Sunday, December 28, 2014

Coaching Updates

Lots and nothing has happened since my last post.  A strange combination, no?

First of all, WR Coach/Recruiting Coordinator David Beaty took the HC job at Kansas - that one hurts on the recruiting front.

Sumlin also relieved OL coach, BJ Anderson, of his duties.

All things point to Utah OC, Dave Christensen, officially being introduced at some point this week as OL Coach/Run Game Coordinator (Spav will still be the OC and will call plays)

Christensen was previously the HC at Wyoming and prior to that, the OC at Mizzou during their glory years with Chase Daniels.  This, by all indications, is a home run hire.

In terms of DC, we've heard essentially every combination of candidates imaginable.

Muschamp did sign with Auburn, Pelini took the HC job at Youngstown State, and Dave Steckel took the HC job at Missouri State.  Sumlin passed on both Pelini and Steckel, and has also showed zero interest in Venables.

Foster is still out there although rumors are that he has signed an extension - but I haven't seen anything official on that front.

There has also been a combo hire floated of Greg Mattison and Florida DC D.J. Durkin.  That would be pretty stout.

Then last week, there were rumors floating that LSU DC, John Chavis, was insulted by his contract extension offer and has engaged in talks with Sumlin.  Chavis would be OUTSTANDING.  I think he is the #1 DC in the country outside of Nick Saban - who isn't even a DC.

Sumlin has mentioned that he will likely have all three positions finalized by the end of this coming week.  We'll have to see - should be exciting.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Potential Defensive Coordinators?

WHY CAN'T WE FIELD A GREAT DEFENSE?

When Sumlin hired Coach Snyder, I felt it was an underwhelming hire but looking back, it was probably in line with where we were as a program/defense.  It was a big hire in terms of importance and it didn't work out, which makes this hire even more important.

It has been said that this go-round Sumlin has an open checkbook to make this hire and all rumors are pointing to us swinging for the fences.

It just so happened that Will Muschamp was fired from his head coaching position by Florida, instantly making him the top defensive coordinator available.  Shortly after Sumlin let go of Snyder, Auburn followed suit and let go their DC and threw their name in the ring.  There are also very strong rumors that South Carolina is going after him - but they haven't fired their DC yet.

I think he is the #1 target for Coach Sumlin and the rest of the candidates hinge on his decision.

Will Muschamp
  • Georgia '94
  • Base 4-3 defense
  • 2001 LSU - Linebackers
  • 2002-2003 LSU - Defensive Coordinator
  • 2004-2005 Miami Dolphins - Asst HC/Co-DC
  • 2006-2007 Auburn - Defensive Coordinator
  • 2008-2010 texas - Defensive Coordinator/Head Coach in Waiting
  • 2011-2014 Florida - Head Coach
            Rush D      PassD       Total D   Scoring D
          ==========  ==========  ==========  =========
2002 LSU  134.1 (40)   152.7 (2)   286.8 (8)  18.3 (15)
2003 LSU   67.0 (3)    185.0 (18)  252.0 (1)  11.0 (1)
2004 NFL  ----------  ----------  ----------  ---------
2005 NFL  ----------  ----------  ----------  ---------
2006 AUB  124.2 (45)  168.2 (14)   292.3 (19) 13.9 (7)
2007 AUB  124.7 (29)  173.2 (6)    297.9 (6)  16.9 (6) 
2008 tu    83.5 (3)   259.4 (104)  342.9 (51) 18.8 (18)
2009 tu    72.4 (1)   179.6 (19)   251.9 (3)  16.7 (12)
2010 tu   139.6 (44)  161.6 (6)    300.2 (6)  23.7 (49)
2011 FLA  132.7 (40)  166.9 (7)    299.5 (8)  21.3 (20)
2012 FLA   93.9 (4)   192.5 (17)   287.5 (5)  14.5 (5)
2013 FLA  142.4 (33)  171.8 (7)    314.3 (8)  21.1 (15)
2014 FLA  116.8 (12)  194.2 (23)   311.0 (9)  21.2 (24)

There isn't much more that needs to be said.  His defenses are always sick.  Only twice since 2002 has his defense been worse than 9th in the country - across four different schools.

He also coached under Nick Saban from 2001-2005. 

The biggest concern, in my opinion, is that if we hire Coach Boom, we're going to go through this entire ordeal again in a couple of years because he's going to get another HC opportunity.  

Bud Foster
  • Murray State '80
  • Base 4-2-5 defense
1981-1982 Murray State - Grad Asst
1983-1985 Murray State - Outside LB
1986 Murray State - Outside & Inside LB
1987-1992 Virginia Tech - Outside LB
1993-1994 Virginia Tech - Outside/Inside LB & Special Teams
1995 Virginia Tech - Co-Defensive Coordinator
1996-2014 Virginia Tech - Defensive Coordinator

         Rush D      PassD      Total D   Scoring D
      ==========  ==========  ==========  =========
1999   75.9 (2)               247.3 (3)    10.5 (1)
2000   99.3 (16)  224.4 (77)  323.6 (27)   22.6 (45)
2001   71.6 (2)   166.3 (8)   237.9 (2)    13.4 (2)
2002  121.4 (29)  213.6 (56)  335.1 (32)   18.8 (21)
2003  136.0 (39)  231.5 (76)  367.5 (51)   23.0 (45)
2004  115.2 (21)  152.8 (4)   268.0 (4)    12.9 (2)
2005   93.4 (8)   154.2 (3)   247.6 (1)    12.9 (2)
2006   91.2 (11)  128.2 (1)   219.5 (1)    11.0 (1)
2007   86.6 (5)   210.3 (31)  296.9 (4)    16.1 (3)
2008  104.4 (14)  175.0 (16)  279.4 (7)    16.7 (9)
2009  128.4 (40)  167.1 (11)  295.5 (12)   15.6 (9)
2010  155.9 (64)  205.6 (40)  361.5 (52)   20.6 (26)
2011  104.1 (14)  200.6 (31)  304.6 (10)   17.6 (7)
2012  134.1 (28)  199.1 (24)  333.2 (18)   22.9 (32)
2013  110.9 (10)  172.7 (8)   283.6 (4)    19.3 (11)
2014  144.8 (41)  186.8 (14)  331.7 (17)   20.4 (17)

Once in the last 11 seasons has his team been outside of the top 20 in total defense. Wow.

Foster has coached with Frank Beamer for his entire career, starting as a GA in 1981 when Beamer took over the Murray State HC job. He has always been a defacto HC in Waiting at Virginia Tech, turning down countless jobs, but in recent years he has started to inquire about HC jobs as they come open.

So why now?  There are some who think that Foster might now be passed over by VT when Beamer retires in order to get fresh blood in the program.  He doesn't even need to worry about a new wardrobe - bring all your Hokie maroon with you.

Honestly, this would be a HUGE hire.

If Muschamp is 1A, then Bud Foster is 1B

I also have to respect his hat bill - that's good work there

Brent Venables
  • Kansas State '92
  • Base 4-2-5 defense
  • 1993-1998 Kansas State - Linebackers
  • 1999-2003 Oklahoma - Co-DC/Linebackers
  • 2004-2011 Oklahoma - Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers
  • 2012-2014 Clemson - Defensive Coordinator
            Rush D      PassD       Total D   Scoring D
          ==========  ==========  ==========  =========
2002 OU   107.9 (14)  185.3 (25)  293.1 (10)  15.4 (6)
2003 OU   113.2 (20)  146.4 (2)   259.6 (3)   15.3 (5)
2004 OU    94.6 (6)   204.4 (48)  299.0 (13)  16.8 (11)
2005 OU    90.6 (4)   216.1 (56)  306.7 (13)  23.1 (37)
2006 OU    98.7 (16)  188.4 (41)  287.1 (16)  17.3 (19)
2007 OU   110.3 (17)  228.1 (59)  338.4 (26)  20.3 (19)
2008 OU   116.5 (20)  251.5 (99)  367.7 (68)  24.5 (58)
2009 OU    92.9 (8)   179.7 (20)  272.6 (8)   14.5 (7) 
2010 OU   148.9 (58)  212.9 (51)  361.9 (53)  21.8 (33)
2011 CLEM 176.9 (83)  217.5 (50)  394.4 (71)  29.3 (81)
2012 CLEM 155.9 (57)  240.3 (71)  396.2 (63)  24.9 (48)
2013 CLEM 155.7 (52)  201.0 (16)  356.7 (25)  22.2 (24)
2014 CLEM  97.7 (7)   161.9 (3)   259.6 (1)   17.6 (7)

Brent Venables is a great defensive coach, and a very good recruiters, but I can't stand him.  Mostly it is from the way the Corey Nelson recruitment went.  That said, I was able to work past the same issue with Kingsbury a couple years ago so I could make due.

