Showers played the first two possessions of the 3rd Q and I thought he looked really good - he ran the offense the way I envisioned it to be run with quick sharp passes that hit his receivers in stride.  He was 6-of-7 for 76 yards.  I'm not saying that Showers should be starting but he played well enough to make me want to see more of him in the opportunities he gets.  We have a very capable #2.

[edit: I realized that I completely left the defense out of my original post - the following 3 paragraphs are completely necessary]

One of the most overlooked aspects of our team through two games has been our defense.  Mark Snyder and Marcel Yates deserve a lot of credit for what their side of the ball has done thus far.  They held Florida to 20 points and 307 yards and then turned around and held a June Jones coached squad to 309 yards and a FG.

The defensive line made Garrett Gilbert look like he did back in Austin - bad.  He couldn't hit the broad side of a barn and was under constant pressure, particularly from Damontre Moore and true freshman Julian Obioha.  Damontre added two more sacks to his season total making him the national leader at 5, with one fewer game played than almost any other team.  Obioha had a sack and a big forced fumble.

The run defense also held Zach Line in check - he finished with 103 yards on 13 carries, most of which came in garbage time late in the game.

A couple other quick notes:
  • Floyd Raven BLEW up the SMU punt returner on kick coverage
  • SMU defensive end, Mangus Hunt (who is from Estonia), blocked his 10th career kick setting a new NCAA record
  • I love games where The 12th Man gets to play a full series of downs at LB
At the end of the game the petting zoo pony did exactly what it's team did.  Pee'd itself on the field.  My son's 4 y.o. birthday is coming up next month and this act has caused me to cancel our original  plans and start looking for a bounce house.

Our post-game saga was much more eventful than the pre-game had been, or than we had hoped for it to be.  The highlight was seeing these pants:
I didn't even know those existed before last Saturday.  How on earth are those still in-stock?  Every good Ag needs a pair of those. Casual Friday here I come.

On the way back to the DART station, I almost got hit by some yahoo in a Lexus SUV who was nudging his vehicle through a large crowd of pedestrians in a parking lot.  Then I almost got hit by him again as he was turning (although I kind of deserved that scare).  Then the guy had the nerve to roll down his window and yell back at someone who had yelled at him....this as he was turning out of the parking lot onto the road.  If it had been a cartoon he would have splattered someone just as he made the turn while his shaking fist was still out the window.

The wait for the train was pretty long and then when we got back to the car.....
The car wouldn't start.  Couldn't even get the engine to try to turn over while we were getting jumped by my MIL.  The tow truck was called and we ended up missing dinner with my FIL, who arrived on the scene to help just as the tow truck was winching it up on the flatbed.

When the tow truck dropped the car off at the automotive place my FIL asked if he could try to jump it....and instantly became a hero when he got it to start.  We at least knew that the problem was a battery so it could be quickly fixed in the morning when the shop opened.

Sean and Katie weren't planning on staying in town but we ended up getting them a hotel (at ALoft, which is Jennifer's favorite place - she is like a walking endorsement for them).

We went to pick them up in the morning to take them to the automotive shop and as I was getting out of the car in the hotel parking lot I heard a "Gig'em!" When I looked up I literally did a double take.  It was Michael Wacha and his family.  Michael Wacha had just given me a "Gig'em".  It was the first time an Aggie athlete had hit me with the "Gig'em" before I could.

Honestly, I am pretty sure that I am one of a very few who would recognize Wacha out in public, although his USA baseball hat might have helped some folks.  For those who are unfamiliar with the name, he is one of the greatest pitchers to ever toe the rubber at Olsen Field.  The 2-time All-American helped get us to Omaha two seasons ago and was drafted this past June by the Cardinals with their 1st round pick.

He performed so well in his professional debut that by mid-August he forced the Cards to move him up to AA - something almost unheard of in such a short period of time.  On Saturday night, his Springfield Cardinals had beaten the Frisco Ruffriders to win the Texas League Championship to end the season - Wacha threw a scoreless inning in relief.

