Respect is something you have to earn and is never given. Like what seems to be the normal operating procedure for Aggie Football for the past 15 years, we had respect sitting right in front of us and failed to take it. For you older Aggies, this feels like traveling to Boulder in 1995. Everything was sitting right in front of us and we let it slip away. Outside of the B12 Championship in 1998 there hasn’t been a defining a moment for Aggie football. Sure, there’s been some big wins but never something that was strung along to gain some respect. Hell, even that B12 Championship game was sandwiched between 2 losses so it kind of feels hollow to a certain degree. For whatever reason the Aggie football program seems to take one step forward and then takes two steps back never stringing together enough games to prove to people we’re more than a fringe national program.
Two steps back is CLEARLY what happened on Saturday and is the most frustrating part. The loss stung no doubt but the nation and most importantly the national talking heads that question us at every turn were watching. This was our chance to show everyone Texas A&M football can compete at the highest level. We let a halftime lead of 17 points slip away. And with that, respect slipped away. I don’t like losing but I hate the questionable nature of how non-Aggies perceive our football program. They have every right to their opinion because for 15+ years we have yet to string together a consistently good string of convincing wins. No doubt what we did in November last year was nothing short of amazing but the three losses earlier in the year still left a question mark over the Aggie football program. The Cotton Bowl loss certainly didn’t remove it. Unfortunately, Saturday’s loss left that question mark squarely in place.
Respect. It stared us in the face on Saturday and we didn’t grab it. There’s lots of blame to go around but I’m going to focus on the coaching. Good coaching does not let a 17 lead at home slip away. They just don’t. It really is that simple. Coach Sherman and staff got their pants pulled down by Mike Gundy and staff. Mike Gundy is the same coach that got his pants pulled down by Coach Fran and Darnell when OSU had a 17 point lead at halftime in 2007 at Kyle Field. That’s right, Coach Franell figured out how to overcome a 17 point deficit by a Mike Gundy lead team while Coach ShermRuyter figured out how to lose a 17 point halftime lead to a Mike Gundy lead team. It’s unreal. Simply unreal.
Let’s get to the game analysis.
OFFENSE – I said it last year but Jerrod Johnson shouldn’t have been the goat in last year’s OSU loss. I thought Sherman took too risky of playcalls in the second half when he should have been more conservative. It’s amazing to me how much of a free pass Sherm got in that gam but he’s obviously not getting that free pass now. There’s some blame to be put on the players as we turned the ball over three realistic times and four in total. I say three realistic because that last interception on the two minute drive was simply a result of the previous three turnovers and play calling. It shouldn’t have ever happened so I’m not counting it although it looks really bad on the stat sheet. If we’re ahead that fourth pick never happens.
From a player standpoint I thought we looked really good in the first half. We moved the ball on the ground, Tanny found his men, and the receivers caught the balls. We had five possessions only stalling on one of them while amassing 20 points and 300 yards. I can’t fault ANYTHING about the first half other than settling for field goals twice when we should have had one more touchdown. Still, that was an impressive effort. Surprisingly, from a time of possession standpoint we only had the ball for one more minute than OSU but we clearly dominated them in points and yardage. OSU only had 3 points and 140 yards in the first half. Time of possession is not always as big of a indicator as you think.
In the second half we lost our way and it can only be blamed on one thing – COACHING. Say what you want about the turnovers but good coaching doesn’t let those things salt away a 17 point lead at home. Based on the write-ups of the post game this is the one game where Sherman doesn’t admit to abandoning the run too early. He said, “In the third quarter we only had the ball 11 plays. We had a couple of penalties that put us in a precarious position. I put two backs in the field I believe at one point. We did try and run the ball.” Uh, Sherm, you had ONE penalty on an illegal chop block by your line. That’s it. On a play that got 3 yards on a first down. You had 12 plays in the 3rd quarter and had 5 running plays. 11 plays and 4 rushes if you don’t count the penalty play. That actually makes the odds worse from a percentage of running plays. Say what you want, Mike Sherman, but you abandoned the run at a time when you should have been fully committed to it.
