Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Ag Football Recap: Tide Hold Off Ags, 49-42

What an amazing football game.  This is one of those games that, even in defeat, fans will be talking fondly about for years to come.  Very rarely does a game with SOOO much hype actually live up to the billing.

This was a game of waves....we started out fast building a 14-0 lead, then Bama scored 28 unanswered points, and then we mounted a comeback.

Think back to last season and how amazing it was when Johnny broke the SEC record for total yardage in a single game against Arkansas and then turned around broke his own record a few weeks later against LaTech.  Well, he was 14 yards shy of rebreaking that record....against the best defense in the country, Bama!

Nick Saban had 15 games of film on Johnny and game planned for 10 months and the best he could do was hold him to 562 yards and 5 TDs (an A&M record 464 yards through the air and another 98 on the ground).  It was simply the most amazing individual performance I've ever seen - probably that anyone had ever seen.

As good as Johnny was, Beast Evans might have been even better.  He had 7 receptions for 279 yards and a TD.  He shed 'Bama cornerbacks like they weren't even there.

I never thought that I'd see a more impressive performance from a WR as Larry Fitzgerald's 2003 massacre at Kyle Field, but Mike Evans did it.

Our morning started with my son's soccer game from 10:30-11:30a.  We were freaking out because we figured that the traffic would be horrific coming up from Houston but once we got onto 290 it was smooth sailing at 80 mph all the way to College Station.  There was sandwich material in the car ready for us so we ate on the way.

When we arrived, my dad had a parking pass, but somehow talked the rest of us out of using it and we parked at his neighbor's sons house - a good 40 minute walk later, we were on campus (and I'm pretty sure we passed the lot we had the pass for). 

Campus was a complete zoo.  We sat down in Rudder Tower for a bit and they had a screen and projector showing another game - and while we were sitting there, Paaawwwl Finebaum walked in on the phone....I think I was the only person to recognize him.

Kickoff came and we got to see our first pass to Cam Clear as he caught the opening TD out of a two TE set at the goal line.  Then we forced a 3-and-out on Bama's first possession and scored on a 1 yard Ben Malena TD.

Bama's second possession was when the guns came out.  After four consecutive snaps for first downs, AJ McCarron found Kevin Norwood on a 22 yard back-shoulder pass right at the pylon.

Brandon Williams, who was back returning kicks for the first time this season, fumbled the KOR out of bounds at the 2 yard line.  We marched down the field and on a long pass to Mike Evans who went down at the 15 yard line we got flagged for offensive pass interference.  Instead of 1st and 10 from Bama's 15 we were in a 2nd and 25 at the 49.  We couldn't get ahead of the chains after that and ended up having to punt.

That was a key point in the game.

On Bama's next possession they converted a 3rd & 10 and then McCarron hit DeAndrew White with a flea-flicker for a 44 yard TD.

Our response was up and down.  There were some penalties (a holding and a snap infraction) and on 3rd and 6 Johnny was put under pressure....he pivoted, ran left, got caught, somehow slipped out of the tackle, runs back to the middle of the field and heaves a pass downfield that Ed Pope somehow goes up and comes down with.  It was a 45 yard pass for a 12 yard gain (the LOS was the Bama 35 and Johnny threw it from our own 45).  It was one of those plays that only Johnny could pull off.

A few plays later we are at the four yard line and Johnny throws a fade to the rear left corner of the endzone to Ja'Quay Williams....but Williams had broken off his route and we were picked off.

That was another key point in the game.

Bama's next possession ended on a 51 yard screen pass for a TD.  It was horrific to watch.

On our next possession there was a flag thrown on Haha Clinton-Dix for a targeting penalty and he was ejected, but the ejection was overturned by the review booth.  At the time I thought it was bogus but after getting home and watching it on replay a few times I don't think he should have been ejected.

We ended up getting in a 4th & 6 but on the punt a 12th Bama player ran onto the field.  Since the ball was already snapped when he entered the playing field the penalty was assessed on the return.  Had it been assesed on the line of scrimmage, there is no doubt in my mind that we would have gone for a 4th & 1 at the 33 yard line.

Bama turned that possession into a march down the field behind Yeldon and Kenyan Drake for the TD (8 rushes on 11 snaps....and 93 yards).  Our defensive line got mauled all day long and Bama's OL was into our second and third tier regularly.