That was a pretty cool thing for me.  Jennifer thought I was a loon.  I'm really kicking myself for not getting Benjamin and my camera out of the car to get a picture.  Jennifer still thinks I'm a loon.

After coming down off of cloud 9 we took Sean and Katie back to get the car taken care of, caught up with my FIL who met us there, and headed back home.  It was a good weekend, that could have been much worse in other company.

Up next the Ags host South Carolina State on time is 6pm.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Ag Football Preview: SMU

Hey - it's an old SWC rival.
This one goes way back.  Unfortunately, the last time it was relevant was shortly after Eric Dickerson's Trans-Am arrived.  The Mustangs were rolling up everyone in the early-80s with the Pony Express, led by Dickerson and Craig James. 

Aggies love Craig James - but only because his son is Adam James and only because Adam James got Mike Leach fired at texas tech and only because Mike Leach getting fired at texas tech pushed their football back into the abyss that they deserve.

The Ponies were 45-5-1 from 1981-1984.  That is really good - good enough for the best record in the NCAA over that time.  Unfortunately for them, the price they paid for that success wasn't worth it (literally).  They got busted for horrific spending on players with bundles of money from slush funds - multiple times - even tying the Governor of Texas into it all.

For the full story, I recommend the book Payroll to Meet and ESPN's 30-for-30 called Pony Express.

Long story short, they got the death penalty from the NCAA.  The program was suspended for the 1987 and 1988 seasons.  It has never recovered.  They had one winning season from 1984-2008.  They were one of the schools left to die when the SWC disbanded and have been stumbling along in C-USA.  June Jones arrived in '08 and has given the program relative success with two winning seasons - and next year they join UH in moving to the Big East.

Kevin Sumlin knows the Mustangs well.  He coached against them four times while in charge of UH going 4-0 and winning by an average score of 41-20.  He also knows their new OC, Jason Phillips, well.  Phillips was the Co-OC (along with Kingsbury) for Sumlin at UH.

We played SMU in our season opener last season winning by a score of 46-14 at Kyle Field.  RB Zach Line ran wild against us picking up 128 yards and a TD on 22 carries - he is back this year.
They add another familiar face in Garrett Gilbert.  You probably remember Gilbert as the all-world heir to t.u. when Cart graduated.  Following his national championship debut in Cart's injury absence, he was pre-season All-Big 12 before his first career start and went on to be replaced with a duel QB system featuring two freshmen who couldn't pass. 

They do return Darius Johnson, one of their two 1,000 yard receivers from last year, as well as a 1st team All-CUSA member.

On the defensive side of the ball they are pretty stout at LB.  They return Taylor Reed who had 202 tackles from '10-'11, and Ja'Gared Davis who was 1st team C-USA in '10 and 2nd team in '11.  They add to that tandem, Austin Fuller, a transfer from Virginia Tech.

SMU's athletic department is doing their best to capture the excitement of this game.  I think they're the excited ones because this game is a tough ticket - but for Ags it's an easy road trip and for SMU fans....well, there aren't any.

SMU fans were asked to make this game a "White Out" and then yesterday they changed their mind and want a "Red Out".  It'll blend in much better with all the huge amount of maroon and they'll be able to take a picture and pass it off as a big home crowd at Ford Field in next year's media guide. Smart move.

Should be a good weekend - I love easy road trips, and they don't get easier than this.

Gig'em and BTHO SMU!

Ag Football Recap: Florida Welcomes Ags to SEC, 20-17

We heard the drum cadence and then saw the team on the Gigatron marching from below the east stands from the locker room to the north-east corner of Kyle Field - where the team used to enter three coaching regimes ago.  We saw Sumlin in his visor and shades emerge from the shadows of the tunnel in front of a crowd of bouncing maroon jerseys.