I don't think he is in quite the same cut as the two guys I have above - and the numbers show it.  He left OU because Bob Stoops wanted to hire his brother, whichever one just got fired from where ever, to be their DC.

His defense is known to be fluid in terms of formations - and he likes to blitz and blitz and blitz some more.

Bo Pelini
  • Ohio State '90
  • Base 4-3 defense
  • 1994-1996 San Francisco 49ers - Defensive Backs
  • 1997-1999 New England Patriots - Linebackers
  • 2000-2002 Green Bay Packers - Linebackers
  • 2003 Nebraska - Defensive Coordinator
  • 2004 Oklahoma - Co-Defensive Coordinator
  • 2005-2007 LSU - Defensive Coordinator
  • 2008-2014 Nebraska - Head Coach
            Rush D      PassD       Total D   Scoring D
          ==========  ==========  ==========  =========
2003 NEB  119.3 (24)  177.9 (11)  297.2 (11)  14.5 (2)
2004 OU    94.6 (6)   204.4 (48)  299.0 (13)  16.8 (11) 
2005 LSU   91.5 (6)   175.3 (11)  266.9 (3)   14.2 (3)
2006 LSU   97.1 (14)  145.7 (3)   242.8 (3)   12.3 (4)
2007 LSU  106.1 (12)  182.7 (9)   288.8 (3)   19.9 (19)
2008 NEB  116.2 (21)  233.4 (89)  349.9 (55)  28.5 (80)
2009 NEB   93.1 (9)   178.9 (18)  272.0 (7)   10.4 (1)
2010 NEB  153.1 (63)  153.6 (5)   306.8 (11)  17.4 (9)
2011 NEB  158.5 (64)  192.2 (18)  350.7 (37)  23.4 (42)
2012 NEB  192.5 (90)  168.1 (4)   360.6 (35)  27.6 (58)
2013 NEB  156.2 (53)  214.6 (33)  370.8 (40)  24.8 (50)
2014 NEB  176.5 (78)  196.3 (26)  372.8 (48)  24.8 (48)

Bo Pelini is one of those guys that I look at and think of being a defensive coordinator for life.  He is a really good defensive coordinator - I'd even go so far as to say elite.  He's a decent head coach, but his bread and butter is coaching up defenses.

Like Muschamp, Pelini was fired from his head coaching gig at Nebraska within the last few weeks.  He was consistently good but never great - winning 9 games, 10 games, 10 games, 9 games, 10 games, 9 games, 9 games.  It wasn't enough for the Huskers.

Frankly, just employing him to have the Fake Pelini twitter account stay alive would be doing the entire college football world a huge favor.

Also like Muschamp, I think Pelini will get another head coaching job within the next couple of years.

Others

There are also whispers of guys like Greg Mattison (DC at Michigan - who just fired HC Brady Hoke) or Dave Steckel (DC at Mizzou) or Gene Chizik (former Auburn HC).

Mattison is a great coach but I don't break out in a smile when I think of my excitement level.  I would take him - but it would be one of those "awe man, we missed out on ______" and then in a year or so realize how well he's doing.

Steckel is probably the least sexy name on the list but I'd be very pleased with him - his Mizzou defenses have been stout - particularly up front, but he has been with Gary Pinkel since the dawn of time and I'd be really surprised if he took a lateral move within conference.

Chizik?  No thanks.  He had a few good seasons but overall he a cut below all the guys I've listed above.  I also can't get the image of him wearing his black leather jacket during the Cam Newton season, which for reasons unknown to me just drives me crazy.  Also - need to steer clear of the Chiz Rags.

Hopefully, Sumlin can get the right guy in the right time frame.  All of our mid-term recruits need to know who their coach will be before they finalize their decisions.  I felt like the process of hiring Snyder took too long back in '12 and we lost out on a couple of JUCO defensive players that could have really helped us.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Bowling

What a crazy weekend for college football with the first playoff announcement coming on the heels of a full slate of Championship games yesterday.

I'll start with the A&M news. We have drawn West Virginia in the Liberty Bowl.  /Golf clap

Of course, I'm not thrilled playing a Big 12 team - at least it is one of the new Big 12 teams and not one we've played before.  The big dump on this bowl is that it is a Monday Dec. 29th at 1pm kickoff.  That sucks. 

Throughout the day, it looked like we were either going to the Music City Bowl vs. Notre Dame, the Independence Bowl vs. Miami, or the Texas Bowl vs. the horns. 

As it ended up - both teams in the Liberty Bowl were 7-5 and both teams in the Texas Bowl were 6-6.  LSU got the matchup with Notre Dame, South Carolina got the matchup with Miami, and Arky is going to run over the horns.  At least the Independence Bowl is on a Saturday.

I also think this is a tough draw for the Ags.  I obviously, don't know a whole bunch about WVU this year but I know that they beat Baylor and that a Dana Holgerson offense with two or three weeks to prepare is going to be tough for our bad defense - even more so without a DC.

It is what it is.  Go better than 7-5 and you get a better bowl.

The playoffs announcement was much more exciting.  Let me give a little backstory.

Last week the committee met and put out the following rankings:
  1. Alabama
  2. Oregon
  3. TCU
  4. FSU
  5. Ohio St
  6. Baylor
TCU had leapfrogged FSU, which was a pretty big deal since only the top 4 teams get in.

TCU and Baylor were both 10-1 on the season - but Baylor had defeated TCU in their head-to-head matchup, but then lost to West Virginia.  That gave them the head-to-head advantage but also gave them a much worse loss than TCU (who only lost to Baylor).

The Big 12 then came out and said that they will treat both teams as Co-Champions if they both won their games this weekend (even though their by-laws says that head-to-head is the deciding factor).  The Big 12 does not play a Conference Championship Game like the other big four conferences do but instead tag another bye week into their schedule and play their final conference game for several teams on the day of all the conference championships.

So this weekend in the championship games: Alabama beats #16 Mizzou, Oregon beats #7 Arizona, Florida State slides bye #10 Georgia Tech, and Ohio State throttles #13 Wisconsin.  Then TCU beats Iowa State and Baylor beats #9 KSU.

Ohio State has a little back story as well - in week 2 they lost to Virginia Tech at home - by far the worst loss of the top 6 teams.  Their Heisman contendor QB, Braxton Miller, injured his shoulder just before the season started so they had to go with redshirt freshman, J.T. Barrett, at QB. So Barrett lost in his second career start to a Bud Foster defense and then went on to become a Heisman candidate himself....until he hurt himself in the Buckeye's final regular season game and will miss the rest of the season.  So sophomore, Cardell Jones, makes his first career start against Wisconsin in the Big 10 Championship game and the Buckeyes win FIFTY NINE to ZERO.

So the final rankings come out this morning and look like this:
  1. Alabama
  2. Oregon
  3. FSU
  4. Ohio State
  5. Baylor
  6. TCU
There is, of course, outcry - as expected. There are several factors working here....

First of all, Florida State is not the third best team in the country.  I think they would lose to every other team listed there.  The problem is that they were the only undefeated team and that is some sort of magical force field in college football.  They moved ahead of TCU because they beat a very good GT while TCU beat an ISU team that had one conference win (regardless of how badly they beat them).

Secondly, the Big 12 screwed it's teams - in several ways.  First of all, they are structured to not have a Conference Championship.  That is one less game against a formidable opponent.  So BU and TCU are each 11-1 while all the other teams are 12-1. 

Then the Big 12 tried to take the safe route and at the last minute claim them both as Co-Champs, hoping that either team having the title attached to them would boost them - but in fact, I think it hurt them because there is no differentiation.  Baylor won the head to head and should have been the Big 12 Champ. 

The entire reason we have gone to a playoff is to let the teams settle it on the field - but then you want us to discard that when determining who makes the playoff?

But here is the kicker - the Big 12's entire season long slogan was "One True Champion".  I'm going to laugh at that one for years to come.

That said, I think that tOSU would not have necessarily leapt over the Big 12 team (likely Baylor) had they not looked so dominant in their Conference Championship game.  Had they won, 24-21 or 35-27 I think we would have seen them left out.  To their credit, they played that additional game and used it as a platform to their advantage.

