Month: September 2011

Thoughts from the OSU Game

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.


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.

BTHO Arkansas!

Thoughts from the Idaho Game

Although the score wasn’t as wide as we all would have hoped, there are a lot of positives to take from Saturday’s game.  Well, that’s assuming you didn’t wager too much on the Aggies covering.  I tend to say I don’t care about statistics and only care about the score.  That’s generally true but we dominated Idaho more than the score indicates.  The offense moved up and down the field for the most part but stalled out a couple of times resulting in field goals instead of touchdowns.  Defensively we held them scoreless until late in the game.  Score doesn’t show it but we were really solid.  Still, you wish the offense didn’t stall out but it happens.

Just so you know I left early in the 4th quarter to head to the tailgate and catch the OU/FSU game since our game was in hand and Tanny was out.  Call me a two percenter but I’d tend to blame the shakes of no cold beer than not being a true Aggie.  As fate would have it I watched the FSN replay at lunch today while I took down a queso covered steak burrito at Chuy’s.  I was able to fill in what I didn’t see in person for the most part but you have no idea how much I’m fighting through a nap right now.  Really fighting it.

OFFENSE – Had we not stalled out a few times this would have been as dominant as a performance as SMU.  There was at least 8 points left on the field due to offense stalls if not more.  As it stands I didn’t see any new wrinkles and Idaho was certainly selling out the run which factored into quite a few plays.  They tended to fill the holes that are normally there and forced us to stretch our runs out further down the line of scrimmage giving their guys more time to flow and stop the run.  We still looked really good running the ball but Idaho got lots of guys to the line of scrimmage most of the game to slow us down.  I kept waiting for us to break one with so many guys selling out but we never hit it.  Despite the selling out we still gained yards on the ground but smartly Sherman went to the air a little more often than I bet he thought he would.  Now, should we be worried we couldn’t line up and smash Idaho in the mouth?  A little bit but I have to imagine Sherm will have more wrinkles later in the season for teams that want to try this approach.

I don’t remember a lot of play action which is what you normally do when a team is run blitzing like crazy.  You also fake a reverse or even try it.  I think Sherm was committed to the run to get some more film for assignment teaching.  There were four times in the 1st half (maybe one early in the 3rd quarter) where we lined up in a tight bunch formation to the wide side.  Of those four times, we ran a sweep to the wide side.  It was pretty obvious it was coming and we got a few yards but never busted it.  Idaho recognized it and sold out stretching it out for a minimal gain.  What I noticed the times we did was that our pulling tackle and tight end/fullback weren’t clean on who they were blocking.  There were a lot of white jerseys and our guys looked a little hesitant on who to block because there were so many.   Hopefully Sherm just wanted some film to teach more assignments and recognition.  I wonder what it would look like if Idaho hadn’t sold out but at the same time you use that tendency to set something up later on in a real game.  I’m fine just trying to maul Idaho throughout even if we weren’t successful due to numbers.

Tanny looked really solid.  Not as good as SMU but he looked really solid none the less.  He missed some passes early in the second half but for most of the first half he made quick reads and let the ball fly.  His pocket presence is still very strong but there were a couple of times he held the ball a bit too long in the pocket and almost got sacked.  If anything that’s a good thing to remind him to not get too comfortable standing around.  It’s only natural to push it against a team like Idaho after getting comfortable against SMU.

Something else I saw Tanny do which made me smile was out throwing his receiver on deep balls.  He threw two deep balls to Fuller and one Fuller jumped out to catch and the second time it was too far.  On a deep ball you want to throw it too deep rather than too short so only your receiver can go get it.  If you’re going to go deep and underthrow it you might as well punt as the DB is usually in position to catch an underthrown ball.  Now, the second one appeared to re-aggravate Fuller’s hamstring so maybe that wasn’t a good thing but still, I’ve wondered if Tanny could out throw Fuller and he finally showed it on Saturday.  It’s great to have that on film as it’s a reminder to defensive coordinators that you leave Fuller on an island and Tanny can find him and get it out there.  Tanny came out late in the third quarter so I’m guessing Sherm thought there was nothing more for Tanny to gain by taking snaps but he looked fine in the time he was in there.