Sumlin looked serious, but still cracked a smile - it wasn't a smile of humor but of confidence - like he had been ready his whole life for this moment.  He turned around to a couple of the players nearest him - not barking instruction at them but making some casual comments before giving them fist bumps.  The drum cadence stopped and the musical intro to Kanye West's "Power" kicked on, the entire stadium jumped, the smoke kicked on - Sumlin gave the "Go" and the players launched out onto the field.

It was an awesome way to start the season - the first of the 100-year decision.

We left Houston at about 10:45am to make sure we had time to get up to College Station, get some Wings N' More, and get to the stadium in time for the usual pre-game events to start.
This was Sean and my first game in our new seats after spending last season at the top of the Zone and the 11 years prior to that in the student section.  We are now up on the third deck on the east side of the stadium in 301 (the furthest south section) - we're about 5 seats from the wall at the side of the deck.  Frankly, they're much better than last season.  We were not able to get our seats next to each other so there is a single seat between us - that guy must have overdone it at his tailgate because he didn't show up.  To my right were a couple of teenage kids, in front of us were an older couple (probably in their late 50s-early 60s) and behind us were a couple of guys probably in the mid-to-late 30s.

This was a tale of two halves.  We played well in the first half - not great, but about as well as a team could in the opener.  There were certainly a couple of missed opportunities.  One of those that isn't getting much run online was on our opening drive we got inside the Gator's 15 yard line and Johnny Manziel threw two great passes that our WRs high-pointed but had the ball ripped out of their hands by the defensive backs on the way down.  We had to settle for a FG.

Johnny Football was pretty impressive.  In the first half he had me thinking about creative t-shirt ideas for a future All-American - in the second half he reminded me that he was a freshman taking his first career snaps against a top 10 defense.  I'm excited about his future but it could be frustrating in the meantime.
In the first half Johnny threw for 141 yards on 16-for-20 passing (that included both of the INC touchdowns as well as a sick Mike Evans catch just before the intermission that was ruled INC because Evans foot went out of bounds just before he went up to make the catch).  He ran for another 41 yards in the 1st half, including several bigtime third down conversions and a big scramble into the endzone.  In the second half Coach Muschamp loaded up the box, put a spy on him, and made Johnny throw the ball deep.

It worked.  We punted on each of our 6 second half possessions including four 3-and-outs.

While Ryan Epperson was getting worn out Florida chipped away at the 17-10 halftime lead with a FG and a second TD rushing TD from Mike Gillisee pushing them to a 20-17 lead.

Johnny Football finished the day with 60 yards and a TD on the ground and was 23-of-30 for 173 yards in the air - with 0 turnovers.

C-Mike was noticeably ineffective gaining only 33 yards on 13 carries (plus 15 yards on 3 receptions).  One wrinkle we saw was a wildcat formation with C-Mike - he was stuffed at the LOS on the first attempt and scored a 1 yard TD on the second attempt.

Trey Williams is going to be a stud - he is so flippin' quick.  He had 18 yards on 5 carries in his college debut.  Ben Malena only had 3 carries but had the season's first TKO when he plowed into a Florida defender inside the 10 yard line.

As ineffective as C-Mike was, Ryan Swope and EZ were equally.  Swope had 5 catches for 16 yards and EZ didn't touch the ball.  RS-F Mike Evans was the top WR with 7 receptions for 60 yards....27 of which came on a wonderful Statue of Liberty play run with Kenric McNeal making the pass.  It was the longest pass of the day.  Freshman Thomas Johnson made the catch of what could be the season with a one handed backwards leap that got him hammered by the safety.

I think the thing that was most evident on Florida's side was their team speed.  In the past, C-Mike could get to the outside and turn the corner and get up field - this was not possible against the Gators.  It was also evident on screens out to the flats where in the past if the WR could break one tackle he'd be able to pick up 8-12 yards before the next defender reached him.  The second Gator to those WRs was stopping him as he was breaking the initial tackle.

I was a little surprised at the speed we ran our plays.  I was fully expecting it to be warp speed running up to the line and getting the ball snapped.  It was fast, but not nearly as fast as I expected.  Even at the speed we ran it we were slowed down by Gator injuries.  I'm sure that a good number of these injuries were legitimate but they all weren't - particularly in the second half.  The team that invented Gatorade cramped up like something awful.  But no one was ever stretched out by the trainers.

