Baylor Game

Thoughts From the Baylor Game

This week’s edition is going to be much shorter than normal.  A couple reasons for that.  First, the 11:00 a.m. game didn’t work in my favor.  I stayed up drinking until 4:00 a.m. and was woken at 8:00 a.m. by dog’s banging tail to go out.  Not enough sleep to work that night off.  Just so you know, part of the evening included a trip to the Dry Bean.  You do the math.  I drank 100 oz. of water during the game to help alleviate the headache and hydrate enough to tailgate the rest of the day.  Secondly, there’s just not a lot to gripe about this game.  This was by far the most complete game A&M has played all season and you just hope we can keep it up.

Going bullets this week due to the challenges I faced during the game.

Overall/Coaching:

  • First off, this was the most animated I’ve seen Mike Sherman ever in a game.  By animated I mean celebrating great plays.  Usually he’s face deep in his play sheet but for some reason he was displaying a ton of excitement and emotion all throughout the game.  I think a coach being emotional is a little overrated but it was interesting to see Sherm so fired up.  I wonder if he was concerned about the last 11:00 a.m. game at Kyle Field when we got dog stomped by Missouri and decided that he was going to set the tone for emotion.  We’ll see if he does the same against Mizzou in two weeks as we have another 11:00 a.m. kick at Kyle.  No, I don’t plan on drinking until 4:00 a.m. the night before.
  • I was mildly surprised Sherman decided to pass so much.  I know we’ve railed on him for not running enough but he passed a lot more than I thought he would.  I thought he would play ball control offense to keep his defense and the Baylor offense off the field as much as possible.  Coming into the game people talked about how bad our defense was but the reality is that Baylor’s defense is much worse than ours.  They’re really lacking in talent on that side of the ball.  I wonder if Sherm saw in film he could exploit the Baylor secondary or if he just wanted to keep the pedal to the metal to show Art Briles that if Briles wanted a track meet his Aggie offense was certainly up to the challenge and then some.  Don’t forget the TCU offense carved up this defense in the first game.  Whatever it was it was a great game plan.
  • I got real worried when our 3rd or 4th play on offense had a no back set but it worked out just fine.  Good job, Sherm.  Your offense fired in all facets.
  • Think about this – in 11 possessions we didn’t punt once.  We scored 9 times in those 11 possessions.  The last possession was due to us just running out the clock for the last 4:00 of the clock.  The only hiccup was a bad shovel pass on our first drive after we drove 58 yards in 9 plays on our first drive but we were driving the field with no problems.  Simply put, our offense was about as dominating as it could get and that’s great to see.

Offense:

  • The stats bear it out but Tannehill had a game like he had against Tech in his first start.  He missed a few throws here and there but by and large he was making passes left and right.  He also had some really solid runs.
  • LOVED the reverses.  LOVED THEM.  I don’t know if Sherm was sandbagging them but he broke them out at the perfect time to keep the backside contain honest and at home.  What’s kind of ironic is I was watching Green Bay and Atlanta on Sunday Night Football last week and Atlanta ran a reverse out of the same bunch formation we use to Julio Jones.  When I saw the play that night I was hoping Sherm was watching and took notes.  He probably wasn’t watching but I was wondering if we were going to see it on Saturday and I’ll be damned if we did.
  • Welcome back, Ryan Swope; welcome to the receiver rotation, Malcome Kennedy; keep it up, EZ.
  • Jeff Fuller didn’t have a bad day at all making some good possession receptions but I think I saw him drop at least 2-3 balls that he should have caught.  Some weren’t the best passes but Fuller should have caught them regardless.  Let’s hope he picks it up in the second half as he’s really the linchpin to this offense really clicking I believe.
  • Offensive line cut holes all day long and gave Tanny all the time he needed.  There’s just not much to say about this line as they dominated from start to finish.  Not every run resulted in a huge run but most had positive yards and our Oline just wore them down through the game.  That Baylor defense was GASSED about halfway through the third quarter and our boys just leaned on them and kept them at bay.  You know the defense was gassed when Tannehill juked them all out of their jocks on a 20 something yard zone read in the 4th quarter.
  • CMike got the brunt of the carries.  He showed decent patience at times but he also showed that he can still be impatient sometimes waiting on the hole to develop running into the back of the line where no hole existed.  He’s just an amazing physical runner.  Was really kind of surprised he didn’t bust one off but he looked like a beast.  I think he fed off his line as in the second half he was loading up and pounding the Baylor defenders as they started to show they were physically whipped.
  • Cyrus looked like Cyrus and that’s not a negative.   He averaged 3.5 yards a carry and just waited on holes to develop.  Sometimes those holes didn’t develop because Baylor was selling out to the run which hurts Cyrus because he’s not a really physical runner and he was getting stopped at the line of scrimmage.
  • Just as solid of an effort as you’ll ever see.