Our receivers looked fine for the most part.  There was one egregious drop that I remember but most of the missed passes were on Tanny not putting it where it needs to be.  There’s not much more to say about the receivers as it was just another normal day at the office.  The tight ends looked pretty good and have turned into a very good safety valve for when Tanny rolls out.  Tanny does a real nice job of looking downfield to use the tight end as a secondary receiver when there’s nothing else downfield.

Same thing with the offensive line.  They had a lot of numbers to deal with as Idaho constantly brought people attacking the line of scrimmage and they handled it well.  They did fine on pass protection with only one breakdown where Tanny avoided a sure sack and there might have been another breakdown as well.  Only one holding call that I remember and no false starts that I remember so that’s always a positive.

All in all you would like to have seen drives not stall out and see Tanny be a little better on completions.  67% is certainly not bad but the way this offense is built and considering the opponent you would like to see a percentage closer to what Tanny had against SMU where he was 80%.  You’ll take 67% against B12 opponents but it was Idaho so there was certainly room for improvement.  Let’s hope Sherm starts adding more wrinkles as we get into the meat of the schedule so this offense looks a little more complex and confuses defenses.

DEFENSE – Trying to analyze the defense is really tough.  We looked really solid but the stats outside of total yards don’t really bear it out.  We had no turnovers and only 3 sacks with two by corners on corner blitzes.  Time of possession is almost equal which is strange considering how dominant our offense was and how many 3 and outs our defense got in the first half.  I know they cranked up some TOP in the 4th quarter but at half it was split.  I remember seeing that stat at half and thinking it was weird because we moved the ball with no big plays.  So, in the interest of evaluating our defense I’m throwing out the stats and the 4th quarter as a whole.  Sometimes you just have to go with what your eyeballs saw and not worry about the numbers backing it up.  Also, it looked like we actually would have stopped Idaho from scoring had it not been for a penalty on a 3rd down where we stopped them near the goal line.  I was in a queso induced haze so I’m not positive that’s what I saw.

I thought our defensive line looked REALLY good again.  Not dominant but they created push all night long.  Sure, they were going against a lesser opponent but it’s still good to see our 3 man front occupying and moving the blockers of the other team.   I thought we had more sacks but my guess the QB was scrambling for a 1-2 yard gain which isn’t technically a sack but might as well be.  All in all this unit did what I expect them to do much of the season which is engage and push around the offensive line being disruptive but not dominant.  One person I’d like to make note of is Ben “Straight Outta” Compton.  This was his first game at NT as a true freshman and he looked pretty good.  Not dominant but he held his own.  Really reminded me of a bigger Lucas Patterson in that he’s not the biggest guy out there but you can tell his he has solid technique so with more time he only gets better.  Let’s hope so as having 3 fresh NTs will prove very beneficial to this defense since it’s a focal point.

Now, our linebackers.  Go get a cup of coffee as this might take a while.  First off, I’m just going to say the person I called out last week failed to impress again.  I thought Damontre Moore would have gotten more snaps but Russell got the majority of the snaps and just failed to do anything.  Not sure if Moore is still in the doghouse, not in shape, or what is going on but from what Russell has shown this season and what Moore showed last year it’s time for Moore to get the majority of the snaps.  I don’t get why he didn’t play more in this game unless it was a matter of giving Russell every chance to maintain the starting position since he hasn’t played there as much as Moore.  If Moore is not starting this Saturday I’m going to be VERY concerned.  Russell is a great story but he can be taken care of by a single man.  You don’t need to chip him, you don’t need to line a tight end up to help on him, and you don’t need to keep a back in the backfield to look for him.  I don’t expect anyone to fully replace Von but would like to see someone that the offense has to at least think about or our guy can dominate the single person assigned to them.  Russell just doesn’t have that so let Damontre go.  This is just really looking to shape up to be a Mike Goodson situation where it’s CLEAR who the better player is but Sherm wants to reward the guy who practices better or goes to every class or something else other than the performance when there’s a real live game being played.  I can’t help but think something is at play when watching Russell not really do anything and know the potential Moore has.  Maybe lack of PT is the only thing Moore responds to but whatever it is it needs to get straightened out pretty quick.  Maybe Von needs to call Moore.  I don’t know but after two games it’s clear Moore should be starting and seeing the majority of the snaps at the Joker position.  I think we would even be better served getting Brandon Alexander more snaps as he looked good at times on Saturday night.  On the other side Porter looks really good so need to waste a lot of words on him as he is who he is.  He just needs to be TJE’s little buddy on the outside cleaning up what TJE disrupts. Symbiosis at its finest.  Not a knock on Porter at all because he’s really solid but no doubt he benefits due to the attention TJE is going to get.