I did think the defense played well.  We know that this isn't the most prolific offensive squad in the country but we've made a habit of making bad offenses look good.  They held their own against a team that was bound and determined to pound the rock.  The Gators only had 307 yards off total offense (142 rushing and 165 passing)

Damontre Moore was the defensive standout with 10 tackles and 3 sacks - it was probably the best game we've seen him play.  I was also a little surprised with was how little it seemed we subbed our DL.  This is a MUCH better conditioned team than the one we had last year.

One thing we do need to button up is not putting our opponents in favorable 2nd and 3rd down situations.  On Florida's first 5 possessions of the second half they had 15 first down snaps....only five of those plays were for gains less than five yards. It's a heckuva lot easier to move the ball down the field when you're always in a 2nd-and-4 situation.

All in all, it is disapointing that we didn't walk away from this game with a victory.  The stage was set for one of those magical games but it wasn't to be.  They always say that teams improve the most from game one to game two - It's a shame we didn't have that game one in Shreveport to work out the kinks.

This weekend we have our game up in Dallas against SMU before coming home for a couple of weeks with South Carolina State and Arkansas.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Ag Football Preview: #24 Florida Gators

It is beautiful.  A jewel awaiting her big day.
Look at that picture.  Just think that in less than 48 hours that stadium will be overflowing with excitement and movement.  Can you invision it?  The smiles on faces, the random screams of excitement that can't be held any longer, 12th Man towels shaking in unison with the head drum major, the proud singing of the Spirit of Aggieland prior to kickoff - you sing it louder than normal on a day like this.  If they squeezed 90,079 in for the '10 Nebraska game then they're going to get at least 90,080 in for this one.

This will easily be the most rocking day game I've ever been to at Kyle Field.  '02 OU was a big game, but the anticipation out the gate wasn't like this.  The kickoff for this game will be as loud as the final interception of that game.  I'm shaking with excitement as I type this.

This will be a quick bullet point preview....
  • Florida went 7-6 last season in Muschamp's first season (3-5 in SEC)
  • They played only 5 away games during regular season last year 
  • Turnovers were a problems last year (-12 on the season)
  • Squeaked by Bowling Green last week 27-14 in The Swamp
    • Bowling Green lost the game as a result of two missed FGs (29 yds & 31 yds) and a ball that tipped off the WRs hands and was picked at the FLA 16 yard line (led directly to a TD).  There are you 13 points.
  •  Frankly, I'm not sure how they're in the top 25 right now based on last season and then their lackluster performance in their season opener against Bowling Green
  • Florida has a new O.C.  they hired away from Boise State.....Marcel Yates (our new co-DC) should have a pretty good bead on him coming over to A&M from Boise State as well
  • We are going to be forced to stop the run game - a theme that we are going to see all season long....#23 Mike Gillislee is a darn good RB (ran for 148 and 2 TDs on 24 carries vs. BG)
  • Their backup RB's name is #33 Mack Brown....somehow I hope the 12th Man representative makes a big tackle on him - it seems only fitting
  • They return 4 starters on OL
  • The Gatorade boycott is on....Powerade for this guy
  • After starting last week with a QB rotation, they named #6 Jeff Driskel the starter for this week
    • Driskel vs. BG: 10-of-16 for 114 yards and 1 TD
    • #12 Jacoby Brissett vs. BG: 3-of-5 for 31 yards and no TDs
    • both are sophomores
  • Their defense returns 10 starters from a squad that was #8 in the nation in total defense 
  • Have one of the best DL in the nation (Phil Steele has their DL ranked #3, LBers #5, and DBs #9)
  • Their top 6 LBers return.  Do we even have 6 LBers?
  • They are going to pressure the tar out of Manziel and see if he can beat them through the air
  • Bowling Green had good success when they got the ball out of the QBs hands quickly....short drops and quick routes....Manziel has to be accurate - can't throw the ball high or behind the WRs or we're going to see some INTs
  • Have one of the best special teams in the country
    • Groza Finalist: #19 Caleb Sturgis
    • #4 Andre Dubose is scary at KOR
  • Last week vs. Bowling Green
    • Pass offense: 145 yds
    • Rush offense: 220 yds
    • Total offense: 365 yds
    • Offense on 3rd D: 5-of-16
    • Pass defense: 226 yds
    • Rush defense: 101 yds
    • Total defense: 327 yds
    • Defense on 3rd D: 4-of-17
    • TO: +1
  •  This game is going to be decided by turnovers and our ability to stop the run - if we can stay even with them there I think we have a good shot of success
I'm so damn excited.  WHOOP!