Defense:

  • First off, let’s all admit Robert Griffin is a fantastic quarterback.  Hate Baylor all you want but Griffin has turned into a tremendous passer and runs Briles offense really well.  He makes really smart decisions and made some outstanding passes through 3 quarters.  Just a tremendous quarterback and I’ll be the first to admit I’m shocked how consistent he’s been this season.  I think that win over TCU woke him up and instilled some confidence that’s been lacking.
  • We were finally able to get to Griffin in the 4th quarter because they were playing so far from behind that we knew he was looking for bigger plays.  That gave us more time to get blitzes through and play deeper zone coverage to confuse Griffin a little more.
  • I thought we played the zone read as well as we could with someone of Griffin’s talent.  We stayed home on the backside and Griffin mainly let the running back keep the ball.  There were 2-3 times that I thought Griffin should have kept the ball as he could have got to the outside on our guys but he didn’t.  Griffin has shown he doesn’t like getting hit so I wonder if Briles told him not to run unless it’s wide open or if Griffin is the one preferring not to run.  Either way we did a nice job of keeping Griffin and the run game contained.  Baylor is actually a much better running team than most people think.
  • I thought our defensive line did really well.  They got solid push all day long against a decent Baylor offensive line.  We rotated out a ton of guys as always so it’s always hard following who is doing what other than TJE because he stays in most of the game.  It was a good effort no doubt.
  • We might have some ILBs we can rely on in Jonathan Stewart and Steven Jenkins.  Don’t know what was going on but Stewart was making calls left and right and lining folks up.  I hadn’t seen him take on that role until this Saturday.  Stewart and Jenkins both looked better than they have all season.  Not saying they’re going to start dominating but it’s the best any two ILBs have looked together all season.  JStew had a really good couple of blitzes.  DeRuyter may have finally figured out who works best in the middle for us.  Don’t want to bag on Garrick Williams as he did okay but he just still looks timid and confused at times.
  • The OLB rotation was really interesting because it was mainly a mix of Moore, Russell, Porter and not many others that I remember.  DMoore finally played his best game of the year as he was in the backfield most of the game harassing the running back or Griffin.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again that Moore needs to go forward and never backwards.  He’s questionable in coverage but he’s the most disruptive guy we have to get into the backfield on a regular basis.
  • Sean Porter got his sack and had his normal good game.  He and TJE are our most consistent and disruptive defensive players by far.
  • Caleb Russell finally got him a sack but it’s the only thing I saw out of him.  My favorite was when he didn’t see or didn’t know to cover the slot receiver who was completely uncovered but luckily Steven Campbell got him straightened out before the snap.  I’m sure he’s a great Aggie but man he just looks lost out there most of the time.  He’s not horrible as he’s not getting destroyed but he’s certainly not disrupting anything.
  • Looked like Judie got pulled after Baylor’s 77 yard touchdown pass in the 2nd quarter.  Judie got toasted and that’s just not like him.  He struggled covering most of the time he was in the game and I’m guessing he’s not 100% which was kind of confirmed in Sherman’s presser today.  Sounds like he’s on the shelf for this week which is probably for the best.
  • The rest of the secondary looked just okay.  No one really stood out.  We finally got an interception but that was due way more to pressure on Griffin than anything we did.  Griffin threw up a prayer into double coverage and we simply can down with it.  Howard Matthews looks like a real player and I think he just needs to get more time.
  • Overall this was about as good of a performance as you could expect out of this defense against this opponent.  I fully expected Baylor to score 35 points and we held them to one less score.  We did get some solid stops when we needed them so kudos to the defense for holding them at key moments.  Luckily our offense never sputtered so that was HUGE assistance to our defense because I think it allowed them to relax and play a little more aggressively.

 

I’d like to see a similar type performance against ISU this weekend with a little less scoring on their end obviously.  I’d like to think DeRuyter is working his second half magic again where he’s getting enough opponent film to coach tendencies while just having the defensive guys be more comfortable in his systems and calls.

It’s just frustrating to think that had this offense not sputtered in the second half of two games we’d be looking at a Top 5 ranking and a showdown in Norman for a shot at the National Championship.  Oh well, welcome to Aggie football.  Let’s just hope this Baylor win is a launching pad for a nice run down the stretch.  What we saw on Saturday is what we expected all year.