Inside linebacker.  Still unsure what we have here.  We did look better against Idaho but no one is standing out and a multitude of guys are coming in and out so it’s hard to really judge.  At Monday’s presser, Coach Sherman and DeRuyter mentioned Shaun Ward would move inside.  Based on his size I think this is a fine move but it also confirms what I’m seeing where there’s lots of room for improvement.  Now, to be fair we’re not blowing assignments left and right like we did before DeRuyter got here but no one is making plays left and right.  However, in a 3-4 your ILBs have to make plays inside.  You basically sacrifice your 3 defensive linemen to free up your 2 ILBs to make plays.  We’re clearly not doing that.  Garrick is the most consistent in my mind but it’s clear he’s missing Hodges.   I think Garrick should be getting the majority of the snaps and looking to figure out who to complement him with.

Of those left, Jonathan Stewart looks to be the most consistent but he’s not disruptive by any stretch.  He’s around the ball and helping with tackles so he’s not horrible but you’d like to see someone ready to crack heads inside.  Donnie Baggs is very hesitant but he’s a true freshman.  He has decent measurables but he’s just young.  Steven Jenkins passes the eyeball test and when he’s not hesitant you can see he could be the answer.  However, he still plays hesitant.  So, Stewart is our most consistent followed by Jenkins and then Baggs in my mind.  I’m almost of the mindset of getting Jenkins more snaps to see if he can learn the system on the fly because I think he offers the most potential right now.  Maybe you just keep rotating these guys hoping one finally clicks like Hodges last year.  It’ll be interesting to see what they do with Ward at ILB but it’s clear that there’s concern inside if they’re moving Ward.  To be fair though the ILBs aren’t terrible by any stretch but you just hope to improve and solidify the guys that you have.  We’ve had ILBs in the past that would make the guys we have now look all conference.  So, these guys should get credit for being better than we’ve had in the past but we still have a ways to go to be dominant.

I would hope at some point we have a starting four of Moore, Williams, Jenkins, and Porter for our four linebacking spots.  Based on what I’ve seen they offer the most promise right now.  Hopefully with increased snaps they all just kind of gel together but in the little time we’ve been looking for Von and Hodges replacements they offer the most promise.  We’ll still be susceptible to runs up the middle but should defend them better if Jenkins can develop.

In the secondary it’s similar to the DLine.  The Idaho QB didn’t make any long passes and tended to dump off quite a bit.  He didn’t get many of his yards until 4th quarter garbage time.  We didn’t look to have any busted coverage so it seems like some things were cleaned up from the SMU game but its clear Idaho isn’t even close to being the passing team that SMU was.  Howard Matthews did look pretty good in the brief snaps he got.  Campbell and Hunter are clearly our starting safeties but it’s nice to see there could be some talent waiting in the wings.  All in all the secondary was pretty solid but not dominant and I’ll take pretty solid all day long.  They just didn’t have a lot of opportunity to be dominant.

The one wrinkle I saw our defense do this game I haven’t seen in quite some time is make pre-snap shifts along the defensive line and have our ILBs show blitz in the gaps and then back off at the snap.  They did this a lot in the 1st quarter and then tapered it off for the rest of the game.  Some of it had to do with Idaho making an audible after our shift so maybe that factored into it more than anything.  I’m hoping this is a pre-cursor to messing with OkSU’s offense as they like to make their playcall based on what the defense shows.  I don’t know why more defenses don’t adjust and show fake looks but would like to see it tried against OkSU.  Surely with enough film study you can identify what types of plays OSU tends to run based on pre-snap looks. We shall see.

