Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Ag Football Preview: UTEP

Seeing UTEP on our schedule doesn't even excite me as much as Rice or SMU but this year is a little different.

This past February backup QB, Jameill Showers, decided to transfer out of A&M so he could get some playing time during his senior season.  He already had his degree from A&M completed, so he could transfer to another university for grad school and not have to sit out a season.
What makes this more interesting is that Coach Sumlin allowed him to transfer to UTEP, a school that was on our schedule for this season.  That gave Showers the opportunity to dress out in the visitor's locker room at Kyle Field.

I'd be curious to know how many players have actually played against the school they graduated from?

As soon as I realized the opportunity, I was excited for Showers.  By all accounts, he is a good kid and he loves A&M.  He was in town, on the sidelines, for the Auburn game two weekends ago (UTEP was off that weekend) and was able to dunk his Aggie ring.

Unfortunately, we're not going to get the opportunity to see it play out that way.  Showers suffered a separated shoulder in last week's game and is likely done for the season.  I was really glad to read that they are still going to let him travel and be the team captain for the game.

We've played UTEP twice, beating them in 1984 (20-17) and again in 2000 (47-17), both at Kyle Field.  This season, the Miner'sare not a very good football team.  In fact, they're really bad.  They're 1-6 on the season but their losses have come to some other really bad teams (2-5 New Mexico, 2-5 Tulsa, 3-5 La Tech, & 3-5 UTSA).

This is a game to use to build on the confidence we gained last weekend on defense and to let Joeckel and Hill get more live snaps.

Ag Football Preview: Vanderbilt

For whatever reason I wrote this entire piece with one of those History Channel voice-over guys reading it in my head.

Vanderbilt is not a traditionally strong football school.  In fact, they've been down right terrible for the better part of forever.

As the token private school in the SEC they have just under 13,000 students that get the benefit of living in beautiful Nashville, TN.

The city of Nashville makes our return trip (whenever that might be) a road trip destination - because I can get my wife to go because she has always wanted to go to Nashville.

Vanderbilt Stadium was "built" 1922 and has a capacity of 40,550.  Technically, it was Dudley Field that was built in 1922 and current Vanderbilt Stadium was built in 1980.  Unfortunately, a 30 year old stadium doesn't have quite the same aura to it.

The school was founded by a gift from Cornelius Vanderbilt, the great American shipping & railroad tycoon.  His nickname was The Commodore....thus the Vanderbilt Commodores.

Two other Cornelius Vanderbilt fun facts
  • He had 13 children to his wife (who was also his first cousin)
  • Anderson Cooper is his great-great-great Grandson
The Commodores have never won an SEC title (despite being a founding member of the conference), have had six winning seasons since 1959, have been to six bowl games (including the last two seasons), and finished ranked #23 in the country last year - the first time they've ended a season ranked since 1948.

I'm going to have to say that their fight song is one of the highlights of their program:
Dynamite, Dynamite
When VANDY starts to fight.
Down the field with blood to yield,
If need be, save the shield.
If vict'ry's won, when battle's done,
Then VANDY's name will rise in fame.
Win not lose,
It's ours to choose,
And VANDY's game will be the same.
Dynamite, Dynamite
When VANDY starts to fight!
Back to the bad....they have the worst logo in the SEC (see top of page) and they are forced to boast Jay Cutler as one of their more prominent quarterbacks, if you can say that about Jay Cutler.

The Anchor is the symbol they use a lot (I'm not sure if it is an official symbol or logo or what) but it started in the mid-90s and stands as a symbol of unity and strength.  There is an actual anchor (from a boat) that travels with the team. 

HC James Franklin does have them on a really nice little run in his third season.  Like I mentioned, they have gone bowling in his first two campaigns and finished last season ranked.  I know I'm not the only one who thinks he's about to get hired away by a big time school as a result.

Going into the season, I honestly thought that this was the third scariest game on our schedule.  That faded as the season transpired, but after last weekend's mess that was our Auburn game, it's certainly not a gimmie.