Thirdly, strength of schedule.  Not all conferences are created equal - going 12-1 in the SEC is not the same as going 12-1 in the Big 10.  It is understandable that some teams can't control their conference schedule - but they can control their out of conference schedule.  FSU knows that the ACC is a bad conference so they bolstered their resume by scheduling non-conference games with Florida, Oklahoma State, and Notre Dame.  We all realize that those three teams happened to have down years, but the attempt by FSU was appreciated by the committe.

TCU did play Minnesota, who just out of sheer luck for TCU had their best season in recent memory.  Baylor's best OoC game was against Buffalo.  Baylor played the weakest OoC schedule in the entire country - #128 out of 128.

I don't have a problem with the way the rankings and spots played out - I do think that if you stuck all the teams on the field Baylor would be a tougher draw than TCU, FSU, or tOSU but the selection committee didn't want to set the precedent that you could play less games against weaker teams and still get in.

Like they say, it sucks to BU.

There are a few things that I did not like that came out of this weekend....
  • I don't like how "style points" became such a big deal for the last game of the season - it should matter for all 12 or 13 games, not just the last one.
  • I'm concerned about the mention of tOSU's ability to overcome having to play backup QBs....does that mean that they will look at something like that in reverse if they have a team who loses a great player at the end of the year?  Could a team get left out if they don't "overcome" losing someone to injury?
  • I also don't like the precedent that they felt that tOSU did have the "worst" loss off the three but overcame that in the weeks to follow. Would a team who loses late in the season that doesn't have an opportunity to "overcome" it be punished? Why is an early season loss less important than a late season loss? That would indicate you want your conference to schedule all you tough games as early as possible.  The playoff should not be about who finished hot, but rather the entire body of work.
  • I also don't like the precedent set by selecting 4 conference champions....because I don't think that in most years there are four conference champions that are amongst the four best teams in the country. It just kind of happened this year but usually there is one or two conferences whose top team is ranked in the mid-teens.  They wouldn't deserve to be in a four team playoff.
  • You can eliminate that by going to 8 teams, like it should have been done in the first place.  Take all 5 conference champs + 3 at large
Anyways, Alabama will face Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl and Oregon will face FSU in the Rose Bowl.

TCU ended up matched against Ole Miss in the Peach Bowl and Baylor got Michigan State in the Cotton Bowl.  Both should be really interesting games. 

In terms of coaching replacements for A&M's staff- there isn't anything of note that has occurred yet.  I'll try to hash out some scenarios if I get time before the decision is made.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Ag Football Recap: LSU 23 v. A&M 17

In a game where our offense and defense were both abysmal, LSU somehow just squeaked by with a win at Kyle Field.

It actually started fairly quickly after we punted on our first possession.  LSU was moving the ball well on the ground before Davonte Harris stepped in front of a Tiger receiver to pick off the Anthony Jennings pass.  I don't understand why they were throwing the ball.  Clearly they did not watch film from our game against Mizzou.

Tra Carson had two 4 yard runs before Trey Williams broke off a 41 yard TD run right up the gut and all of a sudden we're up 7-0.

LSU again marches 70 yards down field on 12 plays but misses a FG.  This was a trend that was our only saving grace.  On the night, the Tigers had three drives of 5 min or longer and only ended up with 3 points out of those.

There was a weird play where Myles Garrett hit Jennings as he was dropped back and the officials blew the whistle and signaled an incomplete pass.  An LSU player had picked up the ball but didn't run because the whistle had blown and they had signaled it incomplete.  Then the head official said it was ruled a fumble but the play was blown dead on an inadvertent whistle.  Since the LSU player did not advance the ball because of the whistle they had a choice to replay the down from the previous spot or take the result of the play (which would put them at 4th and 1).  The instant replay confirmed that it was a fumble.  They chose to replay the 3rd down and, of course, converted.  Ultimately, the drive ended with a punt so there was no real damage other than TOP but it was just another example of the strange officiating.
The game was tied up at 7-7 after Leonard Fournette trucked Howard Matthews - it was one of those plays that is going to end up on highlight reels for years.  As a true freshman, Fournette scares me because we're going to see a lot of #7 over the next few years.

LSU scored again with 34 seconds left in the half.  Speedy then fumbled the KOR allowing the Tigers to stretch their lead to 10 with a quick FG.

The big quarter strikes again as LSU scored 17 points  in the 2Q as we gave up 140 yards rushing.  It didn't help that our offense only ran 7 plays in the quarter and had just 23 yards passing in the first half.

The first drive of the 3Q was one of LSU's big long drives I mentioned earlier - they ate up 7:35 of the clock but had to settle for a FG.

It wasn't until the 7 min. mark of the 3rd Q that we picked up our third first down of the game.  At the 2 min mark of the 3Q we finally take a shot throwing the ball down field, hitting Boone Niederhofer for 42 yards, and the offense starts to open up.  We get a gift of a pass interference call in the end zone that moves us down field and then another 10 yard completion to Speedy before having to settle for a FG.

Again, LSU chews up clock before missing another FG.  We're at the 10 min. mark of the 4th quarter at this point and Trey Williams gets his second carry of the night, picking up 22 yards.  Why on earth are we not giving him the ball more frequently in this game?

That is one of the bigger complaints about the offense this year - there is no rhyme or reason for which RB we have in and even when we do have someone doing well, we pull him and stick someone else in.
Anyways, Allen finds Speedy at the left pylon on a jump ball where Speedy just goes over the top of the DB and pulls it down to narrow the score to 20-17.  I swear, we get one "Did you see that?!?" play from him each week. 

LSU answered back with another FG before we get the ball with 2:07 remaining.  Davonte Harris was inches from blocking that FG - it either went over or under him as he leaped because it should have hit him in the stomach.

On our final drive, we moved the ball through the air to midfield fairly easily and then their DT jumps offsides so Mike Matthews quick snaps the ball and Allen takes a deep shot down field on the free play.  It gets picked off, but not a big deal because we'll just take the 5 yard offsides penalty.
Except there is no flag.  From any official.  I saw it from my seat at the game, the announcers saw it when they were calling the game, Matthews and Allen clearly saw it.  It was pretty disgusting. 

LSU took a knee and ran out the clock.

I'm not saying that the officials cost us the game, because they didn't, we played like garbage - but they certainly changed the outcome - whatever that might have been.  They were bad all game and that was the crescendo. 

It was the most rushing yards LSU had in a conference game since 2007 and both Fournette and Jennings ran for career highs.

And so the regular season comes to an end.  We will know our bowl fate next Sunday (12/7) but it looks like we will most likely be headed to Charlotte for the Belk Bowl (previously Queens City Bowl/Continental Tire Bowl/Meineke Car Care Bowl) or to Houston for the Texas Bowl.

The playoff picture going into the week had Alabama, Oregon, FSU, and Mississippi State in (in that order).  FSU held off a bad Florida team, Mississippi State lost to Ole Miss pretty badly, Oregon ran over Oregon State and then Bama played in a great game against Auburn - losing in the 3rd quarter to end up winning 55-44.  It was a heckuva Iron Bowl. It looks like one of TCU, Ohio State, or Baylor will take MSU's place going into the conference championship games next Saturday.

At lunch time on Friday, A&M announced that defensive coordinator, Mark Snyder, was relieved of duty and the internet rumors commenced as to who will the next DC handed the keys to turn this defense into something formidable. 

Will Muschamp was fired at Florida a couple of weeks ago, Bo Pellinin was fired this morning at Nebraska - it looks like South Carolina and Auburn will be joining us in our search for a new DC.  There are rumors that Clemson's Dabo Sweeny will take over for Muschamp so his DC, Brent Venables's name is also being shopped about (his OC, Chad Morris just took the SMU HC job).

Muschamp is the belle of the ball so it will be interesting/fun/stressful to see how this plays out over the next couple of weeks.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

That Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

A couple of weeks ago, the longhorns beat Oklahoma State and got themselves bowl eligible.  They started the season very poorly under first year head coach Charlie Strong but waded through their Big 12 schedule winning four of their last five, which has in turn bubbled their confidence.

Then a longhorn rumor monger, whose "sources" regarding any and everything A&M have always been a iffy, dropped this on twitter: 
Two sources close to the situation told HornsDigest.com SEC officials have indicated to bowls with SEC and Big 12 tie-ins that the SEC won't support a Texas vs Texas A&M postseason matchup. In short, A&M has too much to lose from a potential loss.
Seriously?

Good lord, this is like the crazy girlfriend who is still stalking you on Facebook years later - the one whose girlfriends all sigh and roll their eyes when you get brought up in conversation AGAIN.