SPECIAL TEAMS – Bullock got a few more tries than I would have liked but he hit on all but one so that’s good to see.  He was 3-4 on tries and 2-3 in the 40 yard range.  That’s an improvement on being 1-10 from 20 yards which seems like we used to be.  Return game was fine as Judie had a nice kick-off return and no one dropped a punt from what I remember.  Punting was a head scratcher as Epperson hit a 40 yarder which is about as good as it gets with him.  Kaser shanked one for 23 yards on his first attempt and then boomed one 68 yards for a touchback according to the stats as I was tailgating by the time he booted that one.  I have to think Kaser gets the majority of snaps at punter if he can in fact boom them 68 yards even if it was slightly wind aided.


Oklahoma State Look Ahead – Up until watching OSU play Arizona and watching us play Idaho I felt REALLY good about our chances against OSU.  I still feel confident but not nearly as much as I did coming into the season.  This is gonna sound cliché but I think the team that wins either has the ball last or turns it over the least.  This just looks like two evenly matched teams that can move the ball with suspect defenses.  I will say I think our defense appears better just because we have DeRuyter who has proven to make chicken salad out of chicken sheet.

OSU is going to get points and I wouldn’t be shocked to see a 45-38 game going either way.  The other factor will be the defense that trades touchdowns for field goals.  If I’m Sherman I tell DeRuyter to keep it basic and to keep OSU in front unless he knows for sure he can get a blitz to work.  I also tell him I don’t give a damn about any stat other than the score where he has to keep A&M within 7 points for most of the game unless the A&M offense is just clicking and he can dial up the pressure to see if he can put a foot on the throat of the OSU offense.

My main reason for feeling different about this game is that OSU has a legit ground game.  I really thought they’d be one dimensional with the loss of Kendall Hunter but they’ve shown they really have the ability to run the ball and are very balanced.  This brings our weakness at ILB into play and I think OSU looks to exploit it and will likely be able to because they have a VERY good offensive line and solid backs.  If I hadn’t seen the running game against Arizona and Tulsa I’d feel much better about this game.  Sure, our defense should be better than those two defenses but we’re still a borderline Top 50 defense at best.

Offensively coming into the season I expected Sherm to lean on the OSU defense with the run but after the first two games I’m not sure that’s the answer.  After seeing Idaho sell out to the run I think we need to keep a balanced 50/50 approach with lots of play actions and roll outs to keep OSU from firing LBs and DBs straight up the field.  We need OSU to worry about defending a 20 yard box rather than just the line of scrimmage.  I know Sherm likes to be wrinkle free but I’d be fine seeing Cyrus attempt a tailback pass on one of those bunch formation sweeps.  Not get too cute but let the OSU DC know it’s there.  Also set up a reverse out of the formation with the power sweep if you see OSU selling out like Idaho did.

It’s going to be a close game but it’s at Kyle and we’ve played OSU close in the last two years so I think this is the year Sherm finally gets over on Mike Gundy.  However, make no mistake this is about as evenly matched teams as you get.  Two head coaches with heavy influence on their offense and two DCs with proven track records.  Star players at the skill positions on offense with solid offensive lines and just enough playmakers on defense to make them competitive.  Might as well be mirrors on the field instead of players.  Kyle Field will be rocking and I think that makes the difference.  Aggies 41, Cowboys 35.


Thoughts from SMU

Before I get into what I saw on Sunday between SMU and A&M, a quick note on how I do this for the first timers.  I’m no expert but I watch enough football to know the general feel of the game along with strength and weaknesses.  I don’t take notes during the game and I dont watch DVRd or replays of the game. I might see highlights but that’s about it. I go completely from memory so that’s why I say I’m not an expert by any stretch. Also, my BAC fluctuates between games and affects my memory so some games I remember more and some games I remember less. It all depends on the pre-game tailgate!

