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November 13, 2008

Big 12: Texas A&M's McGee has no regrets

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Stephen McGee was recruited to play quarterback at USC, Oklahoma and Texas. In the five years he has been at Texas A&M, those schools have won big − either conference titles or national titles. But McGee says he has no regrets about picking A&M, where his injury-plagued career is down to two regular-season games, including Saturday's trip to Baylor.

"Certainly it seems like everyone else has had success and we haven't," McGee said. "But it's part of life. You don't get to win at everything you do. There are going to be bumps along the way, and you have to have the right approach and know that in the end things will be for good."

McGee won over the A&M fans as a freshman, lowering his shoulder into defenders in Dennis Franchione's option attack and exhibiting a fiery, never-say-die attitude. While two victories over Texas have been the high point, McGee was hoping this would be the season he finally could show off the arm that allowed him to throw for 8,256 yards and a Class 3A state-record 101 touchdowns at Burnet (Texas) High School.

Instead, he reinjured his throwing shoulder attempting a pass at New Mexico in Week 2 of the season and was replaced by sophomore Jerrod Johnson. McGee got back on the field Saturday, replacing Johnson in the second half of a 66-28 loss to Oklahoma. McGee was 10-of-19 for 82 yards.

"It's been a rough one," McGee said. "It's kind of been the nightmare season for me. Had a lot of expectations. Wanted to be in this offense and throw it around. I wish I could have thrown for a bunch of yards. But I don't think I'd have learned the tough lessons."

McGee was excited about getting to throw in a pro-style attack under Mike Sherman and offensive coordinator Nolan Cromwell after three years of running the option. To have that chance stripped away by injury left McGee feeling sorry for himself. Sherman helped snap him out of it.

"The first time when he got hurt, he was different," Sherman said. "I called him up to my office and said, 'What's the deal?' He said, 'Well, coach, I just can't catch a break.' I said, 'What are you talking about, you can't catch a break? You think I feel sorry for you? Yeah, you've got a tough situation, but at the same time, you've been a starter here. You have fans here. You have two great parents, a great faith. You've graduated. You're working on your master's. You're going to play in the NFL. Why should we feel sorry for you?'

"And he said, 'Well, you're right.' I said, 'You beat Texas twice. What else is there? It's going to work out. Just have faith and keep working.' And he has. He had one day, and that's the only time I've seen him sulking around a little bit. From that day forward, he's been nothing but positive, and that's a credit to him. Even without my conversation, he would have bounced back. I guess we're all entitled to a bad day once in a while."

Sherman said he thinks McGee can be a quarterback in the NFL. McGee will pursue it. If football doesn't work out, he jokingly says he'll become a professional deer hunter. He spends his time now trying to lead the team as a backup, something he says is difficult. But he doesn't back down from the challenge. With A&M at 4-6, he's trying to convince his teammates they can beat Baylor and Texas and become bowl eligible.

"The victories over Texas have been great," McGee said. "But it's not necessarily the wins I will remember most. It's the positives when it seemed like there was no hope at all. The disappointment and how to handle it. That's the most positive thing. Handling the tough things is priceless. It's not a trophy you can put up on a mantle. But it's priceless."

  • Kansas QB Todd Reesing vs. Texas' defense. Reesing is from the Austin area, and he doesn't hide that this game means more to him than some others on the schedule. He is 10th nationally in total offense (314.5 yards per game) and last week became KU's career leader in passing yardage (6,632). He is the elusive type of quarterback who can make life miserable for defenses. He will test Texas' young secondary, which still is trying to bounce back from mistakes made in the final seconds of a devastating loss at Texas Tech two weeks ago.

    Texas at Kansas, 12:30 p.m.
    Nebraska at Kansas State, 3:30 p.m.
    Texas A&M at Baylor, 4 p.m.
    Missouri at Iowa State, 6:30 p.m.
    Oklahoma State at Colorado, 8 p.m.

    Nebraska RB Roy Helu. In the past two games, Helu, a sophomore, has been given more of a role in the running game, and he has not disappointed. Helu ran 16 times for 157 yards and a touchdown in a loss at Oklahoma and followed that up with 16 carries for 115 yards and two scores in a 45-35 victory over Kansas last week. Helu could find more room to run this week at Kansas State, which is ranked 110th in rush defense, giving up 210.8 yards per game on the ground.