To start the second half we forced a 3-and-out but then Johnny got picked on a deflected pass that was taken back to the house by Vinnie Sunseri.  At this point Bama has stretched the lead to 28-14

Johnny responded with a laser to Malcome Kennedy for a TD, but Bama answered again, forced a 3 and out and then scored again.  Johnny answered again with a Malcome Kennedy TD pass.

Bama marched again behind Yeldon but at the goal line, Yeldon coughed the ball up and Shaun Washington recovered for the Ags.  Kyle Field erupted.

Two snaps later, Johnny hit Mike Evans on a 95 yard TD pass.  We pulled back within striking distance, 42-35.  I thought Kyle Field was going to literally come down.

It was one of the most exciting TDs I've ever seen*....I'm not even sure how many times I jumped up and down, who I high-fived, hugged, or kissed. 

The joy on Johnny's face was priceless.  He was just as psyched as the rest of us.

Unfortunately, Bama scored again.

We got the ball back with 2:20 remaining and scored with 15 seconds left to make it a 7 point game.  We tried an onside kick but Bama recovered and took a knee to run out the clock.

TJ Yeldon finished with 149 yards on the ground and a TD while McCarron finished the day with a career high 334 yards and 4 TDs.

We gave up 568 yards.  Bama only had six 3rd down snaps in the game.

The 628 yards we gained was the most Bama had ever given up.  Ever.

What an incredible game.

I'm very proud of our team for battling back and playing with so much heart.  I have no problem losing a game like that, they played the guts out but the other team was better on this day.  I've seen'em lose and I've seen'em win but I've never seen'em quit.

As the two coaches met at midfield after the game, the TV mics caught Saban telling Sumlin, "You just took ten years off my life."  It was worth it.
My "Beat Bama" Beard died a sad death Sunday morning

After the game ended we hiked back to my dad's neighbor's son's house, called in a to-go order from Wings-n-More and headed home.  We were completely bushed.

*In chronological order: Toombs rumble against OU in '00, Reggie to Porter against OU in '02, Fuller TD against t.u. in '11, Johnny to Swope at Ole Miss in '12, Johnny to Kennedy at Bama in '12

Other housekeeping notes:
  • True freshman, Jordan Mastrogiovanni, got the start at LBer
  • Quiv has changed his number to #6....he was wearing #25 but since both he and Clay Honeycutt played special teams and wore #25 he was having to change in and out of #17 before and after each special teams play
  • I don't think I mentioned it but Matt Davis transferred just prior to the season starting.  He will play at Tyler JUCO this year and transfer again for 2014.  Also, LBer Shaun Ward is transferring but I don't know where.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Ag Football Preview: #1 Alabama

It is here.  We have all had today's date circled on our calenders since November 10th last year.

We know that Nick Saban has.

Notice the A&M flags above each piece of equipment and the game on the TVs

Bama is coming for blood...for vengeance.  Our victory in Tuscaloosa last year was the only smudge on an otherwise flawless two year run.

I've rewatched that game at least 10 times, I still get knots in my stomach during parts and chills on my arms during others.

This is why we wanted to join the SEC.  This is why no one was sad to leave the Big 12.  We are literally the epicenter of the entire college football world - and it is glorious.

Oh boy, I'm excited.

Shoot, Bear Bryant would be excited (fittingly, his 100th birthday would have been this past Wednesday)

Bama hasn't had just the entire offseason to prepare for this game, they also got an extra full week with a bye following their season opener against Virginia Tech at the Georgia Dome.

Running back, TJ Yeldon, has been licking his chops watching our defense against Rice and Sam Houston.  Each of their RBs had huge days (Rice RB went for 131 yards of total offense and 3 TDs while Sam's RB went for 203 and 3 TDs).

That said, we're going to see a different defense on the field against Bama.  We get back starters LB Steven Jenkins, CB Devante Harris, DL Gavin Stansbury from suspension and DL Cedric Obioha, who missed the Sam game with injury.  How much rust will they have to shake off?  How much better will they be?  I have no clue but it's going to be better than having true freshman on the field.

That VT game was not a good one for the Tide, although they did cruise to a 35-10 win.  They only had two offensive TDs and gained a paltry 209 yards of offense (and only 109 through the air).  Christion Jones saved the day with a punt return for a TD and a KOR for a TD (and a receiving TD).  They also had a pick-6.