Wanna know how I know you abandoned the run? The WORST play call of the entire game happened after Blackmon fumbled the ball through the endzone. We just had two turnovers to go down by 4 points in addition to our first series of the half which resulted in a punt after 5 plays and a single first down. Our offense was struggling with only one first down and two turnovers in three series. We were handed a break where we got the ball back to stay down by 4 rather than down by 11. Aggies in my section said, “We never get breaks like this!” That was a gift from the football gods and what does Mike Sherman respond with? What play call does he make after getting a gift like that on first down? A DEEP BALL TO JEFF FULLER!!!!! A DEEP BALL TO JEFF FULLER!!!! You can’t tell me you didn’t abandon the run when you catch a break after two costly turnovers and a penalty and go deep on the very first play you get the ball back only down by 4. The football gods gave you a serious break and you got cute with it. If I’ve said anything this entire season it’s that Tanny hooking up with Jeff Fuller deep is a VERY low percentage play. So far this season there’s been no indication in a game that Tanny can go deep to Fuller but yet you call it after catching the biggest break you can get in a game. Ironically enough on the next play he gives it to Christine who got 5 yards. Next pass got picked. DON’T TELL ME YOU DIDN’T ABANDON THE RUN MR. HEAD COACH MIKE SHERMAN BECAUSE YOU SURE AS HELL DID AND WE ALL KNOW IT!!!!! (sorry to yell but just needed to get that off my chest.) You CAN NOT call a deep ball after getting that gift and expect to win. You should have been thankful for the break and got back to what worked in the first half but you didn’t. WORST. PLAYCALL. EVER. Go back to the run.
The other thing that Sherman did differently in the first half was he quit using Cedric Ogbuehi as a blocking tight end. Most people probably didn’t realize it but Ced was wearing #46 and was lining up as a blocking tight end. He’s a redshirt freshman tackle/guard that is a complete stud. If you saw him out there he was a huge asset. You essentially had 6 VERY talented blocking linemen and it showed in the stats. We had over 120 yards rushing in the first half and less than 40 in the second half. Blame possessions all you want but plain and simply we went away from what worked in the first half. Why he didn’t put #46 out there more is beyond me. I think sometimes Sherm gets too caught up in his laminated play sheet and doesn’t have a feel for what’s really going on.
In the 4th quarter OSU really started pressuring us but that’s what happens when it’s obvious passing plays because you’re running 5 wide sets and showing you’re playing from behind. You’re still down by 7 with plenty of time left but you come out and show you’re passing and Tanny gets pressured. 1st offensive play for us in the 4th resulted in a hurry and an incompletion and the 2nd play resulted in a sack. Tanny did complete a great pass to Swope on 3rd and 15 but we shouldn’t have been in that position. We just came off a quarter where we only had the ball for 4 minutes forcing an obviously tired defense to play 11 minutes that quarter and you’re still ignoring the run. Yes, you’re down by 7 but your defense is gassed and there’s PLENTY of time left to drive down and make a statement while giving the defense a MUCH needed rest while leaning on their defense. DON’T TELL ME YOU DIDN’T ABANDON THE RUN MR. HEAD COACH MIKE SHERMAN BECAUSE YOU SURE AS HELL DID AND WE ALL KNOW IT!!!!! It’s amazing to me even a few minutes into the 4th we still could have gone back to the run but we didn’t. Tulsa got 354 yards of rushing against this same defense and we get 160 with less than 40 yards in the second half. Unreal.
Offensive Summary – MR. HEAD COACH MIKE SHERMAN ABANDONED THE RUN NO MATTER WHAT HE SAYS AND THAT’S WHY THE FIGHTIN’ TEXAS AGGIES LOST THE GRIDIRON BATTLE!!!!!
DEFENSE – Ironically enough the defense suffered from the same coaching brainfart that the offensive side of the ball suffered from. From a player standpoint I thought we looked pretty good when we were lined up and ready to play. I thought Sean Porter played an amazing game. He was sick during the week but came out and played inspired football. He got gassed in the second half but so did everyone else. I thought our inside linebacking play was actually pretty good. JStew looked decent as did Charlie Thomas when he wasn’t hurt. We held Joseph Randle to 87 yards on 21 carries. That’s actually REALLY impressive. Our secondary didn’t look so good in the second half but we’ll get to why in a second. In the first half the Aggie defense gave up only 170 yards of offense and 3 points. Folks, that’s about as good as it gets for this defense against an offense like OSU.
While the defense got gassed in the 3rd quarter because they played 11 minutes of football, they did have two solid stands in the 4th quarter where they stopped OSU on 1st and goal TWICE and converted them to field goals. Say what you want about the defense but that’s a lot of heart to nut up when you’re gassed and on your heels. They held an offense that had their way with them to field goals TWICE to keep their offense in it. To make matters worse Sherm leaned on this defense one more time electing to kick off rather than onside kick with 2:20 left. What does this defense do? They get a 3 and out to give the offense the ball back with 1:47 left and a timeout. What’s even more amazing is thanks to a Mike Gundy brainfart, TFred could have gotten a Pick 6 to win the game but Brandon Weeden threw the ball too high and missed Blackmon. Yes, it’s entirely possible this defense could have won the game had Weeden been on target. Blame the defense all you want but don’t blame any of the players as they played until the end and gave their offense a chance to win it or tie it while even having an outside chance to win it themselves.