Thoughts From the Baylor Game

I didn’t write any thoughts from the OU game mainly because I didn’t feel there was anything to write about.  We got our butts whooped plain and simple.  Outside of Cyrus Gray’s efforts there wasn’t that much positive in what OU did to us.  I didn’t want to waste any effort writing about it.  I feel much the same way after yesterday’s game but think it might be cathartic to write about it so here goes.

 

My wife and I made the journey down I-35 yesterday to the game.  We’re 60-90 minutes further from Aggieland in Fort Worth than Houston but we’re about 75 minutes from Waco.  I guess that’s a positive.  It makes that drive after a Baylor loss a little more bearable.  Notice I said little.

 

For this write up I’m going to get to do my usual style of Offense, Defense, and Special Teams.  I’m adding a special section on Coaching and Where I’d Go From Here.

 

Offense:

 

·        Normally I write about Mike Goodson here and quite honestly I’ll do it again because he had the greatest play by an Aggie offensive player when he made an amazing catch on a 51 yard pass that took him to the 1 yard line.  Not sure why he’s not getting more touches but he’s not.  Mike had some very solid swing passes where he’d gain anywhere from 4-12 yards.  The kid is special.  One more game folks and he’s gone.  I don’t know why he’d come back at this point.  Someone will take the kid.

·        Second post always goes to JJ.  We had 5 turnovers yesterday and 3 of those he’s responsible for.  The other 2 were due mainly due to tipped passes.  He’s had less and less time in the pocket since the second half of the Tech game.  I will say his biggest mistake yesterday was not recognizing the pressure and dumping the ball sooner.  He spent way too much time looking downfield trying to gain more yardage and he’s just not getting the time he needs to do so.  He has to learn to dump the ball sooner.  He’s definitely played better games but he’s getting less and less time in the pocket every game.

·        The offensive line.  I don’t even want to go there but I feel I have to.  I think the best illustration of what’s going on here is the time Baylor brought 8 guys on a flat out blitz and the offensive linemen whiffed on 6 of them.  I kid you not.  There 5-6 Bears in the offensive backfield and we had 3 of our lineman just standing around.  Some of that’s talent but some of that is coaching in not learning how to pick up blitzes.  At least make contact with someone.  The other thing I noticed was the offensive linemen pulling into space and not picking anyone up.  There’s no attempt to chop block or really make contact as they just kind of cruise out there like my dogs at the dog park just kind of running free with no real purpose.

·        Surprisingly we have a really good core group of receivers.  Fuller, Tannehill, and T. McCoy are really looking good.  Jamie McCoy had his usual solid catches but he also had a couple of drops.  All in all the receivers looked decent when we could get them the ball.  This group without a doubt has progressed the most of any group through 11 games.  Credit to Cromwell for that.

·        Other than that, not much here as this staff is just not giving this group a chance to win games which I’ll touch on later.

 

Special Teams:

 

  • Let me give HUGE credit to E.J. Shankle here.  I’ve bagged on this guy not having good hands but this kid has been nails on punt coverage as a gunner.  He simply blows by the defender as the gunner and is consistently near the punt returner when he gets the ball.  In addition, he’s not afraid to make some contact.  Love to see a kid embracing his role on the team and Shankle deserves HUGE credit here.
  • We got a punt block.  Not to take anything away from that but I do have to say we looked really confused on what to do with the ball bouncing around.  No one really knew if they should fall on it or run with it.
  • Probably the most disheartening part of the game for me was the fact that Baylor got to kick off so many times.  To make matters worse Gray and Stephens looked REALLY confused on who should be getting the ball.  In my mind that’s all coaching as there were at least 3 times when the ball either hit the ground or they really had no clue who should be catching it.  Now to their defense it was pretty windy and the ball wasn’t going to the same spot every time but when you’ve to two guys back there they need to figure out quickly who’s getting the ball.
  • We were offsides on our only onside kick attempt.  Folks, that’s coaching in my book.  I think what’s worse is that we only did one onside kick.  Our second TD was in complete garbage time and we had nothing to lose but we kick off instead of the onside.  If anything to just practice onside kicks in a game.  It’s not like we were saving face.  We weren’t covering the spread and we weren’t winning so let’s work on some things you don’t normally get the chance to.
  • Justin Brantley is solid.  I can’t wait to see 2 of the 32 NFL teams anchored by Aggie punters.  We’ve got that going for us.

