October 9, 2009
Trying to Rebound: A&M looks to recover from loss
The worst part of last weekend for Texas A&M weren't the all-white uniforms.
That comes in a close second to the results on the field against Arkansas.
In what was billed as the "Southwest Classic," the Aggies and Razorbacks were pretty even in the first quarter, before a 23-point second quarter run by the Hawgs had the Ags down 30-10 at halftime. It only got worse for A&M from there, with Arkansas cruising to a 49-17 win in front of 71,872 fans inside Cowboys Stadium.
So the Aggies (3-1) limped home to prepare and host Oklahoma State tomorrow. It will be the Big 12 opener for both schools and should shine some light on where both squads are really at in the 2009 campaign. After their loss to the Razorbacks, the Aggies look like one of the more questionable 3-1 teams in the nation. After all, before that loss to Arkansas, A&M beat three teams (New Mexico, Utah State and Alabama-Birmingham) with a combined record of 3-11. Not exactly the toughest trifecta of opponents in the early going of the year.
So the big question is: what can OSU expect from A&M on Saturday? That's not entirely clear. The Aggie offense is ranked No. 2 nationally, putting up an average of 545 yards a game. But their defense is 75th, allowing 372 yards a game. But again, consider the competition.
But the thing that sticks out more than anything else is that 30-point meltdown against Arkansas. What went wrong?
"I think there were a couple things," said head coach Mike Sherman. "We didn't capitalize on some opportunities that we had earlier in the game. I think we were up 10-0 and we dropped a touchdown pass. They came with a zero blitz and were very short-handed. Ryan Tannehill dropped a pass that 99.9 times out of 100 he's going to make, he's going to catch. Then you turn around and we're driving into the red zone and we run a quarterback counter play and their end makes a nice move upfield and we don't get a piece of him with our guard, and he forces a turnover which is picked up and run back for a touchdown. It's really a 14-point deferential right there that kind of set the stage for the rest of the ballgame. And then it was just little piddly mistakes that we continued to make."
One area Sherman thinks needs work on that side of the ball is the line.
"I would have to say it continues to be a work in progress for us," he said. "I think it was evident in the ballgame the other day that we struggled in protection. I thought our quarterback was put under duress way too many times for us to be successful and obviously the offensive line plays a part in that. That part of it is me too. I'm not forcing the issues on some parts of the game where maybe we need to be more conservative at times and maybe we weren't, and me helping them play better."
Coming home to open the Big 12 slate is a great turn of events for A&M after the beating Arkansas inflicted on them. Losses like that are always tough on a team, but rebounding in solid fashion the next week could show great levels of resiliency and optimism for the rest of the season. Coach Sherman definitely thinks there's a lot his team carried away from Arlington.
"Mistakes in games like that that were made previously, whether it was a muff in the kickoff team or the punt team or a turnover or penalties or a missed assignment, they're magnified," he said. "I think and always have thought this that regardless of the outcome or the score a football game comes down to three or four plays going one way or the other. It may escalate after that, which it did to us, but it basically came down to three or four plays.
"I still contend that we came out swinging and really played well on defense. We had a number of three and outs that I thought put us in a heck of an offensive position where we scored a touchdown, scored a field goal and we should have scored a touchdown there and we messed up there in the red zone, and then the potentiality of a touchdown that we didn't get and then the turnover. Those were very significant plays in the game that we didn't capitalize on, and against a team like that like Arkansas or like Oklahoma State you can't mistakes and expect to recover. In the three previous games we made some mistakes and we were able to receiver, but not against the likes of Arkansas or Oklahoma State."
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