Overall, the further I get away from the game, I feel MUCH better. During the game I kept trying to figure out how good SMU was. They looked like a La. Tech or SFA during the game but they’re MUCH better than that. This is a very good C-USA team and a C-USA in Houston beat UCLA on Saturday.  Maybe SMU misses a bowl game this year but there’s a strong chance they make one and maybe even win the C-USA so this is a very good team.  SMU’s offensive line has the most starts of any OLine in the country and their John Riggins look alike ran for over 1,000 yards last year. He’s actually a really good college RB because he’s strong and has really agile and quick feet.

Defensively they’re not as strong as their offense but they’re not terrible.  We’ll definitely be tested more on defense but this was a decent test.  They had some decent size on their line so it wasn’t like we just had a raw size advantage up front and just mauled them with no technique or ability.  They also did a decent job of tackling and flowing to the ball so they put in a solid defensive effort in my mind.  Overall this was a very good win and very good effort by the Aggies. I was concerned this was going to be a trap game because June Jones is a good coach and SMU has some talent and wouldn’t roll over like a typical road patsy.  46-14 is a great showing in your first game against a decent opponent.  This could be a very good Aggie football team.  It already is but they have to actually continue to do it on the field.  That’s the only thing that really matters.



OFFENSE – The offense was the hardest thing for me to analyze.  The reason I say that is because we were about as perfect as you get for a college offense.  No, we didn’t put up 60 points and break big play after big play but this offense is not built that way.  What we saw on Sunday night is EXACTLY how this is offense is built.  No huge runs or passes but plays that chew up positive yards on every down and sustain drives.  Looking at it during the game it’s kind of ho hum but looking back it was DAMN devastating.  Now, SMU is not a dominate defense by any stretch but they’re a decent test in the first game and the Aggie offense scored a 98 out of 100 in my mind.

QB – Ryan Tannehill didn’t pitch a perfect game but he did throw at minimum a complete game shutout if not a no hitter.  I’d have to watch film to see if it was a no hitter.  He ran the offense to perfection.  He made all the right decisions and trusted his receivers and OLine.  He wasn’t perfect passing but at the same time he made some pretty damn good passes and was almost perfect. No QB ever is perfect.  He threw Swope a couple balls across the middle that only Swope could catch.  His TD pass to Priloeau was one of the prettiest balls you can make it.  He hit Priloeau in stride while having to clear a couple underneath defenders while dropping it perfectly into Priloeau’s hands.  Just a perfect pass.  He looked great rolling out and finding the open guys as well.  I still contend in college there’s nothing more dangerous than a roll out QB that can make solid throws.  Tanny looks great doing this.

The two things that stood out to me most were his decision making.  He either made a quick decision or showed some patience waiting for guys to get open.  The thing that impressed me the most was his trust of the pocket.  He stood in there fearlessly and showed very good awareness of when it was breaking down to get rid of the ball.  He didn’t tuck too early or hold the ball too long.  Most of that is on the OLine for giving him time but it’s awesome to see Tanny has a solid pocket presence.  The reason Tanny didn’t pitch a perfect game is because he missed EZ on a quick post route where he was wide screaming open for a sure TD but Tanny went outside and short to Swope who was also open.  That’s just Tanny though.  He’s gonna lay up for the sure thing rather than go for broke.  Good news is he’ll let it fly rather than tuck and run which is important for a QB because unless you’re Vince Young, tucking and running isn’t the best option.

RB – From a running back standpoint all I can say is enjoy it while we can. If we don’t have the best 1-2 punch of RBs in the country I’d like to see that team.  Outside of Gray’s fumble that Fuller caught and Michael’s substitution error you couldn’t ask for much more. The other mistake was on the goal line in the 3rd quarter when Cyrus waited on the D lineman rather than go out to chop him and the Dlineman batted the ball down on 3rd down so we had to settle for a field goal.  That’s nit picky though as that’s tough on a RB to go out and meet a guy he’s giving up 100 pounds to.