 

Defense:

 

  • First off, let me say that this team takes WAY too much heat for the overall trouble of the team.  The offense is not helping these guys out one bit.  They actually played pretty decent in the first half as Baylor got two big plays when they converted a long third down that ultimately led to a Baylor TD and then when Kendall Wright made a pretty amazing TD catch right before half.  In the second half Jonathan Batson completely misplayed a deep ball he could have deflected or even picked off.  Once that TD happened the gates were open and the route was on.  I have to think Trent Hunter makes that play.  Either way we weren’t winning that game.
  • I have to give credit to Danny Gorrer as I have bagged on him in the past for poorly supporting the run and shying away from contact.  Something’s changed in him as he made some decent tackles yesterday so I want to give him a shout out since I normally bag on him.
  • Speaking of tackling, this team is just horrible at it.  Not only can they not arm tackle but they don’t know how to take anyone’s legs out.  Blame the last staff all you want but we’re 11 games into the season and the fundamentals still aren’t there.
  • In addition to tackling, we’re HORRIBLE at shedding blocks.  It seems like we’re so worried about losing site of the ball that we can’t anticipate where it’s going in order to fight off the blocker and make the play.  It’s horrible how tentative we are because it looks like we’re afraid we won’t see the ball if we try to shed the defender.  Once again, 11 games into the season and we’re lacking in fundamentals.
  • Other than that, not much else to speak of except that Matt Featherston had his named called quite a bit.  I guess that’s good.

 

Coaching:

 

  • At 11 games into the season we can’t keep blaming the players.  We just got destroyed by a Baylor program that is also in its first year with a head coach.  Plain and simple our coaching staff got out coached by a Baylor staff.  Can we really say they have more talent than us?  That game truly exposed the ineptitude of our coaching staff.
  • Here’s where I think the main issue is and it starts with the man at the top and the staff he’s assembled.  First off, he’s a pro coach that hasn’t coached college in 10+ seasons.  Because of that he has no idea how 7 on 7 has influenced the spread attack that is now prominent in Texas which is what stocks most Big XII schools.  He’s trying to run a system he’s familiar with but that his players have no idea about.  There’s a reason why fullback prospects don’t exist anymore in the entire state.  That position doesn’t exist anymore and TE is on its way out as well.  As it stands those are two of the most crucial positions in what Sherm is trying to do.
  • In addition to his unfamiliarity with the college game he went and hired an OC that has ZERO college experience and ZERO coordinating experience at any level.  I think Cromwell would have probably been a decent enough OC at the pro level but he’s never going to cut it at the college ranks.  I just don’t think he’ll ever get the talent in the state of Texas he’ll need to make their pro style system work.  I’m going to mention Kevin Sumlin later but guess who he went and hired to be his OC at UH this season?  The guy who was the OC at Tech for the last three seasons and spent a total of 8 seasons in Lubbock where he coached Wes Welker as inside receivers coach and then Graham Harrell the last three seasons as OC and QB coach.  Obviously Leach is the OC in Lubbock but I’m sure this guy has picked up a ton of knowledge along the way.  How Sumlin convinced him to leave Leach whom this guy actually played college ball for is beyond me but Sumlin got it done.  Sherm hired his buddy.
  • Defensively I’m actually okay with Kines.  I know he catches a ton of heat but if the Aggie offense was any better I swear the defense would probably average 100 yards less a game.
  • Outside of the staff there are a couple of things I just can’t get over.  The first is how our best offensive showing was the first half of the Tech game and since then we’ve gone away from it where Sherm keeps forcing the I formation which he obviously doesn’t have the personnel for.  Sure we beat two teams but that was a pitiful ISU team and if we don’t have the offensive outburst in the third quarter against CU we likely lose that game as well.  The I formation is going to be the same as Fran’s option.  It doesn’t scare anyone and its not working but yet we keep forcing ourselves to do it thinking it will break through at some point.  I wish I had the time to go back and see the average yards when we’re in the I formation.  I bet it’s not more than 2.5 yards.  I understand you have to establish the run to establish the pass but when everyone in the world knows what’s coming it’s not going to work.  The other thing that’s not working in the I formation is that JJ is dangerously staring down his target as he drops back.  That’s going to get jumped in the Texas game so get ready for it. 
  • The other thing that gets me about this staff is their decision to use certain people in situations.  I think my main concern is the concerted effort to use Keondra Smith so much.  I’m not bagging on the kid but when you have a Mike Goodson, Mike needs to be getting the ball in key situations.  The best example I can give is yesterday when we had a third and three and Keondra is in there.  We got a sweep to the right which I actually LOVED as a play call but we only got about a yard and a half and had to punt.  It was actually executed really well but Keondra just doesn’t have the burst or moves to get outside.  He’s a between the tackles runner.  I don’t understand the play call with the package on the field.  Maybe Goodson doesn’t practice well but there’s times you have to put that aside and know your best option for converting a third down.  I just see a lot of the same issues as I saw with Fran when it comes to utilizing personnel as well as they should.
  • Let’s face it too that Sherm was never great at the pro level.  I think he’s a very solid fundamental coach but I just don’t think he has that great factor about him.  I know everyone wants to point to Pete Carroll but the list of pro coaches that didn’t make it is longer and I see Sherm ending up like Charlie Weiss or Al Groh.  Sure he needs time but I just don’t see “Great” coming from Sherman.
  • I won’t even go into Sherm’s inability to go up against the Big Boys and get the top recruits.  He’ll recruit decent enough and do a better job of identifying talent than Fran but he’s never going to be a lights out recruiter because of the hole he dug this season.  We have a chance to close out with Christine Michael and Craig Loston and I bet we get neither of the guys even though they were both committed to us at one point.