This is a complete media spin to once again paint A&M as a.) the bad guys who broke up the rivalry and b.) scared to play the horns.

This doesn't have anything to do with being scared.  We left the Big 12 and moved the SEC, the most difficult conference in the country.  Our division is the most difficult division in the history of college football.  We play LSU every year - we recruit against them regionally just as much, if not more, than we do against t.u.  Last I checked, they're still on our schedule for this coming Thursday night.

Sumlin came in and from day one and said, "I want to be around people who want to play at the highest level, want to compete in THE best conference in America and the best division in America and, if you're scared of that, GET A DOG."

Frankly, as bad as we've been, the horns aren't that good this year.  They have one win against a team with a winning record.  They snuck by Iowa State on a last second FG - at home.  They've scored 30 points four times - against North Texas, ISU, WV and texas tech.  If ever there was a year to be scared of playing the longhorns, this is not it.

I don't want to play them in a bowl for the same reason I didn't want to play OU in the Cotton Bowl and the same reason I hate that we've been stuck with Mizzou on our schedule in each of the first three years of the SEC.  I don't want to play any Big 12 schools.  Branch out.  Everything old is not wonderful and sacred.

I have touched on this twice before....

Once, prior to the '12 bowl announcements, when the horns actually asked the Cotton Bowl to skip them over if they were facing us....
 "Frankly, I really don't have any interest in playing any Big 12 team in a bowl this year - I love bowls because you get a chance to match up against big schools from other conferences that you normally wouldn't be able to play.  Playing a Big 12 team doesn't give me that."
and then again after it was announced that we would play OU
"This, to me, is a disappointing match up.  Like I said before, I love bowl games because you get an opportunity to play opponents that you normally don't get to.  This will be the 19th time we've faced OU in the last 20 years."
Even still, if A&M were to play texas again it shouldn't be in a dumpy bowl game.  The AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl?  No thanks.

Of course they want to play us right now.  They are riding high on 4 wins in their last 5 games and we've lost 5 of our last 7 - they don't have anything to lose.  The only result that hurts them is if we beat the dog snot out of them.  A win or a decent loss and they can spin everything in their favor - look how close we are to the big mighty SEC in only our first season with Strong.  Sure, I get that.  They want it on their terms.

Here's what irritates me the most.  When it was announced that A&M was leaving the Big 12, President Loftin had the following to say:
"I would just say this, that if we were to negotiate with other conferences of any kind, SEC or anybody else, a primary criterion would be our ability to continue a non-conference contest each year, hopefully on Thanksgiving Day or thereabouts, with our friends at UT-Austin. That's a historic rivalry. We see no reason why it could not continue under a different conference arrangement. If they chose to do so, we certainly want to make that part of any discussion we have with another conference."
Then Bill Byrne followed up in October 2011....
"After placing calls to Texas, we have been informed their non-conference football schedule is full through 2018. I have asked our coaches in all of our other sports to check with their Texas counterparts to see if they would like to continue to play in non-conference action in years to come. Our men's tennis coach reported they have declined." 
Here is Deloss Dodds' email response:
"'We’re scheduled out with non-conference games through 2018 and our Big 12 schedule is not yet settled.  What we have right now is a full schedule, but if any future options are available, the decision will not be made by just one person.'"
Then a few weeks later they turned around and inked a deal with UCLA for the 2014 season opener.

Within the last 12 months we have filled out THREE different OoC games for 2015 and added marquee OoC games for each of 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2024, and 2025.  We still have an OoC game open in each of 2016 and 2017.

If texas wants to play us so badly, pick up the phone and call Eric Hyman.



(They should also call up the Big 12 office and beg off having to play Arkansas in the Texas Bowl - that would be a worse match-up for them than playing us)

Ag Football Recap: Mizzou Takes What They're Given - a 34-27 win

In the middle of our three game stretch of Tiger hunting, we laid an egg.

We gave up 587 yards to Missouri.   587 yards.  I can't get past that.

That is 257 yards ABOVE their season average.

This is a team that had 394 yards against South Dakota State.  They had 325 yards against Toledo.  They had 322 yards against South Florida.


The gashed us on the ground for 335 yards with Russell Hansbrough setting a career high 199 yards with 2 TDs.  He was averaging 66 yards per game.  He only had 591 yards on the season as their leading rusher.

It was the third quarter that did us in.  Missouri ran 28 plays and had 308 yards (11 yards per snap) and 28 points.  That's 17 fewer yards than they had in their entire game against Toledo.  Toledo?  Toledo!

That had to be the worst quarter of defense I've ever seen.  The only things I can think of might be '03 OU, the Bama game from a few weeks ago - but those were against elite teams.  Maybe Utah in '03 - they ran over and over and over against us....but I don't think they had 300 yards in a quarter.


We couldn't get off the field - Missouri converted 14-of-24 third downs (58%) and also converted on a fourth down as well.

In our defense, and this is the best defense that occured on Saturday, Myles Garrett and Ivan Robinson missed the game due to injury.  There were whispers of a possible concussion during practice for MG, and then later rumors that it was back spasms.  No clue.

What I do know is that we missed him DESPERATELY.  We got very little pressure on Maty Mauk, and no pressure on their OL.  There is no question in my mind that if Myles Garrett had suited up, we would have won that game.

We also lost starting linebackers, Otaro Alaka and Josh Walker at the end of the second quarter (Walker will miss the LSU game and likely the bowl game with a broken foot) and then Shaan Washington for a portion of the 3rd quarter.  Washington still finished with a team high 10 tackles.  Ivan Robinson was also clearly banged up but with the other injuries he played through it.

Still, our backups shouldn't be 200-300 yards worse than the starters on South Dakota State, Toledo, or South Florida.  That is staggering.

Even after all of that, we somehow still had a chance.  As the third quarter wound down, we were down 34-20.  We managed a 12 play drive that ended with a 4 yard Malcome Kennedy TD reception, bringing the score back to 34-27.

On Mizzou's next drive, they had to settle for a 49 yard FG attempt and it clanked off the right upright giving us the ball back with 5:30 remaining in the game.  We started working it with our running backs...Tra Carson runs for 3...then Allen hits him for a 10 yard gain....then an offsides....then Trey Williams runs for 5 yards, but fumbles and we recover 11 yards downfield....they Allen hits Speedy for 13 yards to get us to 1st & 10 from the 11 yard line.  We throw one away and then Allen hits RSJ for 9 yards to put us in a 3-1 from the 2 yard line.

We need one yard to get a first down for four more chances from one yard out.  We line up in a shotgun with Brandon Williams and run a draw.  He gets completely stuffed as soon as he gets the handoff.  Then on 4th & 1we roll right towards the near sideline and throw back across to Cam Clear who gets stuffed for a loss of one.  Ball game.

I didn't understand either of those playcalls.
  • Why is Brandon Williams out there instead of Tra Carson in the goalline package?
  • Why are we running out of a standard shotgun - if you're going to run, line up and either pound it for the one yard, or run a QB sneak
  •  I would have, at least on one of the plays, lined up with Pope, RSJ, Speedy, and Josh Reynolds and if no one can get open let Allen scramble.
So frustrating that we let that one get away.  Without Johnny's poise & scrambling ability, this sort of situation has become very difficult for us.  We were just 4-of-14 on 3rd downs (29%) which is a trend that has hampered us during all four of our losses.

I did think that Allen played better than the two previous weeks and Armani Watts at safety had a great game, including another INT.
Josh Reynolds also tied the school record with his 13th TD of the season - he had 125 yards and 2 TDs on the night.  He has, overall, had a really nice season.

That game was very un-Sumlin.  We usually win those types of games - but no matter what, you can't get shredded like that on defense.  That was putrid.

We have an off weekend coming up before our Thanksgiving night match up with LSU, who has taken a bit of a dive of late.  The lost to Bama two weeks ago in another epic LSU/Bama game and then dropped one to Arkansas this past weekend, allowing Arkansas their first SEC victory in 18 tries.

LSU's running game still scares the ever living out of me, especially after what Hansbrough did to us.  Their defense will also be the best defense, by far, that Kyle Allen will try to crack.  Hopefully, Sumlin can get this 3 game LSU losing streak to end.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Ag Football Recap: Ags Stun #3 Auburn, 41-38

What the hell just happened there?
After 4 weeks of spiraling we somehow put it all together and knocked off the #3 team in the country - on the road.  The Vegas line was 22 - and I would have taken the over.