  • Texas Tech beat Oklahoma State 56-20 last weekend to improve to 10-0 for the first time since 1938. Tech holds a nation-leading 12-game win streak dating to last season. Red Raiders QB Graham Harrell was 40-of-50 for 456 yards and six touchdowns last week. And Tech WR Michael Crabtree's three touchdown catches against Oklahoma State give him 40 for his career, moving him into ninth on the NCAA career list and second on the Big 12's career list. Oklahoma QB Sam Bradford threw for 320 yards in last week's victory; it was Bradford's school record-tying eighth 300-yard game of the season. The Sooners lead the Big 12 and are second nationally in scoring offense (51.4 points per game). Missouri WR Jeremy Maclin had 278 all-purpose yards in a 41-24 victory over Kansas State. Maclin currently leads the Big 12 and ranks second nationally in all-purpose yardage (198.5 ypg). Colorado's Cody Hawkins threw for 226 yards and four touchdowns in guiding the Buffs to a 28-24 come-from-behind victory over Iowa State.

  • Oklahoma State's offense, which had been averaging 512 yards and 45.3 points per game, was held to 368 yards and a season-low 20 points by Texas Tech. Cowboys WR Dez Bryant, who had been averaging nearly seven catches and 117.1 yards per game receiving, finished with four catches for 86 yards. Kansas gave up five sacks in a 45-35 loss at Nebraska. Reesing has been sacked 12 times in the past four games. Oklahoma's 66-28 victory at Texas A&M established a single-game scoring record for an opponent at Kyle Field. Kansas State and Nebraska are both minus-11 in turnover margin this season − worst in the Big 12. ... One of the biggest reasons Texas Tech has attempted only 18 punts this season − tied for fewest in the nation with Tulsa − is because Tech is 118th nationally in net punting (30.2 yards per punt).

  • "We had a staff meeting on Sunday, and made a decision. We thought the physical nature of the play on Saturday (against Kansas), the great effort our guys made running sideline to sideline, we felt like that was a performance where they earned the Blackshirts."
    − Nebraska defensive coordinator Carl Pelini on Nebraska handing out black shirts to the defense this week for the first time this season.

    "I told Robert (Griffin) I thought he was doing a better job of throwing early in his career than Vince (Young) did at that stage. And he's running it just like Vince. I told him after the game, I thought he would do for Baylor what Vince did for us − and that he is a guy who will take the team on his shoulders and will help get other players there and to keep his head up."
    − Texas coach Mack Brown on his postgame comments to Baylor freshman QB Robert Griffin.

    "I grew up in Austin, obviously watching the 'Horns. My dad went to UT. So I would be lying if I told you it wasn't a little bit bigger for me. You got to try to not make it as big to yourself, but it is going to be fun. I grew up watching Texas and cheering for them, so now that I am playing against them. it will be a lot of fun."
    − Kansas quarterback Todd Reesing on playing Texas in Lawrence on Saturday.

  • ETC.
  • With Texas beating Baylor last week and Notre Dame being shut out 17-0 by Boston College, the Longhorns have tied the Fighting Irish for second place in all-time victories with 829 − behind Michigan (872). Nebraska is fourth with 814. The Texas Tech-Texas game on Nov. 1 on ABC was the network's highest-rated college football game of the year with a 7.5 rating. Last season, the Big 12 had the two highest-rated ABC games with the Big 12 title game between Oklahoma and Missouri (6.8) and the Missouri-Kansas game (6.59) one week earlier. Texas Tech FS Darcel McBath intercepted his sixth pass of the season in last week's victory over Oklahoma State (11th in his career). Kansas State junior QB Josh Freeman set the school career record for total offense (7,993) − 7,685 yards passing and 308 yards rushing. Iowa State DB Leonard Johnson's second-quarter interception in a loss at Colorado gave the Cyclones 10 interceptions this season, matching the total from last season. Iowa State shares the Big 12 lead with Texas Tech and Oklahoma with 24 forced turnovers this season. Oklahoma leads the Big 12 in turnover margin (plus-16), followed by Baylor (plus-10) and Texas Tech (plus-10). Baylor's Griffin became the second player to rush for 100 yards on Texas this season (101), joining Oklahoma State's Kendall Hunter. Texas is sixth nationally in rush defense (86.0 ypg). Kansas senior LB James Holt leads the nation with six forced fumbles. Jayhawks WR Dezmon Briscoe has become Kansas' career TD receptions leader with 18. He has 11 this season. ... Texas Tech has only given up five sacks this season.

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    Chip Brown is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at chipbrown210@gmail.com.

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