It seems really odd having to write this but the defensive struggles are at the hands of one Tim DeRuyter. He was trying to dial up the perfect scheme on each play in the second half while OSU realized they could press the issue and were running bubble screens to the receivers while our defense was either looking for the playcall or trying to figure out where to go. OSU sped up the tempo and DeRuyter never adjusted. The other thing that OSU did well was pick up our blitzes giving their receivers time to find the soft spots in the zone. I really think when we were lined up we were running blitzes about 50% of the time and not getting through on any of them. We were sending 6 guys getting ZERO pressure leaving 5-6 receivers on 5 DBs. Not a good recipe for success. All in all, Timmy D had no answer for anything OSU did in the second half. No answer.
I’ve never quite understood the theory of giving guys rest by asking them to sprint off the field for a play or two. I get they might get a breather from a couple of explosive plays but asking big DLinemen to run back and forth from the sideline just seems to make it worse. I don’t know that we gained a single advantage by running our defenders in and out. If a guy is calling for a sub then get him one but don’t force a guy to run to the sidelines just to keep him “fresh.” Our inability to get lined up and in position is what cost us this game defensively. I don’t know how those two things can’t be deemed as the contributing factor. When we were lined up and knew the playcall we did really well. I don’t have the time or ability but I’d LOVE for someone to break down how many yards OSU got on plays where we ran in more than 4 guys and weren’t lined up correctly at the snap. I wouldn’t be shocked to see it as 25%-33% of their total yards. We held them to under 130 yards of rushing by their running backs and held Blackmon to 121 yards and one score. That’s actually really solid based on what they’d done coming into the game. Now, Weeden was 47-60 for 438 yards so it wasn’t all good but I can’t help but think most of those completions were because someone was wide open due to not being set or a blitz that didn’t work. I remember thinking Weeden was really off at times but didn’t realize he only missed 13 passes. Maybe it was just more shocking when he missed.
All in all, the defense did a pretty admirable job. If I had asked you before the game that OSU would get 30 points I bet you would have taken it thinking our offense could have outscored them. Yes, it was frustrating watching OSU come back from 17 down and take the lead but don’t lay the blame too much at the feet of the players on the defense. They responded when they had to and I’d wager dollars to donuts that if Sherm had committed to a running game and DeRuyter responded better to OSU’s hurry up offense in the second half we win this game. This defense played three REALLY good quarters of defense against a REALLY good offense with no help from their offense when they needed it most in the third quarter. Yes, they spit the bit in the third quarter but they weren’t getting any help from their offense or defensive coach. The players deserve some of the blame but not the brunt of it.
There is one weakness that I was made aware of after the game. I spoke with a former defensive player that stands on the sidelines during the game. He said there’s no vocal leader on defense right now either on the field or off the field. Interestingly enough he told me the same thing after the Missouri game last year. At that point Von hadn’t quite taken the reigns of the defense. TJE is probably not the guy as he’s a pretty quiet guy that just wants to go about his business. Although he’s only a junior I hope Sean Porter does it as he’s earned it starting all three seasons and has been far and away our most consistent linebacker this season. I think Hunter and Frederick also have the ability but it sounds like someone needs to step up and keep everyone focused. Hopefully it happens.
SPECIAL TEAMS – Not much to say here other than we’ve got to clean up being offsides on a kickoff. Like a receiver jumping offsides there’s NO excuse for it. You’re either behind the kicker or you’re not. Assuming the kicker doesn’t mis-step it’s easy to stay behind him. That offsides almost cost us DEARLY but we got away with it thanks to an OSU penalty on the next kick.
The other special teams blunder I thought was stupid was declining the delay of game penalty in the 4th quarter when our defense had stopped the OSU offense at the 6 inch line. Yes, the kicker has a slightly tougher kick closer in, but if he’s going to miss a 17 yarder he’s going to likely miss the 22 yarder. A real coach would have put their jumbo set back in and gone for the touchdown all but putting the game away. Maybe the Aggie defense would have stopped them like they did against OU last year but that defense was gassed and we should have not let any question go back into OSU’s mind if they should kick it. I thought we got a little too cute there out thinking the situation when we should have been thankful for the stop and field goal attempt.
Arkansas Game – I haven’t watched a single down of Arkansas football this year so I really have no idea what to expect. I was very high on Arkansas coming into the season but they did get beat down by Alabama on Saturday in a bad way. They started out putting up 50 points on Missouri State and New Mexico but then only beat Troy 38-28. Those first two teams suck really bad. So bad that New Mexico just fired their coach and they don’t expect a whole lot. This team looks beatable but they’re still a very solid team. One of their starting defensive ends is out for the season and their other stud defensive end might still be out as well. That can only help if Sherman wants to run the ball. Maybe it’s my maroon colored glasses but I think this Aggie team wins on Saturday. We lost the game on Saturday mainly due to coaching. The players had some brain farts so those are pretty easy to clean up for the most part. Paint me a homer but I’m going Fightin’ Texas Aggies 24, Razorbacks 17.