Kyle Allen made his second start - his first SEC action/first ranked opponent/first road start - and he had a solid game.  Good enough to be the SEC Offensive Player of the Week - 277 yards with 4 TDs on 19-of-29 passing.

As a head coach at A&M, Sumlin has now won 3 games against top 10 opponents on the road - with three different freshman QBs.  That is, frankly, pretty unbelievable.

[note: he also did it with Reggie McNeal in 2002 against OU when he was our OC]

Things started quick - on our fourth snap, Allen hit Malcome Kennedy on a slant (something I've been yelling for week after week) and Malcome took it to the house - 60 yards.  Then on Auburn's first snap Howard Matthews popped C. Artis-Payne and Floyd Raven came up with the fumble recovery.  3 plays later Allen hit Josh Reynolds on a great play down the right sideline for a 36 yard TD.  There was still 12:53 remaining in the first quarter and we were up 14-0.

We needed those points because Auburn tied the game up with 2:32 remaining in the 1Q on a 30+ yard Artist-Payne TD run.

Our third possession started with a great 45 yard KOR from Trey Williams that was brought back to the 6 yard line for a ticky-tack/questionable block in the back.  Allen marched it down the field with a nice mix of running, scrambling, and a few first downs before hitting RSJ for a 23 yard TD (on another slant).

Our fourth possession was another TD pass to Josh Reynolds (on a slant) to put him 2 TDs shy of tying Mike Evans single season TD record.

Fortunately we built up that lead because the offense didn't score another TD after the 10 min mark of the 2Q.

No worries - we have Myles Garrett.  Myles has flipped the switch at this point in the season and completely manhandled Auburn's tackles.  The holding calls that were missed were egregious - to the point that they were literally tackling MG.  I didn't realize it until the press conference afterwards, but Sumlin mentioned that Myles had to leave the game for part of the second half with an injury as a result of one of those holds.

Even with the holds, MG was a game changer - if he wasn't making the sack or tackle himself, he was funneling Auburn's offense to a place where the rest of the defense could make a play.
To top it all off, Auburn lined up for a 41 yard FG with 0:09 left in the half, which would bring the score to 28-20 with Auburn getting the ball to start the 3Q.  Myles Garrett ends up blocking the FG and Deshazor took it to the house for 7 points.  35-17.  That was a 10 point swing right there - a HUGE 10 point swing.

The second half was all Josh Lambo vs. Auburn's offense.  Artis-Payne finished with a career high 221 yards and 2 TDs.  We got up 38-24 before Auburn's comeback started again.  They scored 1 minute into the 4th quarter and we answered with a FG.

They scored again and we went 3-and-out.  It's 41-38 with 5:40 remaining in the game and Auburn is starting on their own 20.  They marched down the field after a couple of pretty great plays by their WRs and the next thing we know it's 1st & G at our 7 yard line.
Artis-Payne runs for 5 yards right up the gut but on the next snap there is an exchange issue between Nick Marshall and Artis-Payne and Julien Obioha ends up recovering the fumble.  HOLY COW.

It doesn't end there - there is 2:37 left in the game and we're at our own 3 yard line.  Brandon Williams runs for 5 yards and then we line up in a shotgun formation and try some handoff to Trey Williams way back in the endzone and he *JUST* got the ball across the line to save a safety.  We end up going 3-and-out and have to punt to the Tigers.

So Auburn starts with 1:28 and the ball at our 42 ayrd line.  They need about 15-20 yards to set up a game tying FG.  The first snap is a 6 yard completion putting them at our 34 yard line.  Cold, sweaty palms can be found all across Texas at this point.  Somehow, on the next play, the center snaps the ball without Marshall being ready for it and Alonzo Williams jumps on it!

Victory formation to run out the remaining 0:54 in the game.

Auburn's crazy streak of luck, dating back to last season, has finally come to an end and we are the beneficiaries.  What a crazy ballgame.

Suddenly, all is right with the world.  I love this conference.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Ag Football Recap: Ags Hold Off La-Monroe, 21-16

I was fortunate enough to have an opportunity to take Benjamin up to College Station with me for the La-Monroe game, his second real home game.

He had a soccer game at 8:30am and the A&M kick-off was at 11:00 so I went into it knowing we weren't going to get there until the 1st quarter had started.  I had full tank of gas and all of our gear for the A&M game ready in the car, with a lunch packed ready to go as soon as the final whistle blew on his soccer game.

Unfortunately, we forgot to throw his bike in the bed of my truck before we left the house so we had to double back for that and then there was really heavy traffic getting out of the subdivision due to lane closures from the construction of the new tollroad.  We lost about 20-25 minutes there but we did the best we could with what we had.
After finding a place to park deep in Southgate, we headed towards the stadium.  I heard the cannon go off when the team ran out onto the field and then a few minutes later we heard it go off after we scored a TD - already making progress from last weekend's game.

We stopped for a minute to snap a picture in front of the John David Crow statue as I tried to remind Benjamin that he had met JDC a year or so ago.  He vaguely remembered - he knows the name and he knows there is a picture of him and an old guy hanging on his wall but he hasn't put it all together.

We actually were able to get to our seats with about 6 minutes left in the 1st Q, so it wasn't nearly as bad as it could have been. Sean was waiting for us with a quick recap of what we had missed.

At the SMU game Benjamin was pretty much ready to check out as soon as we got there, but I can't blame him - it was hot at all get out and we had plucked him from a day full of playing at GrandAggie and Cici's house.  This weekend, however, he was actually much more into it.  He liked that he could yell and kept asking at various points of the game if it was OK for him to wave his 12th Man towel (which is appropriate at all times).  I helped him with a couple of yells, he sang right along and swayed with us during the War Hymn.

The key, I have figured out, is food.  We stuck him with a hot dog at the beginning of the 2nd Q and then I got him a bucket of popcorn at the end of halftime that lasted through entire second half.
As for the game itself, the highlight was the special uniform the team wore to "honor" the 1939 national championship team on their 75th anniversary.  The helmet was sick.

Coming off the 'Bama "game", Sumlin basically opened everything back up and in the course of that, Kyle Allen nudged himself in front of Kenny Hill and was taking the 1st team snaps on Thursday.  Then on Saturday, a couple of hours before the game, the athletic department announced that Kenny Hill was suspended for two games due to "violation of team rules and athletic department policy".  No one really knows what that exactly entails but he is basically out until the Mizzou game.
So Kyle Allen got his first start, which was what a good portion of the fan base wanted - not for any other reason than "he couldn't play worse than what we've seen...let's try it to see if there is a spark in the offense."

We also came out in and played in a completely different formation than what we've seen in the Sumlin era.  We had 5 linemen with 3 wide, a fullback, and a RB in the pistol.  For the most part, Ben Compton (our backup center) played FB.

We have essentially dumped our 5 wide spread, high speed offense - and I'm not sure why.  I don't know if it is a WR issue or if it is an OL issue or if it is a QB issue.

As I predicted, Kyle Allen did not come in an set the world on fire - he actually had a terrible game statistically (13-of-28 for 106 yards, a TD and an INT) - but I did see some small positives.  He is much more mobile than I expected - much more so than Kenny Hill - and his arm strength is plus.  Time will tell.  I'm not convinced he is THE answer, but i think he is the answer for now....and for heavens sake - he's a true freshman.

Speedy.  Thank God for Speedy.  He seems like nearly the only one out there who cares - he plays with passion.  He was literally the difference between a win and a loss.  He is also seemly good for one jaw dropping catch per game - this week's installment was an insane TD catch on a free play after ULM jumped offsides.  It was a smart play by Allen also - to know he could heave one up.

I also think that Malcome Kennedy must still be hurt - he has been back now for two games and has only two receptions.  That is very unlike him.  Ed Pope and RSJ were both on the field, but they were silent.

We did get a little bit more out of the running backs. The number might not make your eyes pop (they combined for 118 yards and 2 TD on 32 carries), but Brandon Williams and Tra Carson both played very hard, despite a sieve for an offensive line.  I would still like to see more consistency in the rotation - I think we're switching them up too much and no one can get into a good rhythm.  There was also no Trey Williams, due to him "not taking care of business".  Not sure what that means.
Defensively, Myles Garrett had 3.5 sacks and broke the SEC freshman record for sacks in a season (with a 1/4 of the regular season still to go).  He is a complete monster and is just a joy to watch.  I find myself watching him on nearly every snap and even when he doesn't make the play he is *right* there.