Ag Football Recap: Auburn Trips Up Ags, 45-41

He's human after all.
But we're all now questioning if Mike Evans is.  The Beast ripped off another record breaking performance with 11 catches for 278 yards and 4 TDs.  It's silly how good he is.

Johnny still had a huge game (454 yards & 4 TDs passing with 48 yards and a TD rushing) but he threw two INTs.  The first of which I put on the paws of one of the TEs - it bounced into the air off his hands....but the second one was Johnny trying to force a ball into an area he shouldn't have.

This is SEC football.  This is what we clamored for.  When you play with the big boys, you're not going to win them all.....they're all pretty darn good.  People forget that Auburn won a NC three years ago so those kids they recruited coming off of that are now RS-So or juniors - their worst finish in the recruiting rankings over the last 4 years is 10th.

I thought that Auburn had the best defense we have faced all season.  Their front 4 continually abused our OL and the spy they had on Johnny kept him in check better than anyone else has.  As a result, we only converted on 38.4% of our third downs (a season low) and they got off the field. 

We had to settle for FGs in a game where we gave up 615 yards of offense.  Auburn averaged 7.2 yards per snap.  The defense is bad.  Way, way, way bad.
With a 31-24 lead going into the 4th quarter and the ball at Auburn's five yard line it looked like we were going to be able to push the lead out to something more comfortable.  On the first snap of the quarter, Johnny scrambled and ran into a defender and hurt his shoulder.  He was in visible pain and had to come out of the game.

Matt Joeckel came in and on his first snap (which was a 3rd & G from the 2) threw a little out route to the TE, which wasn't a very good pass but should have been caught for a TD.  We settled for a FG.

Auburn answered with a very fast 7 play TD drive and we went 3-and-out and then Auburn struck again with an even faster 6 play TD drive. 

Johnny came back into the game at this point but it was too late and the damage had been done.  In a barn burner we scored 3 points on two drives and the opponent scored 14.

We traded TDs and on our final drive, with 1:19 left on the clock and down by 4 points took over at our own 35 yard line. 

Johnny found Evans for 19 yards, then scrambled for 6, then found Evans again for 22 yards (how are they not triple covering him at this point?).  Then there was an incomplete pass and an 8 yard sack dropping us to Auburn's 26 yard line.  We took a timeout at this point with 28 seconds left on the clock.

The next play was literally the play that won the game.  Johnny scrambled out towards the left sideline and the horse collared him, clear as day, textbook horse collar.  No flag.  So instead of a 1st & Goal with 18 seconds to play (which is at least 4 snaps), it was 4th & 13 from the 21.
For the first time in two seasons, we saw Johnny unable to do the impossible.

Here are some interesting facts amidst the doom and gloom....

  • We are 16-4 in the Sumlin era and those four teams have accounted for the last 6 National Championships.  
  • The largest margin of victory in those four losses was the 7 points we lost to 'Bama earlier this year (the four losses have been by a total of 19 points)
  • In our two losses this season we scored 83 points and had 1,230 yards of offense
  • Johnny had 1,064 yard of offense and 10 TDs

Monday, October 21, 2013

Road Trip Recap: Ole Miss


Last weekend was my annual out-of-state road trip with my brother.  Catching a game in Oxford has been on my bucket list for years but last season we opted to start out our SEC road trip saga with a trip to Auburn....and as it turned out, the weekend A&M played Ole Miss was cold and rainy and we were rewarded for our patience by the SEC schedule makers with another game in Oxford again this year
Last year's game in Oxford was one of the wildest games I've ever watched and Ole Miss has some offensive firepower this year which is scary with the lack of defense we've seen out of the Maroon & White.