While the RBs didn’t bust off any long TD runs what they did is get positive yards on virtually every carry.   What you notice about our RBs is patience on the hole and every step they take is forward once it develops.  There were only a couple of runs where they were forced to go down the line but even then stayed parallel to the line and always looking to cut up field rather than try and burn the corner which is tough to do.  Cyrus picked up right where he left off and most importantly Christine looked to have learned from Cyrus’ playing time when he got hurt.  Christine appeared more patient looking for the hole.  At times in the past he’s looked like a dog that just got let off the leash running into the back of the line as fast as possible.  Sunday night he looked like a guy that fully understands how to run behind our zone blocking scheme.  The other thing that looked different in Christine is that he used fewer spin moves and when he did he was spinning forward and not to the side.  Once again, always looking for positive yards with every step.  Let’s just hope I get to write a ho hum report of our backs every game because these guys are that good.

WR – Not many big pass plays other than the TD pass to Priloeau.  LOTS of possession routes and most importantly lots of catches.  It was really only Swope and Fuller that got any action.  Saw Fuller go down the field maybe twice and Swope worked outside and underneath all night.  Fuller ran a lot of stop routes in the 6-12 yard range along with catching a couple of quick outside passes.  We averaged 11 yards per reception with the longest being 32 yards on the Priloeau catch.  Not a lot to say about these guys as they weren’t necessarily game breakers but they appeared to be on the same page with Tanny all night long.  Its clear Swope and Fuller are the main targets which is just fine.  Don’t expect big yards out of these guys all season as that’s not how Sherm rolls with Tanny at QB but we should continue to see more possession routes and catches to sustain drives.  Fuller and Swope look perfect for what Sherman wants to do.

OL – In my pre-season piece I talked about the quality of the offensive line and these guys did not disappoint.  I’m sure there was once or twice when someone got through to apply pressure too soon but there were ZERO sacks and that’s all you can ask for from an offensive line.  Sure, some is on Tanny but the OLine worked well with their QB all night so that’s solid.  Most importantly I only remember one holding call on Pat Lewis I believe.  I don’t remember any false starts on the OLine either which is VERY impressive in the first game.  I think there was one false start on one of the receivers but not the line.  That’s pretty damn good for their first game.  Let’s hope it holds.  From a blocking standpoint they created seams for the RBs to squeeze through all night long and created solid pockets for Tanny to throw out of all night long.  Easier said than done but they did it well.

Now, I’m not sure how good the SMU defense is but I think their defense is pretty decent but not great so it was a really good effort.  The other thing that impressed me is the athleticism of our tackles.  A couple of times we ran Joeckel and Matthews on the same side and these guys move REALLY well for their size.  Simply amazing what two likely NFL first rounders will do for an offense.  Pat Lewis looks perfect at center and Shep Klinke is a big ol’ boy.  This is a real beefy line with some real athleticism so it’s going to be fun to watch this crew.  I can’t help but think this offensive line is just going to get better all season and we’re in for a real treat.  It all starts with the big uglies in the trenches and we look like we have some solid guys for us.



DEFENSE – Point wise we did tremendous.  This is a pretty damn good offense and we gave up 14 points through mainly 4 quarters of football.  We got one gifted interception and another off a tip on a great play by TFred.  Remember, their OLine has more starts than any other OLine in the country.  Sure, they might not be the most talented but they’ve got some talent and have worked together for a long time.  That’s usually the sign of a decent OLine.  Their running back is also pretty sneaky good.  He’s not nearly as plodding as he looks as he adjusts really well to a hole and didn’t just run straight ahead.  Oh, let’s compare him to another big white running back with the recent Toby Gerhardt.  Very similar as his feet were just outstanding.