I think the winner of this game has to score 40 points so one of two things has to give.  We're either going to have to do what Virginia Tech did and stop the Tide offense or we're going to have to do what no one does and completely roll their defense.

It's not like we're not any good....we're the 5th ranked team in the country.  We're going to score a lot and Bama knows that.  What they don't know is how we're going to do it - we've been very vanilla in our first two games and have yet to work any to our huge TEs.  Our offensive line is excellent, we have a stable of running backs, Mike Evans is on pace to be All-World.....I feel like I'm forgetting someone?

Nick Saban isn't.  Images of Johnny flashing through his head have kept him up at night for 10 months.  He hired consultants to watch film for him to supplement his own.

Johnny has stayed put in the pocked (a very concerted effort) - against Bama, the handcuffs come off.  We've also run the offense at a much slower pace than in 2012, something I also expect to see come to an end tomorrow.

It is literally, the perfect storm - the matchup is going to be will Kyle Field.  Holy moly, tickets are going for x10 face value and it is going to be ROCKING.  I can't even imagine what it would be like if it was a 7pm kickoff.  All I can really say is....


Ags Beat Up on Sam, 65-28

The Sam Houston weekend should have been just a blip on the that we don't remember anything 5 years from now other than, "Yeah, we crushed them."

Thankfully, my weekend was better than that.  One of my best friends, who I met in grad school, flew down for the weekend.  Jennifer, myself and him met up with one of our other best friends (and his wife) on Friday night for dinner which really could have lasted x3 as long as it did.

Saturday morning was an early rise for my son's 4-year old soccer game (he scored twice and had the team's first assist of the season) and then it was up to College Station for our old pre-game ritual of Wings'N'More.....mmmmm.

We had to find a place to park, which was a difficult task, and then met up my father-in-law and his wife, who graciously shared their extra seats with us.

It actually started to rain in the first half, which was actually quite comfortable.

We scored on our first possession, and then Sam matched with a Tim Flanders TD run (x2 Southland POY).  On our second possession we got into a 1st & goal and Johnny got picked by the linebacker as he tried to hit Cam Clear up the middle.

Flanders finished the day with 170 yards and 2 TDs on the ground and another 33 yards and a TD through the air.  He gave us fits.

We ran a handful of end-arounds to Quiv throughout the game, which is something I expect they showed so Bama would have some film on it - then McKinney & Spav will put a wrinkle in it.

Sabian Holmes had a nice game, scoring his first career TD and picking up 60 yards on 5 receptions.  Mike Evans is still a beast - with another 155 yards on 7 receptions and didn't take a snap beyond the 6 minute mark of the 3rd quarter.  Ja'Quay Williams also had a great game with two highlight reel catches, including his first career TD.

The running backs continued to split the load pretty evenly - Malena had 9 carries for 68 yards and a TD, Tra Carson had 9 for 51 and two more TDs, and Brandon Williams made his debut with 7 carries for 37 yards and a receiving TD (Trey was out with that ankle sprain).

B-Will's TD was met with big smiles and hugs for the excited running back in his first action since 2011.

Johnny made a huge effort not to run, so he threw for 426 yards and 3 TDs (he also came out with about 6 minutes left in the 3rd quarter). 

He did have one run worth mentioning.  On our fourth possession we were somewhere near the 20 yard line and he started to scramble.  As he approached the goal line a DB came up to hit him and Johnny dropped his shoulder and completely bulldozed him.  Unfortunately, he stepped out of bounds at the 1 yard line so Malena had to finish off the drive with his TD run.

Johnny also had a 6 yard TD run on his final drive and he got hit by a SHSU player in the endzone 4 or 5 steps after crossing the goal line, which really should have been a flag.  You could see him bow up and start to get fired up, but he thought better of it and got himself out of the situation.

We did get to see the debut of Kenny Hill.  There is really only one word to describe our introduction to the true freshman QB.....Wow.

On his first snap, he hit Ja'Quay streaking down the left sideline on a beautifully thrown ball and then his second snap was a laser to Travis Labhart for a TD.  2 plays, 51 yards, 1 TD.

At one point in the fourth quarter the defense has 3 non-freshmen on the field (of which, one was the walkon playing as the 12th Man).

After the game we walked around campus reminiscing and then made the hike back out to the car and took off towards Koppe Bridge for a burger.....but they closed at 10 and it was closer to 11pm.  Thankfully, Chuy's doors were still open so we grabbed a seat, ate, and then toughed out the late, late drive home.