Just a little house keeping....
  • DT, Kirby Ennis, is out for year after tearing his ACL against Arkansas - he will undergo surgery
  • Floyd Raven is listed as probable to play this weekend after breaking his collar bone early in the game against Sam Houston
Friday Oct. 11th
We didn't have a hotel in Oxford and with the night kickoff we thought that we'd space out the drive over Friday and Saturday so we got a room in New Orleans for Friday night.  I swung by Sean's place on Friday shortly after noon and we headed out on I-10 East towards the Crescent City.
The view from our hotel window
Construction and a wreck on I-10 in Louisiana stretched our drive out considerably and we didn't arrive until about 7:30ish.  We dropped our bags off - and were shocked by the view - and headed out to get some grub.

We figured there had to be some good food in the French Quarter so we headed that way.....and spent about an hour trying to park.  Seemingly, a part of town built a century ago wasn't designed to handle modern day urban parking.

We weren't completely sure where we parked but were concerned that all the houses had gates and bars on them - but we figured it had to be an expensive area otherwise they wouldn't need the gates and bars.  Sean was freaked out by the gas coach lights, the colored lights, and the thoughts of voodo.

We ended up eating at a place called Royal House Oyster Bar, which was really good - and reasonably priced.  Then we went out in search of Bourbon Street.

It is safe to say that Bourbon Street is an interesting place.  The people watching is phenomenal.  Florida was playing at LSU the following day so there were a lot of Gator fans mulling around.
  •  Make sure you are conscious of where you are looking - there are some things that you just can't unsee.  
  • Actually, there are many things.
  • I got punched.  It was completely random, but some girl threw a punch at me and hit me in my ribcage just on the inside of my arm.  Not a friendly punch to get your attention but a real punch.  I turned around and before I could say "WFT?" she was already shooting me the bird.  Her eyes were completely bloodshot (and I was still so shocked by the whole thing) so I just let it be and caught back up with Sean.
  • It was kind of like Northgate on steroids.
  • They now sell alcohol in actual fish bowls.

After we saw that craziness we located the famous Cafe Du Monde and had a late night snack of beignets.  The place is open 24-hours a day and Sean and I figured that they can cycle through about 45-50 parties of people per table per 24 hours.  That is a lot of beignets.

I was also shocked to see that our two orders was less than $6.  They could probably charge double and not lose any business simply because of where they are located and the novelty of it.

We also discovered that when I eat, I inhale into my lungs which can cause some big problems when eating something with a mound of powdered sugar on it.

It was delicious.

Thankfully, our car was still waiting for us where we parked it and we got back to the hotel around 1am with an early rise on Saturday.

Saturday Oct. 12th

My alarm went off at 7:30am and we hustled downstairs to eat our free breakfast....but it took FOREVER.  We didn't end up leaving the hotel until 9am.

There really wasn't much to see on the drive from Louisiana up through Mississippi so we made up for it.  There were lots of long bridges in Louisiana.

We got to Oxford around 3:15 and drove straight to The Square to find something to eat.  The parking situation was pretty similar to the French Quarter.

There were lots of little boutique shops and a handful of restaurants.  There is also a statue of William Faulkner, the great American author of which neither Sean nor I could name a single thing he has written.

We ate at a place called The Corner, which had lots of room, no wait, and lots of big TVs showing all the afternoon games (Clemson/B.C., Baylor/KSU, LSU/Florida, & Oregon/Washington).

We attempted to drive closer to the stadium to park but that was a really bad idea.  Oxford doesn't appear to be equipped to handle gameday parking. Thankfully, we did our homework earlier in the week and had a list of the park & rides.  Two and a half hours before kickoff and we just barely squeezed into the parking lot.  At Ole Miss, the pre-game is much more popular than in-game.

We walked right over to The Grove.  It was a sight to see. The pictures we took don't even do it justice, there were tents set up side-to-side across the entire 10 acres.  It was packed - like walking through a crowd at a concert.  Everyone dresses in their Sunday best and the tables are adorned with lace and fine cutlery.

There were even chandeliers.

The one thing that I really couldn't get over was that there wasn't anybody cooking.  I've always considered that a key ingredient to tailgating, but it appeared that everyone brought pre-made food from home or had their tent catered.  It was more like a giant picnic, than a tailgate.