Something I noticed that our best defensive plays were from our base defense.  DeRuyter channeled his inner Carl Torbush and got exotic from time to time.  That long run for SMU in the first quarter that almost resulted in a TD (turned over by replay) was done against a two man front.  It was 3rd and 8 but we ran a two man front.  When I saw the front I immediately turned to the guy next to me and said we’ve only got a two man front.  I’m assuming SMU noticed it to and likely audibled into that running play that was easy to execute because they pulled a couple OLineman and just clobbered our LBs and DBs.  I don’t recall seeing that front again the rest of the game.  We had some zone breakdowns but SMU ran a lot of crossing routes which are designed to confuse zones or lose man coverage because people get picked and confused.  I would put some of that on our defense but give some credit to SMU because they executed those crossing routes REALLY well at times.  At times though we were able to keep coverage which is what you want in your first game.  There are a couple areas of weakness on this defense which I’ll get to in a bit but they did their job in only giving up 14 points.  I’ll take that.

D LINE – I thought these guys did a tremendous job all night long.  They tied up a decent offensive line all night long and applied pressure at key points in the game.  Out of 8 sacks the DLine got credit for 6.5.  That’s impressive for a 3 man front but not necessarily good for our defense which I’ll get to in a bit.  TJE was about as dominant as we’ve seen from a 3-4 lineman in quite some time.  Dude was just a destructive force all night long.  I have no reason to think it won’t last all season.  Jonathan Mathis didn’t do much but he looked to be getting double teamed most of the night.  Eddie Brown got decent push and even the subs on the DLine looked really solid.  In a 3 man front you don’t expect a lot of domination but based on Sunday night this group looks really solid with a real playmaker in TJE.

LINEBACKER – All off season we questioned what the loss of Von Miller and Mike Hodges would do to the linebacking corps.  Well, if Sunday night is any indicator the initial prognosis is not good at all.  We were without Domantrae Moore so I’m hoping his return greatly helps us.  I’m also wondering if it’s time to break in more of these freshmen to immediate playing time.  I just didn’t see anything great out of the LB crew on Sunday night but they ran pretty much everyone out there.  I’m guessing to get film so maybe they settle on a couple guys on the inside after this game and get them experience and more coaching.

I really don’t like calling individuals out but I’ll do it if it’s warranted.  Cayleb Russell had a less than stellar game based on all the off season reports.  Dude might be one of the best athletes on the defense but if you’re lost assignment wise or have no technique it does you no good.  This guy seemed lost all night long.  He was handled single handedly all night long on the edge.  He has two moves of getting around the edge or power rush.  Problem is he doesn’t have Von’s explosiveness or his ability to cut back inside to fool the blocker.  He also doesn’t have Moore’s football strength and technique to overpower a blocker.  Plus, there were a couple of times where he was running free on the backside and just missed the RB because he didn’t know how to close.  I watched him quite a bit because the off season reports had him as a suitable replacement for Von.  You don’t expect anyone to be Von but even 70% wouldn’t be bad.  I hate calling him out but what I saw on Sunday night wasn’t even maybe 50%.  He’s still learning to play defense I know but it’s his senior year and if he’s going to start he needs to learn some things quickly.  I honestly think Moore comes back with a clear head and assumes that spot very quickly.  I think Sherm was just trying to teach Moore a lesson and give Russell a chance.  Lessons learned so let’s move on.

Sean Porter is probably our best linebacker right now and while he’s very solid he’s not spectacular.  His problem is we got spoiled by Von on the outside last year so everyone has to measure up to Von.  It’s not fair but if we’re going to be great these guys have to get near Von level.  I do like the combo of TJE and Porter on the same side as it’s clear it’ll be the most disruptive side of the line.  That will be a huge boost to DeRuyter to know that side of the line can handle more and offenses might run away from it.

I have no idea what to think on the inside.  No one stood out at all.  They ran guys out there all night so maybe no one got comfortable with calls and keys but no one separated themselves in the middle.  I think it’s clear Garrick is one of the best two so he might as well start getting reps and find out quickly who is going to stand next to him manning the middle.  ILB is clear to me the weakest part of the defense and it’s going to allow teams to gash runs much like what SMU did on Sunday night.  Good news is that we’re in a pass happy league but if someone will commit to running up the middle on us they can find success.  Someone needs to tell Dalton Santos we’re going to the SEC and show him this film as he might be able to start as a true freshman next year if he’ll change his commitment from Tennessee to the Aggies.  Let’s just hope Dat and DeRuyter find their Michael Hodges quickly.  I know I just bagged on him but I wouldn’t be hesitant to move Russell inside if he can follow ILB assignments that are willing to attack the line and free Williams to make tackles based on reads.  It wouldn’t hurt based on what I saw our ILBs do on Sunday night.  Russell is athletic but there’s a lot more read and reacting on the outside than just being a down field ILB taking on OLineman all night long and it might suit Russell better.