There were a lot of snaps for freshmen.  I believe we played 16 freshmen, with Allen, Otaro Alaka (LB) and Josh Walker (LB) making their first start, joining Myles and Speedy.  Seven of our top nine leading tacklers were freshmen.  Read that again.

That also doesn't include Zaycoven Henderson or Qualen Cunningham, who did not play.

Medically, we had two big "oh no" moments.  Deshazor ruptured a tendon in his right elbow - he was in significant pain and I have no clue how long he might miss.  Then Germain Ifedi sprained his ACL - he will be out for the rest of the year.  That hurts an OL that has struggled mightily.
At the end of the day, having Benjamin with me helped keep things in perspective.  We had a great day together, the weather was GORGEOUS, there was popcorn, Uncle Sean, and he was excited to run into the house and exclaim to Momma that "The Aggies WON!"

Sunday, November 2, 2014

How Did the _efense Get To This Point?

[note: this was all written prior to the La-Monroe game]

We all know that the defense in 2012 was better than 2011 but still "eh" and then took a huge step backwards last season - simply put, they are the sole reason Johnny didn't win a national championship here.

So how did we get to this point?  Let's take a look....

Historically
         RushD        PassD          TotalD          ScoreD          3DC
      ========================================================    ========  
2003  225.1 (112)*  206.42 (40)     431.50 (96)*    38.8 (115)+   2003 44%
2004  142.5 (55)    244.25 (93)*    386.75 (63)*    23.3 (47)     2004 44%
2005  139.2 (38)    304.64 (117)+   443.82 (108)*   31.2 (96)*    2005 48%
2006  132.1 (44)    190.54 (44)     322.62 (46)     20.5 (44)     2006 29%
2007  160.9 (65)    254.85 (92)*    415.77 (83)*    25.9 (50)     2007 46% 
2008  219.3 (114)*  242.67 (93)     461.92 (113)+   37.4 (114)*   2008 55%
2009  171.6 (90)    254.69 (106)*   426.31 (105)    33.5 (105)*   2009 38%
2011  101.8         276.3*          378.2           28.2          2011 40%
2013  222.3 (110)*  253.5 (95)      475.8 (109)+    32.2 (95)     2013 41%
--------------------------------------------------------------------------
2014  190.2 (94)    232.4 (68)      422.6 (78)      27.1 (70)     2014 37%
Last season's defense was right in line with the worst defenses that we've ever fielded and as bad as it has seemed this year, the number indicate we have "improved".  Just not enough.

Attrition

We've been hit particularly hard on this side of the ball in terms of attrition.

A good defense, particularly in the SEC, is anchored by upper classmen with a sprinkling of youth but as you can see we are pretty much the exact opposite of that.

 DE J.Obioha                
    Q.Cunningham/J.Johnson
 NG A.Williams               
    H.Walker/Z.Henderson    
 DT I.Robinson               
    J.Arnold                  
 DE M.Garrett                 
    D.Hall                   
OLB D.Baggs                 
    O.Alaka                  
MLB J.Mastrogiovanni        
    J.Bass/J.Walker
OLB J.Bass
    S.Washington/T.Sanders 

 CB V.Davis                  
    D.Harris/N.Harvey       
 CB D.Everett                
    T.Garner                 
 SS H.Matthews             
    D.Wilson/C.Honeycutt   
 FS F.Raven                
    A.Watts/C.Honeycutt    
 CB D.Burns                
    S.Moeller


Please note that Justin Bass and Sam Moeller are both walk-ons.

Defense (* = in 2-deep; CAPS = starter; strikethrough = not on team)

     Player   
2010 (5th Yr Seniors)    Pre-2014  2014
     C.Honeycutt (QB)..... 16/4     7/0
     N.Askew (WR)......... 43/2

     N.Hicks (DE).........  TE    
     T.Hurd (DB).......... 51/17 

     B.Jackson (DT)....... 13/1 
     J.Mathis (DT)........ 29/10 
     T.Micken (DB)........  0/0 
     D.Moore (DE)......... 38/23 
     D.Patterson (LB).....  8/0
     I.ROBINSON (DT)...... 24/5     5/4
     G.Stansbury (DE)..... 34/10

2011 (Seniors/RS-Jr)    
Pre-2014  2014 
     B.Alexander (DE)..... 12/0      TE
     D.BAGGS (LB)......... 33/7     8/2
     D.BURNS (DB).........  9/0     8/6
     D.EVERETT (DB)....... 37/22    8/8

     J.Franklin (DB)...... 11/0
     S.Jenkins (LB)....... 36/27
     H.MATTHEWS (DB)...... 38/20    8/8
     F.RAVEN (DB)......... 33/5     8/2

     L.Strahan (DT).......  -/-
     T.Taylor (LB)........ 23/2     2/0
     S.Ward (LB).......... 17/0
     D.Washington (LB)..... -/-


2012 (Juniors/RS-Soph)   Pre-2014  2014

     D.Harris (DB)........ 23/18    5/2
     T.Jacobs (DB)........ 26/9 

     P.Manukainiu (DE)....  -/-   
     K.Marshall (DB)......  -/-
     J.OBIOHA (DE)........ 24/23    8/8
     E.Ray (DT)...........  -/-
     M.Richardson (DE)....  -/-
     J.Richmond (LB)......
  -/-
     T.Taylor (DE)........
21/1     0/0
     A.WILLIAMS (DE)......
18/9     8/8

2013 (Sophmores/RS-Fr)   Pre-2014  2014
     J.Arnold (DE)........
  9/1     8/1
     R.Chevis (LB)........
  -/-     1/0
     D.Claiborne (LB).....
12/9
     V.DAVIS (DB).........
  -/-     8/5
     N.Ellis (DB).........
  8/0     -/-
     T.Garner (DB)........
  7/0     4/0
     I.Golden (DT)........ 12/7
     D.Hall (DE).......... 13/1     8/4
     J.Manning (DT).......  -/-     3/0
     J.MASTROGIOVANNI (LB) 13/2     7/7
     K.Miles (DB).........  -/-
     J.Points (DE)........  -/-     -/-
     T.Sanders (LB)....... 11/2     6/0
     A.Sezer (ATH)........ 13/2     7/0
     B.Wade (LB)..........  -/-     2/0
     H.Walker (DT)........  9/1     8/3
     S.Washington (ATH)... 12/0     5/0
     J.Wiggins (DB).......  9/0     3/0


2014 (True Freshmen)     Pre-2014  2014

     O.Alaka (LB).........  -/-     7/0
     C.Collins (DB).......  -/-
     Q.Cunningham (LB)....  -/-     8/0
     M.GARRETT (DE).......  -/-     8/4
     N.Harvey (DB)........  -/-     8/1
     Z.Henderson (DT) ....  -/-     7/0
     J.Johnson (DE).......  -/-     0/0
     J.Walker (LB)........  -/-     7/1
     D.Washington (DT)....  -/-     0/0
     A.Watts (DB).........  -/-     8/6
     D.Wilson (DB)........  -/-     6/0
         
Man, that 2012 class killed us as did the guys we lost from the 2013 class (Claiborne, Golden, & Miles - all three were projected to start).

We've had 18 starts made by freshmen compared to just 26 from fourth and fifth year guys.  Of our 3rd year guys - we have two contributing.

The thing that is most staggering is two deep
  • Every single defense player from our 2014 signing class is already in our 2-deep.  
  • There are 17 guys in the 2-deep who had fewer than 2 career starts coming into the season.  
  • There are 10 guys who have already made more starts in 2014 than they had coming into the season (and two more guys will be added to the list after this week's game).
As a fan base, you don't want to hear "youth" as an excuse for consecutive seasons but the fact of the matter is that "youth" is a huge reason why we're not competing on the defensive side of the ball like Alabama and Ole Miss are.  LSU, however, is a great example of reloading - they lost a TON of guys over the last two seasons and their defense is getting stronger each week.

I don't think "youth" is the only reason we're struggling but it is certainly one of the reasons.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Ag Football Recaps: The Gauntlet Begins: Arkansas, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, & Alabama

Ags Sneak Past Hogs in OT, 35-28

This was the first Arkansas game at Jerry's World that I've missed - in fact, it was the first game played in the state of Texas that I've missed since the last time we played in Lubbock.

The offense really struggled, although I will say that Arky's defense is stout, particularly up front.  They were the only unranked team in the SEC West - but frankly, they would be in the top 20 if they played in a different conference.

Arky took a 21-14 lead just before the half on a fake punt that was run 51 yards for a TD.  I have no clue how that happened - or at worst, how the punt returner wasn't able to tackle him.