It was really cool to see but honestly, I think it is slightly overhyped.  I had it built up in my mind to be more grand than it was - I think the fact that everyone dresses up impresses most people and the fact that it is all consolidated into one location . That said, it was still quite memorable, impressive, and without a doubt a must see for any college football fan.

We made two passes through The Grove and then decided to head into the stadium.  Thanks to some very kind Ags, we had picked up some free tickets in the player's family section.  We walked down into one of the corners of the endzone to watch the players in warmup.
Johnny with George Whitfield Jr (QB Guru)
Mike "The Beast" Evans
Jake Matthews
We went up to our seats with about 20 minutes until kickoff and realized the one downside to sitting in the player's family section.  The players are big and so are their parents.  Our row essentially lost a seat simply due to sheer size, and the man who was missing his seat was supposed to be right next to me....Mr. Joeckel.  It was awkward and a little tense but a couple people moved around and we ended up sitting fairly comfortably.

Nehemiah Hick's family was in front of us and his mother was awesome.

The game itself was incredible.  The score went back and forth:
7-0 -> 7-7 -> 14-7 -> 14-10 -> 21-10 -> 21-17 -> 24-17 -> 24-24 -> 24-31 -> 31-31 -> 31-38 -> 38-38 -> ???
Watching the game, I didn't think that Johnny had his best night but all of a sudden the game was over and he had 470 yards and a pair of TDs.

There was a stretch of time at the end of the 1st quarter through the end of the half that neither team seemed to be productive - lots of punts, failed 4th down attempts, and FG attempts.

Also during that 1st half - Johnny went down with a knee injury.  He was running with the ball but there was no contact.  Everyone in maroon either freaked or got deathly silent.  The Ole Miss students cheered.

The third quarter started much faster but on our second possession, Johnny was picked off in the endzone on a ball that he tried to force.  Fortunately, Darion Claiborne returned the favor three snaps later.  On the ensuing drive we got into a 3rd & 4 at their 14 yard line but had a false start that pushed us back to 3rd & 9.  We couldn't convert and had to settle for another FG.

Ole Miss turned around and tied the game with a TD and then the unthinkable happened....Johnny fumbled.  I honestly can't think of a time when that has happened before.  Ole Miss turned that into 7 points.

Watching the game on TV when I got home I saw on the sidelines after that TD, the cameras flashed to Johnny and he was smiling as he put on his helmet.  It was a smile like, "Challenge accepted."

We scored TDs on our next two possessions and would have scored one on our third except Sumlin decided to let the clock run down and Josh Lambo stepped up and kicked the game winning FG as time expired.

Our section went bonkers.  Celebratory pictures were taken.

There were two other plays that I need to mention....
Trey Williams had one of the sickest TD runs I've seen when he juked a half-dozen Rebel defenders at the same time (he was wearing #17 at the time due to a uniform malfunction)

Mike Evans pulled off the hurdle over the defender leap to set up our final TD (a 6 yard Johnny scamper).

I thought that Trey Williams was the player of the game, regardless of how many yards Johnny put up and how clutch Lambo's FG was.  I feel like it was his breakout performance.  He looks to be fully healthy and when he is - WOW.

After the game, Sean and I hung around to cheer the players as they loaded up on the bus.  Then this happened....

It was pretty awesome.  The Beast is standing on the same level ground as Sean.

Ben Malena, Trey Williams, and Jake Matthews were also awesome and took pictures with all the kiddos who were there.

As the team buses pulled away we saw the line to catch the shuttle back to grassy field where we parked - after quickly consulting Siri, we decided we could easily huff it before we could get halfway through the shuttle line.

On the way back to the car, Sean was flagged down by an old Ag who was sitting on the curb.  She was at least 75 - but when she realized he wasn't the young man who sat next to her during the game she dismissed him with a wave of her hand.  It was awesome.  He wasn't quite sure how to react.