DBs – While there were a few brain farts in zone coverage due to crossing routes I thought this unit did a pretty decent job as a whole.  Coryell Judie is by far our best cover corner.  SMU didn’t allow it very much because they didn’t run many routes straight up the field but when they did Judie stuck with them very well.  He should come in handy against some of the better WRs in the B12.  Terrance Frederick also had a solid game basically as the slot corner.  He did blitz a lot and did decent but SMU was also really responsive to his blitz hitting the quick outside passes because our safeties and LBs were late to cover his man.  I would have to look at the film but it seemed like a lot of their big pass plays came off a TFred blitz so that might be a big factor as to why they got yards due to our LBs and safeties being slow/confused on who to cover.  If so, let’s hope DeRuyter can get that cleaned up.  Dustin Harris looked solid at corner but they didn’t really test him deep that much and kept everything short for the most part.  Each of our safeties got an interception with one being a gift and the other being a tipped ball but you’ll take them because at least they were paying attention to the ball.  I thought both safeties did pretty well but not spectacular.  I still worry about Trent Hunter as a cover guy but Campbell is a physical beast that if he can stay healthy will help Hunter out.  Hunter is just so heady that we probably don’t have a better safety than him right now so I’m fine with him being out there.

Overall, looking back this was about the effort we can expect week to week.  Great DLine play although there’s only three of them, solid DB play, and questionable LB play.  I would say along the DLine we’re much better than last season and DB wise a little better.  If Moore can be 60% of Von and DeRuyter can find someone to be 80% of Hodges then this could be a really solid defense.  Not a lights out Wrecking Crew defense but easily Top 40 and maybe even Top 30.  Finding Hodges replacement worries me more than any other position on the field and it’s going to be our Achilles heel for good teams if we don’t find it.


SPECIAL TEAMS – This is really hard to judge as we had two extra points blocked due to terrible blocking.  I heard recently that guy has blocked 16 kicks in his career so he sounds like he’s got some good technique but a good special teams coach identifies that strength and prepares for it.  We obviously weren’t.  You hope that can get cleaned up and it should.  Bullock did make his two field goal attempts which is good to see and looked fine kicking off.  I think we had two punts which looked better than last year so you’ll take that.  Kick return was decent but we only had three chances which is what you like to see.  There was nothing impressive on punt return other than a muffed fair catch that we luckily were able to jump on.  Punt return for this team just makes me nervous as hell.  I don’t know if our guys get nervous but put someone back there that will catch the ball above everything else.


SUMMARY  – Very good first game by the Aggies.  They have a few things they need to clean up coverage wise and need to find someone to play opposite Garrick Williams inside but we’ve had much worse opening games.  As evident by some team’s first game against a “lesser” opponent, a win is not always a given but we took it to SMU.  Defensively as fans we have to pay attention to the score and not plays given up or yards amassed against us.  The other thing about our defense that I didn’t mention is we seemed to adjust in the second half.  That’s just a sign of good coaching and DeRuyter has proven he can distill the first half pretty quickly and make second half adjustments.  Offensively you can’t ask for much better but we’ll definitely play better defenses.  Based on this game there’s a lot of good things to look forward to for the 2011Fightin’ Texas Aggie football season.   Let’s just hope this is not a blip and a solid indicator.

As for the next game against the Vandals of Idaho I fully expect a bigger pounding with Cyrus and Christine busting off some long runs along with Fuller getting him a long TD.  I’m going to call 56-10.

And Baylor and their lawsuit threat can pound sand for all I care.