For a weekend whose game was just a placeholder on the schedule, I had a really great time.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Depleated Ags Defeat Owls, 52-31


We darn near missed kickoff....for the second season in a row.  It seems we either underestimate how long it takes to get all the way up to the third deck where our seats are or we are in denial over how out of shape we are.

This is a game where most of the talking points will come from after the whistle blowing.

Let's start with the suspensions.  After the mid-week announcement regarding Johnny, we knew that we would be missing him for a half and CB Deshazor Everett for a half.  We also knew we were going to be missing DT Kirby Ennis and S Floyd Raven for the entire game.

Then late Friday there were apparently some rumors that were substantiated just prior to kickoff that WR Edward Pope, CB De'Vante Harris, DL Gavin Stansbury, and LB Steven Jenkins would all be suspended for two games for "violating athletics department rules and regulations."

For those counting at home that meant that SIX defensive starters would be out.  We lined up to start the game with only two players in our starting lineup with more than 1 career start (Obioha & Matthews). 

Howard Matthews and Harderick Walker (started as a true freshman at DT) both left the game with injuries. There was an extended period of time in the second half when the 12th Man was actually on the field.

There were more red-shirts burned than burgers at the tailgate.  Thirteen defensive players make their first appearance for A&M and I counted a total of nineteen on both sides of the ball after re-watching the game at home.
Tra Carson (TR), Cam Clear (JUCO), Quiv Gonzalez, Ricky Seals-Jones, Jeremy Tabuyo, Ja'Quay Williams
Jay Arnold, Darion Claiborne, Noel Ellis, Tavares Garner, Isaiah Golden, Daeshon Hall, Jordan Mastrogiovani, Tommy Sanders (JUCO), Alex Sezer Jr., Tyrone Taylor (RS),  Hardreck Walker, Shaan Washington, Jonathan Wiggins

Usually when you have a lot of inexperienced guys out on the field there are still experienced players on the field to help pick up the slack.

Not this game.  This was like a spring game for Rice where their 1st team offense went against our #2s and #3s.  Typically, these young players are seeing 8-12 snaps at this point in the season - IF they're even seeing the field.....but these kids played at least 2/3 of the game before being replaced with equally experienced true freshmen.

To the Owl's credit, they took advantage, accumulating 31 points on 509 yards (306 came on the ground).  They went heavy with the option - Stephen McGee style - and our inexperience was not disciplined enough to stop them.

The biggest thing that I saw that hurt us was missed tackles.  There were at least a half-dozen times when I thought we had them wrapped up for a loss and they ended up picking up a 1st down.

I will say that I thought Tremaine Jacobs played well in Harris' absence and I thought that despite a few missed assignments, Darion Claiborne looked really good

Did Brandon Alexander see the field?  In a game where we were COMPLETELY decimated in terms of depth, I thought it was very telling that in his third year in the program Alexander didn't see the field.  I think we saw the writing on the wall but this, in my mind, was all but the pink slip.

I'm not sure what to think about our defense.  There was certainly a level of concern going into the season about the front seven but Saturday didn't lessen or worsen that fear.  Honestly, barring a miraculous, stifling performance against Bama, I don't think we'll have a true feeling for the defense until Arkansas/Ole Miss.

The special teams were a mix of highs and lows.  Kickoff return and coverage were poor.  We didn't have a fielded punt (Travis Labhart was back returning for us).  Taylor Bertolet was outstanding - as much as he made me cringe last season, I have to give him credit - he was 7/7 on PATs and hit a 44 yard FG.

The other special teams bright spot was Drew Kaser.  What a leg.  He AVERAGED 62.7 ypp on 3 punts. 

Matt Joeckel played well in the absence of Johnny.  His first drive ended in punt but the second drive was a 10 play, 75 yard march down the field that ended with a nice Ben Malena TD run.  We scored 28 points on eight possessions.  Joeckel had 190 yards and a TD on 14-of-19 passing.

The running game was strong with Ben Malena and Tra Carson (transfer from Oregon) leading the way.  Malena had 82 yards and TD on 12 carries while Carson had 76 yards and 2 TDs on 14 carries.  Carson ran strong and will be a nice compliment to Malena and Trey Williams.