We also watched a full out grown up thrown a temper tantrum as he flipped his Ole Miss rolling cooler in the street.

The two things I feel like I missed out on.....I didn't look for the 18 mph speed limit signs on campus and I somehow made it though the day without hearing Dixie played a single time?!?

Once we got back to the car we just headed out of town - our hotel was in Winona, MS, which we had driven through on our way into was about an hour and a half south.

We didn't really get on the road until right around midnight and it was getting foggy.  There was a scary moment when I started to strain my eyes and then look at Sean, who was driving, and he was doing the same thing.  Then all of a sudden we realized, yeah - there was something in the road.  It was a man stumbling down the fog covered interstate in the dead of night - right in the middle of the road, not off on the shoulder.  That could have ended badly.

Sunday morning we were up early, chatted with a nice Ole Miss fan and his son while eating, and then headed back home to Texas.

We found a Whataburger somewhere in Mississippi, which was surprising.

Then we crossed the Mississippi River Bridge.
And then we were home.  It's always a good feeling when you cross that Texas state line (even though there is still another 2+ hours of driving ahead of you).

It was a great road trip, one I would recommend to anyone.  I'm looking forward to our trip to Baton Rouge at the end of next month.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Ag Football Recap: Ags Smash SMU, 42-13 and Fry the Hogs, 45-33


The only good that came from my "Beat Bama" Beard dying was the "Smash SMU" Stache I salvaged out of it.
It was strong.

SMU was not.

Johnny finished with 244 yards and a TD passing and 102 yards and two TDs on the ground playing only our first possession in the second half before giving way to Matt Joeckel and later Kenny Hill, who did not look nearly as good as he did in his debut against Sam.
Malcome Kennedy had a nice performance with 83 yards and a TD on 6 receptions.

Toney Hurd forced a fumble that Deshazor Everett recovered and ran back for a TD.

We did have some problems in the kicking game after missing three consecutive PATs and we got to see kicker, Josh Lambo, for the first time as a result.

I did think that SMU's WR #81 was pretty good....we nicknamed him Longstride.

Darian Claiborne made his first career start at LBer, the second true freshman in as many weeks to do so.  I love Claiborne - he's probably my favorite recruit out of this past year's class.

In other news, RSJ had surgery on his knee and will apply for a medical redshirt.

Surprisingly, this game was one of the first times I've actually sat with both my dad and brother at a home game, so that was a nice little plus.

We also met one of my favorite players from my time as a student, Ja'Mar Toombs, down on the field after the game. TOOOOOOOOOOMBS!


At half it looked like Johnny was going to threaten his own single game yardage record (yet again) - he was at 260 yards  and two TDs when the second quarter came to an end.

And then the rain came and completely changed the game.  At one point in the second half, we ran on 24 of 27 snaps.
Trey Williams had a great game (83 yards on 9 carries) and Tra Carson is a load (64 yards and 2 TDs on 9 carries) and Ben Malena is just pain old reliable (40 yards and 2 TDs on 12 carries).

Mike Evans didn't play for 90% of the second half and still had 116 yards and two TDs
The defense is just pain old bad.  I understand why, we're incredibly young, but that doesn't lessen the fact that we're bad.  How many forced punts on the season?  Very, very few.

To make matters worse, Kirby Ennis got hurt in the first half and tried to play in the second half but couldn't and Darian Claiborne hurt his right thigh and had to come out.  The bye week before Ole Miss is coming at the right time.

One of the bright spots on defense has been Deshazor Everett, who has been forced to play safety as a result of Floyd Raven's injury and some regression from others.  He had another TD this week in the way of a pick-6.

We weren't at our house when the game started but I had the DVR going.  I had promised Benjamin that he could stay up late and watch the game with me, but at the time I didn't realize that we wouldn't be sitting down to start watching it until 8pm.  To his credit, the little guy made it all the way through....his eyes fluttered closed off just as Johnny took the knee to end the game.  It was the first game full game that he's watched.

Next up.....Ole Miss!