Offensively, I feel like Kenny is regressing as the season continues - there were a few drops, but he was a little inaccurate until the 4th quarter when everything finally clicked.  He had 179 yards and 2 TDs in the 4Q (to bring his totals for the day up to 21-of-41 for 386 yards and 4 TDs).

We were down 28-14 in the 4th quarter when Kenny found Ed Pope for an 86 yard TD pass.  Pope finished the day with 4 catches, 151 yards and 2 TDs.

Frankly, I felt like we were lucky to win this game.  There was a huge TD negating penalty against the Hogs for tripping (it was a legitimate penalty, but didn't have any effect on the actual play) and then Arkansas missed a FG with 2:29 remaining.

Within 21 seconds of that missed FG, Kenny found Josh Reynolds for a 59 yard TD to tie the game up.  We took it into OT and Malcome Kennedy, who had been injured earlier in the game, snuck behind the defense and caught the game winning TD.  The defense did their job and stuffed Arkansas on a 4th-and-1 to end the ballgame.

Huge win on the road.  It was nice to see the team rally, although I would have preferred the offense have more success earlier in the game.


Also of note, Speedy Noil was back for this one after having his knee scoped following the Rice game (and the sloppy field conditions).

Ags Meet Their Match against #12 Mississippi State, 48-31

That final score was a lot closer than this game was - we were down 48-17 in the 4th quarter.

The Bulldogs came into this game off of a bye, following what is likely one of the biggest wins in school history as they went into Tiger Stadium (at night) and demolished LSU.

Dak Prescott is, through this point in the season, the best player in college football.  He is eerily similar to Tim Tebow, both in stature and ability.  I was very impressed with him in both the LSU game and against us.  He finished the game with 259 yards and 2 TDs through the air and 77 yards and 3 more TDs on the ground.

The key to this game was 3rd downs. We were miserable on both sides of the ball (5 of 17 on offense - that's 29% - compared to 5-of-11 on defense - 45%).

While Kenny didn't look great - what really hurt was the 11 catchable drops by the wide receivers.  It was a larger epidemic than this ebola virus scare that we're going through right now.  Malcome Kennedy did miss this game as a result of his shoulder injury against Arkansas, and he is a huge veteran leader, but he couldn't be the reason we were so lost, could he?

The shining glimmer on offense was Speedy's 3rd quarter TD catch at the pylon.

He is an incredibly gifted athlete.

The defense really struggled against the run as the Bulldogs averaged 5.7 ypc and had 5 TDs on the ground.  I don't see this trend stopping with the slate of opponents we have coming up.

Compounded with the stout wakeup call MSU gave us, we are also starting to see that our win over South Carolina isn't as impressive as it originally appeared.  They turned around and beat top 10 Georgia but then turned around and lost to Missouri and then Kentucky!?!

Next up is Ole Miss who is coming off the biggest win in their history with an upset against Bama.  Hopefully we catch them in the let down after a big win or we get the Mr. Hyde version of Bo Wallace, not the Dr. Jekyll version.

Thumped by #3 Ole Miss, 35-20

This game had all the pre-game makings of a monster showdown - two top 15 teams, Ole Miss coming off the biggest win in program history, the first night game at new Kyle Field, and the largest crowd to ever watch a football game in the state of Texas.

It ended up being the saddest group of 110,633 that you'll ever see.

As was the case against MSU, the score was closer than the game itself was.  Halfway through the 4th quarter it was 35-7.

Hill continues to look like he is regressing each passing week - he is not hitting his receivers in stride, which is crucial in this offensive scheme - and then on top of that he had a pick-6 and a fumbled that was run back for a TD.  That is 8 turnovers in the last 4 games (7 INTs/1 fumble).

I feel like he might be losing some of his teammates - at one point after a badly missed third down pass attempt in the red zone, OL Germaine Ifedi, turned towards him and angrily/emphatically barked something at Kenny.

Sean turned to me at one point and asked, "What happened to our hurryup, light speed offense?"  I didn't have an answer - we haven't run it at all this entire year.  I don't know if that is because of Matthews at center or Kenny's comfort in the system or if we're just not stressing it.

Playcalling was suspect for the 2nd weeks in a row - we didn't even attempt a down field pass until the 4th quarter and again, I was surprised that we didn't see any Kyle Allen, even in complete garbage time.


Malcome Kennedy was out again - but he can't be the missing magical piece.  One thing that is becoming more evident, is that this OL is not elite, as we thought it was going into the season.  They got beat consistently - again - and again the Rebels got pressure with just their four DLmen and didn't have to blitz.

The lack of blocking killed the running game - our RBs had 26 carries for a total of 59 yards (the long rush was 6 yards).  That is the biggest thing that we're missing from Johnny, is his ability to keep the defenses honest with the threat of a running game.  I thought our RBs could make up for that but they have not been able to.

The defense got shredded in the first quarter but I thought that at some point in the second quarter something clicked (whether it was scheme or something else) and I thought they played quite well for the final 2-1/2 quarters.  They gave up 1 offensive TD after the 1st quarter and forced 7 punts on Ole Miss's final 8 offensive drives (including 5 three-and-outs).

You simply can't spot a team that good 14 defensive points like we did with the pick-6 and the fumbled returned for a TD.

The backbreaker of the game was a huge punt return by Speedy that got called back due to a bogus block in the back penalty.  It was about a 60 yard penalty so instead of it being 1st & 10 from near Ole Miss's 30 yard line with a legitimate chance to cut the lead to 21-14, it was 1st & 10 from our own 20.  The air went out of the stadium, the offense went 3-and-out and Ole Miss scored to put the game out of reach, 28-7.

Well, that and the defensive TDs we gave up.

The highlight of the game was some commentary between Sean and I as we impersonated Eric Hyman as a bear.  He was on the field handing out some sort of honor and we pretended he had just awoken from a long winter hibernation, completely confused about everything that has happened in the program over the last 10 months.  We were crying up in the third deck all by ourselves.

Late in the game, I must admit that I really enjoyed watching Speedy play.  He was fired up and seemed like the only guy on the field who wanted to play.

The players that become legends aren't just the players who are simply great, they are the ones who are as passionate as the fans.  Think about it - Bucky, Johnny, Dat, Von, Cyrus, Jerrod, McGhee, Spencer Nealy - they were all clearly passionate about playing football for Texas A&M.  Based on what we saw from Speedy in the 4th quarter, he will join this list quickly.

In other news, MSU knocked off #3 Auburn for their third win over a top 10 team in as many weeks - leapfrogging them into the #1 ranking in the country.  Ole Miss held steady at #3.  The Egg Bowl is going to be crazy this year.

Wow, 59-0 at #7 Alabama

Head in hands.  

I had an obligation on Saturday so thankfully I was spared the full brunt of however you want to classify this game.

I got home and turned it on at halftime and just about fell out of my chair - it was 45-0.  I had to text Sean to find out what happened...
"How many turnovers has Hill had?"
"0"
"Have we had a bunch of fumbles or special teams TDs?"
"Nope.  Neither.""
-- silence --
"I'm not even sure how a team scores 45 in a half with no turnovers"
At that point we both said some things we shouldn't have.

Here's how this happens.  Going into the season I had us pegged at 7-5 or maybe 8-4.  We'd lose at South Carolina, at Alabama, at Auburn, and against LSU and I had the Ole Miss game as a tossup.  In week one we dogstomped the #9 team on the road and get thrust into the top 10, completely changing the expectations of the entire season.  The idea of 7-5 or 8-4 became ridiculous - if we can beat the #9 on the road that convincingly we could concievably compete for the conference title.

Only, we didn't beat the #9 team on the road, we beat a bad team that the experts had ranked entirely too high.  We can see that now, but the expectations don't temper down - those are real feelings we had and don't want to give up.

We then went on to beat 3 cupcakes - some of our weaknesses were seen but overlooked as a whole because we were winning.  Then conference play kicks back in and those weaknesses have been exploited.  If you flip SC and MSU in the preseason projections, we are pretty much who we thought we were.  The problem is that it hurts so much more now because our expectations rose so high that the fall is a lot steeper.

I think that in most conferences, unless you're the doormat team, there aren't enough truly elite teams to expose you week after week after week.  Sure you might run up against one team or maybe two in a season that you struggle against but you still play 10 other winnable games.  It's part of what I love about the SEC, but it definitely has a flip side.


Starting back with Arkansas, everyone we've played has been able to get pressure with 4 down linemen and could drop all their backers into covereage.  Bama went so far as to run nickel and dime packages all day long and our OL wasn't able to keep pressure off of Kenny or allow for the running game to have a chance.