 

Where Do We Go From Here:

 

  • I hate saying that I’m off the Shermwagon in his first year but I am.  What I’ve seen these past two games is simply pathetic.  I didn’t expect Sherm to light the world on fire but I fully expected us to be competitive.  Let’s look at who we’ve lost to.  Arky State at Kyle.  They’re currently 4-5 in the mighty Sun Belt Conference.  Their other three wins you ask?  Texas Southern, Middle Tennessee State, and Louisiana-Monroe.  That’s some select company for us.  Let’s not forget about that loss to KSU at KYLE by 14 who is 4-7 and their only Big XII win so far.  Baylor who is 4-7 and their other Big XII win is over ISU.  Other losses include Miami, OSU, Tech, and OU with the closest margin being 18 points in both Miami and Tech.  I fully expect to get clobbered in Austin as they make atones for the past two years.
  • Next season I see us going anywhere from 5-7 to 8-4.  I still say we have to win a bowl game next season and then for us to be in the Top 25 at the end of Sherm’s third season.  I say if we’re not bowl eligible at the end of next season then Sherm needs to be gone no questions asked.
  • I do say there’s one scenario where Sherm should be let go this season and I’m not advocating for it all but I would strongly consider it if I was Bill Byrne.  There’s a good chance Mike Leach is leaving Lubbock this season.  I know Tech is probably going to make a serious run at keeping him but if I’m Bill Byrne I keep in tune with what’s going on with Leach’s situation.  If I know for certain we can get Leach then I move on from Sherm this season.  It’s outlandish but desperate times call for desperate measures.  I would even go so far as to tell Sherm so he knows he’s operating with some serious heat under him.  It would cost us a ton of money but my guess is keeping Sherm is going to cost us more.
  • Outside of that I let Sherm come back next season with the understanding he needs to win a bowl game next season to get comfortable and if he doesn’t go to a bowl game then he’s gone.  I keep an eye on what’s going with Kevin Sumlin at UH.  That’s the guy we should have hired and I’m firmly convinced of that now.  Go look at the guy’s staff of who he’s assembled.  I’d dare say it’s much more impressive than Sherm’s staff.  Couple that with the fact that he throttled the #25 team in the country and it’s hard to see why we should have hired him.  I still get really pissed thinking that Bill Byrne didn’t even give the guy or anyone else an interview outside of Sherm.
  • I always advocated that we should have interviewed Sumlin, Briles, and Muschamp once it became obvious we weren’t getting a big name such as Butch Davis or Tom Tubberville.  As it stands Sumlin is doing pretty good at UH, Briles just beat Sherman, and Muschamp is doing a yeoman’s job with a young secondary in Austin.  I don’t mean this personally towards Sherm but it feels like we got the run of the litter.

 

Now that I’m done with this I don’t feel any better at all.  In fact I feel sicker because we’re essentially stuck with Sherman for two more years at least all because Bill Byrne didn’t want to interview anyone else and was in such a hurry to hire Sherm when he clearly wasn’t in demand by any other program.  This is nothing personal against Sherm at all but it has everything to do with wanting A&M Football to be great again.  He’s not going to get us there.

 

I’ll be renewing my season tickets next year just like I will every season until I’m six feet in the ground but my wife and I talked about how much we spend and how it’s just not enjoyable anymore.  There’s no much I enjoy more than watching those maroon helmets with the big white aTm running around on a football field but I just feel like we made a huge mistake in hiring Sherman because he’s been gone from the college game so long and was never truly great in the first place.