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Ag Football Preview: Florida Football History

This week is a pretty historic week for Texas A&M as we host the Florida Gators in our first conference game as a member of the Southeastern Conference.  Throw in the fact that last week's game was postponed so we had an entire slate of games over the holiday weekend to up the college football itch .  Then to top it all off, College Gameday has decided to host their show from Kyle Field this week.  It's like taunting a bear with slab of beef.

Do bears even eat beef?  Who cares - IT'S TIME FOR SOME AGGIE FOOTBALL!

The new affiliation with the SEC is great on an infinate number of levels but one of those is that we get to play a bunch of incredible teams that we don't know too intimately.  That means I get to do some research on these programs, which I love.

The Florida Gator's history can be summed up with two names: Steve Spurrier & Tim Tebow.

Certainly, Danny Wuerffel and Urban Meyer should be mentioned when talking about Gator football history, but let's be honest, they are the Pippen to Spurrier and Tebow's Jordan.

For all intents and purposes, the Gators were just another team with a nicely tanned fanbase and a handful of 8-3, 9-2, 7-4 seasons scattered through their school's first 85 years of football.


The Gators had their first run of success in the 1960s under the leadership of Ray Graves.  They won 9 games in '60, '66, and '69.  The '66 squad made it to their first Orange Bowl and was led by their Heisman winning QB - none other than Steve Spurrier.

In 1965 the Gators did something else to bring fame to the school.  They created Gatorade.  They were pretty creative with the name, right?

I bet you didn't know that was Spurrier throwing the old pigskin around in that commercial until just now.  Boom - learned something new today.

The 1970s were not a really memorable time in Gainesville with the pinnacle being a '74 Sugar Bowl appearance.  In 1984, head coach Charley Pell was fired mid-season when it came out that Florida was being charged with over 100 major NCAA infractions.  This was one of the best Gator squads in their history and after winning what should have been the school's first SEC Championship, the Gators had to hang their heads as the title was stripped from them.  Galen Hall took over for Pell, and coached Emmitt Smith during his time with the Gators, before he was forced out with his own NCAA infractions.  Gary Darnell finished the 1989 season as HC.  LOL.

It took from 1932, when the Gators were founding members of the SEC, until 1991 for them to win their first conference championship.  Care to take a guess what changed?  The Gators hired Steve Spurrier as their new head coach prior to the 1990 season. 

Guess what else?  Spurrier actually led his squad to a first place finish in 1990 too, but they were ineligible for the title due to the NCAA infractions by Hall.

Steve Spurrier took the conference by storm, not just by winning, and not just winning right out the gate, but by winning in a fashion few had ever seen.  The dude lit up the scoreboard, didn't take his foot off the gas for anybody, and then wouldn't appologize for the waves it caused.

Since 1991 the Florida Gators have been one of the most powerful programs in the country winning almost 40% of the SEC Conference titles (8 in 21 seasons).

Spurrier's biggest success story was QB Danny Wuerffel.  The QB led the Gators to four consecutive SEC titles from 1993-1996, back-to-back National Championship games (winning in 1996), and he brought the Heisman Trophy back to Gainesville for the first time since Spurrier's own. 