Against Bama we didn't cross midfield until the third quarter.  Over our last four games we have scored a combined total of 5 TDs in quarters 1-3 (12 quarters total).  That is abysmal.

Malcome Kennedy was back, so we can scratch him being out off the list of reasons why things went badly against the MS schools.

The playcalling hasn't been good, but I'm not sure what difference it makes when you can't run the ball or give the QB time to allow the WRs to get into their routes (Kenny was sacked 5 times).  Then the times that the QB does have time, he cannot miss like Hill has - turning receivers backwards around and overthrowing them


We did finally get to see Kyle Allen came in the game at the start of the 4th quarter - FINALLY - but we went 3-and-out on both of his drives accumulating 5 yards on 7 snaps.

I can get over losing but I can't get over quitting.  There were a lot of guys who didn't fight - but I will point out that I thought that Speedy and Armani Watts both stood out as playing hard until the final whistle.

I can handle losing but what I can't handle is the thought of this recruiting class falling apart because the recruits can't handle losing.  "Trendy" cycles really fast in the world of 18 year olds, especially when they have options all across the country, like the athletes in this class do.

Moving forward, I'm ok with a QB change, but I don't think we're going to see Kyle Allen step in and light the world on fire.

I'm also on board for a defensive coordinator change.  Our opponents have lit up this defense, one that should have been at least a little bit better than last year's squad.  After 5 games, we are giving up 483.2 yards per game in SEC play.  Rice put up another 481 on us.  That is BAD.

This is the first time in Sumlin's career that he's lost 3 games in a row - granted, 95% of the country would have gone 0-3 against the three teams we just played - but it is still a bitter pill to swallow because of the way we have just shriveled up and not punched back in these games.

The current AP Poll has four SEC West teams in the top 5 (#1 MSU, #2 FSU, #3 Ole Miss, #4 Bama, #5 Auburn).  That's nuts.

We have a bye this week before hosting Louisiana-Monroe.  Hopefully, that time will allow for the ship to be righted, or at least patched and steadied. 

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Ag Football Recaps - Lamar, Rice & SMU

I have been insanely busy - at work, at home, & elsewhere....here is a rundown of where everything stands thus far this season....

Ags Beat Lamar, 73-3

In all honesty, it was a sloppy and loooooong game. There was a 2 hour "severe weather delay" - but not a drop of rain and the student side was still baking in the late afternoon sun.

It was the unvailing of the "new" Kyle Field Part I and the 104,728 in attendance made it the largest crowd to ever watch a football game in the state of Texas and the 38,000 students broke the NCAA record.

I met up with a friend, John (who's house I built), at the Chicken before the game.  We caught up, checked out the local scenery and huffed it over to Kyle Field.  Then during the "severe weather delay" I ran into an ooooooooooold friend, Jacob.  We went to school together from 1st grade through college graduation and played soccer when we were kids and got our Eagle Scout awards together.  It was good to see him.
The game itself was eh.  Kenny Hill was solid and we got to see a lot of Kyle Allen.  I thought the highlight was a Malcome Kennedy catch in the back right corner of the NE endzone - he went up over two defenders falling backwards in the air letting the ball come down to him - it was incredible.

To this point in the season we have scored on 14-of-15 redzone chances (12 of which were TDs) - the one miss was the kneel we took to run out the clock and put SC out of their misery.

The fourth quarter got a lot of unfamiliar faces a lot of snaps, deserved and earned by the walkons.  Connor McQueen got in on the action, Brice Dozial ended up leading the team with 86 yards rushing and added a TD) and then Boone Niederhofer hauled in a TD catch and had another called back on a penalty.

Then there was the looooooooooong walk back to my truck which was parked all the way over in Bryan back behind Northgate.

Ags Down Owls, 38-10 

My father-in-law gave us his tickets and I was able to invite my old roommate, Pat, to come up for the game.   It was the first game he and I had been to together in years so it was great to spend that time with him.

I thought that Rice ran the ball really well against us but over the course of the game we just overpowered them.  They did make me concerned about Auburn. 

The big hubub after the game was the discussion of the playing surface.  College Station got 5" of rain on Friday night (it was bad enough for them to cancel Yell Practice) and apparently with the newly sodded surface it cause a lot of problems with footing.  It was really bad.  The field crew was literally running onto the field every time the clock would stop to fill and tamp the surface - to the point that the students were cheering for individual crew members and chanting "Tamp!  Tamp!  Tamp!" each time they would strike the ground.

The biggest scare as a result of the field was when Speedy Noil had to come out after an apparent knee injury (I've heard he'll be out 3-5 weeks and that he'll be out a couple of weeks - not sure what the truth is).

Ben Bass was our 4th string MLB going into spring practices - and due to injuries and attrition he was our starter tonight due to injuries (Claiborne was kicked off the team, Hilliard got hurt in the SC game and is likely out for the season, & Mastrogiovanni twisted his ankle against Lamar).

We were witness to one of the most bizarre sequences of the season just prior to halftime.

Rice kicked a FG with 4 seconds left but there were 12 Aggies on the field so there was a flag.  Since the penalty was technically pre-snap, Rice actually had to re-kick.  On the rekick, Ricky Seals Jones blocked it and Armani Watts ran it back for a 93 yard TD......but A&M was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct when players from the sideline came onto the field between the time the ball was blocked and when Watts picked it up - they were thinking the half was over & were celebrating the blocked kick.  The touchdown was nullified and the ball came back to the A&M 42 yard line for one untimed down.  It was a crazy sequence of events.
Miles Garrett is officially a MONSTER.  He picked up 2.5 more sacks bringing his season total to 5.5.  He has more sacks than anyone on the entire 2013 roster.

Something I haven't mentioned was that this is the first year of the College Football Playoff.  There is some fancy committee that will pick teams for 4 playoff spots at the end of the season.  It'll be interesting to see how this all plays out.  The Big 10 coaches are all calling for the conference champions to match up but that's because they suck and that's the only way they're going to get a team in.  Conversely, there are currently FIVE of the seven SEC West teams are ranked in the Top 10 of the AP Poll.  Not just SEC, but SEC West.  The division is 19-1 on the season - and that is only because Auburn and Arkansas played each other and one of them had to lose.

SMU ROAD TRIP!

I've gone on the road to 24 Aggie games away from Kyle Field, with at least a dozen different people, but this was the first game that Benjamin and I will road trip for.  His first game was last season against Vandy after only previously experiencing M&W games and fall camp scrimmages but this was his first road game.  The Ponies keep it pretty tame so it was a nice jumping off point for him.
Even though it was just a trip up to Dallas, I played it up big and we prepped as if we were driving to Tuscaloosa.  We made a list of things we would need, we mapped out our route, picked out our Aggie gear to wear throughout the weekend - the whole nine yards.

As soon as I got home from work on Friday evening, we loaded up and hit the road.  Our route was planned to take us through College Station so we could stop and eat.
Benjamin got his first experience at Laynes, which he declared the best chicken strips ever.

We ended up getting to GrandAggie's house in Dallas quite late on Friday night but still chatted for a bit before hitting the hay.

Benjamin was up bright and early (like 6am early) and got to spend time with Cici.  He was actually pretty upset when she had to leave to run some errands as we were getting ready to go grab some lunch before the game.
The SMU campus is beautiful and they have a pretty nice little tailgating scene.

The game itself was pretty sloppy but SMU is really bad this year (head coach June Jones actually resigned during the bye week they had prior to our game) and we were up 38-3 going into the half.  Boone Niederhoffer worked his way into the starting lineup at WR with Speedy out and Jeremy Tabuyo had a breakout with a 50 yard TD reception and a 30 yard TD reception.

For the third week in a row, both QBs got a good number of snaps (but Kenny Hill has started all and is clearly the starter).
Since it was a 2:30p kickoff, it was pretty warm (I think the high was 93).  The stadium has no cover anywhere and the bench seats were scalding hot.  We were getting heat from below and above and Benjamin was wearing out fast (also combined with his minimal sleep the night before) so we headed back to the house and watched the second half on TV (the final score was 56-6). The last thing we wanted was for Benjamin to be miserable.

Even with the live game experience cut down, it was a great little getaway weekend and he got to spend some good quality time with GrandAggie and Cici.



So that is where we are through week 4 of the season....undefeated with a top 10 ranking about to open up conference play against the greatest collection of conference foes in the history of the NCAA.  I LOVE this conference.