Trey Williams got tripped up on a KOR on our second possession and looked to hurt himself.  He came back in the game just before the half but I saw him with sunglasses and no pads in the second half.  According to his Twitter account, he has suffered the dreaded high ankle sprain one of the slowest healing, most nagging injuries a back can pick up.

Mike Evans had a nice afternoon with 84 yards and 2 TDs on 6 receptions and Ricky Seals-Jones made a splash with a 75 yard TD reception - but he hurt his knee on the play.

When Johnny entered at the start of the 2nd half the stadium predictably erupted.  Johnny gave a nice little salute to the student section and then took off running on his first two snaps before overshooting Derel Walker in the endzone and getting sacked.  Taylor Bertolet cleaned it up with that 44 yard FG.

On his second drive, Tra Carson toted the rock twice before Johnny scrambled for 8 yards.  It was following this scramble that Johnny got a bit chirpy with the linebacker that hit him (#46). Then it was directly following this verbal exchange that Johnny went right back at LB #46, who was attempting to cover Mike Evans, for a 23 yard TD pass.

On his last drive, he hit Evans again in the endzone on a scramble and after the play two Rice players were jawing with him and he pointed to the scoreboard.

He was flagged for that.  It wasn't even like he was up in their face, or even pushed anyone.

The only reason he got flagged for that was because he is Johnny Manziel.  You can't tell me that was the first time someone had the audacity to call "Scoreboard" when an opponent was running their mouth in a blowout.  And only one of the two officials thought it was worthy of throwing a flag.

He's also getting criticized for his OVO hand gestures during his TD celebrations.  If you don't know what I'm talking about you probably remember them from every game he played in last year....or you could watch the Clemson/Georgia game and see Taj Boyd doing exactly the same ones.  Except Boyd isn't getting hammered by the media for doing it.  The same media who were analyzing (deeply) Johnny's every facial expressions on the sideline during the first half as they cut to him in between every single play.

Stephen McGee jawed at opponents - he was beloved for it.

Shoot, everyone loved Johnny for it last year but now it's taboo?  Every highlight reel I saw from last season featured the clip in the Miss St game with him "opening his shirt" Superman-style after a TD.  That drew a flag too.

He has what every single football fan, and coach, and broadcaster wants a team to have.  That silly word that didn't even exist 15 years ago.  Swagger.

This is big time football.  It isn't his job to be a role model. It's your job to be your own kids role model.  This isn't instructional league where we don't keep score and everyone gets a juice box and animal crackers when the clock hits 0:00.  You don't get your feelings hurt in DI football - you have to stop the opponent to make them stop.


I never thought I'd ever be quoting Dan Hawkins, but he was right about that.

Here is what I am taking away from the game regarding Johnny:
  • He took 18 snaps and we scored 24 points.
  • Re-read that line above
  • He threw 3 TDs on eight pass attempts.
  • He had 113 yards of total offense, despite starting with the ball in field goal range on three of his five drives.
We did have the ball once more and it was Joeckel that came back out with the offense to run out the clock.  Sumlin didn't feel the same way as I did about the "incident" and he made it clear in the post-game interview that Johnny wasn't going to be coming back in the game after that penalty.

I was surprised that we didn't see freshman Kenny Hill get any action at QB.  It will be interesting to see how the coaching staff handles him moving forward.  Joeckel might have shown enough to keep the redshirt on Hill.

There was one more bit of controversy in the game.  Late in the 4th quarter, Deshazor Everett hit a receiver going over the middle.  Had the receiver caught the pass nothing would have been made of it, but since the ball skipped off the receiver's fingers Everett was flagged with "targeting".

Starting this season, a targeting flag isn't just a 15 yard penalty, it is an ejection.  And if it happens in the second half of a game, the player is suspended for the 1st half of the next game.  Goodbull Hunting has a great article that lays it all out.

Deshazor did not hit the receiver in his head or neck area - it was square in the chest, nor did he lead with his helmet - it was all shoulder. In fact, the WR (who happened to be Gary Kubiak's son) tweeted out:

Even after all of that, we beat Rice soundly with a final score of 52-31.

Next week should be fairly drama free since the game is going to PPV, so ESPN won't be there to sensationalize everything.

Side note, Clemson looks like they are for real.  They're 3-1 against the SEC since the start of last year with wins over #6 Georgia (on Saturday night) and #9 LSU (in their bowl game last year).