Following the 2001 season, Spurrier left the Gators to take the head job for the Washington Redskins in the NFL and Ron Zook was dubbed his replacement.  Zook recruited well but couldn't get it done on the field - he was fired midway through 2004 (his third season).

Enter Urban Meyer.  Meyer had just finished launching the Utah Utes, then of the MWC, into the national spotlight with an undefeated season ending with a Fiesta Bowl win.  He lost two games while at Utah - including one at Kyle Field in 2003.  I think Ags have all done our best to completely block out the memory of his revenge in the '04 season opener.

February 1st, 2006 was the day that changed the Gator program's future.  Tim Tebow signed his letter of intent to join Meyer following the Gators 9-3 season in Meyer's inaugural run in Gainesville.  You all remember how this played out....

In Tebow's freshman season they won the National Championship.  In Tebow's sophomore season he won the Heisman Trophy.  In Tebow's junior season they won the National Championship.  In his senior season he led an undefeated Gator squad into the SEC Championship game where they lost to Alabama 13-12 - one point away from his third National Championship game in four years - and he was a Heisman finalist in his third consecutive season.

Herschel Walker is generally considered the greatest RB in SEC history and held the conference record with 47 career TDs.  Tebow broke that record with 57.  Herschel Walker has 20% fewer rushing TDs than a QB. Herschel Walker!

Don't just look at his career 2,947 yards with 57 TDs on the ground and think "Oh this guy was an option QB."  Why?  Because he also threw for 9,286 with 88 TDs.  To put that into a little bit of context, Jerrod Johnson is the most prolific passer in A&M history with 8,011 yards and 67 TDs.

Tebow left Gainesville as a legitimate candidate for the greatest player in the history of college football.

Urban Meyer "re-retired" after the 2010 season after briefly retiring the spring prior so he could stop ignoring his health and spend more time with his family.  Before the end of the 2011 football season he was named the head coach at Ohio State.

His replacement is Will Muschamp.  The former Georgia DB was one of the best young defensive coordinators in the country moving from LSU to Auburn to texas.  The horns were so afraid of losing him they paid him crazy coordinator money and dubbed him "head coach in waiting"....but he left anyways when Meyer vacated the head seat in Gainsville.

The Gators play their home games at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, which is better known simply as "The Swamp".  The Swamp is one of the most intimidating venues in the nation and it is always full (they sold out every home game between 1979-2010) [note: I watched their season opener against Bowling Green and there were at least two sections in one of the corners of the upper deck completely empty - I didn't get to see the rest of the stadium].  I'm looking forward to trying to make it down to Gainesville to take in a game at this legendary venue.

Tickets at Kyle Field are at a crazy premium this year and this ticket is at the top of the list.  Unfortunately for Florida fans, their AD has made getting their hands on them a little more stressful than they should have.  First of all, they're mad we didn't give them more than the league minimum requirement - so they accidentally oversold their allotment.  

They're 924 miles away from College Station and they oversold their allotment.  Last year, in the midst of their greatest season anyone can remember, Baylor had to return 3,000 of the 3,850 tickets we provided them.  They are 90 miles away.  SEC.

As if the overselling of their allotment wasn't enough, they accidentally sold the tickets 20% lower than face value so they had to go back to the fans again and request more money 

After all of that, make sure to give those who make it to Aggieland a nice welcome - they deserve it.

To be honest, I love their helmet decal.  I'm a bit of a sucker for old school logos that look like they were drawn out by hand by some student entering an contest out of the school newspaper - and the SEC is full of those (I'm looking at you Georgia and Ole Miss).  The Gator's helmet is a classic - but they are also one of the Nike schools that gets one of those crazy Pro-Combat uniforms as well and those always look a little more cutting edge/modern/stupid.

Florida is not a school that A&M has a deep history with, like Arkansas or LSU.  We've played them twice - in 1962 at the Swamp (L 42-6) and 1977 in the Sun Bowl (W 37-14).  They are still one of the most prolific college football programs in the country - and this type of matchup is why I've been clamoring for the SEC for years.