View Full Version : A&M hopes defense isn't holey terror

09-01-2004, 10:04 AM
Sept. 1, 2004, 1:16AM

Aggies looking for ways to stop run before it stops them
Copyright 2004 Houston Chronicle

Of all the statistics that showed the dramatic fall of the Texas A&M defense last season, one might be the most telling:

In 12 games, the Aggies allowed nine players to rush for 100 or more yards.:shock

In a stretch of 20 games from 2000 to 2002, the Aggies did not allow a single player to rush for 100 yards.

When the Aggies open the 2004 season Thursday night against No. 20 Utah at Salt Lake City, stopping the run will be one of their top priorities. If teams keep running for eye-popping yardage, the Aggies could be doomed to repeat what happened during their 4-8 season last year, when they allowed an average of 225.1 rushing yards, 431.5 total yards and 38.5 points per game.

"(We need) total improvement on that side of the ball," said coach Dennis Franchione, "but it generally starts with your ability to defend the run."

A group of highly touted redshirt freshman defensive linemen will be called upon to slow down the Utes' running game. Jason Jack is expected to start at defensive end and Red Bryant at defensive tackle, while fellow freshmen Chris Harrington and Jorrie Adams also are scheduled for significant playing time.

Their arrival has defensive coordinator Carl Torbush hopeful that the run defense will be better.

"We're excited to see what the four young guys can bring," Torbush said. "I know they have a great deal of excitement and enthusiasm. That makes everybody a little looser and a little more reckless. I think that'll make us better in itself."

Because the Aggies couldn't stop the run last season, they couldn't get off the field. Opponents held the ball for nearly 3 1/2 more minutes per game than A&M and ran nearly 80 more plays over the course of the season. For a team that lacked depth, that led to second-half problems. A&M was outscored 252-165 in the second half.

"Our third-down conversion ratio (44.3 percent) was way too high," Torbush said. "We kept ourselves on the field way too long. Part of that problem was that we were looking at second-and-four too many times instead of second-and-nine.

In the final three games last year, Oklahoma, Missouri and Texas rushed 169 times for 1,097 yards. Twice since 1991, an A&M team allowed fewer yards rushing for an entire season than last year's team allowed in those three games.
However, Utah rushed 57 times for 205 yards in the second game last season. Though the Aggies won 28-26 at Kyle Field, Utah's Brandon Warfield ran for 181 yards, the first of the nine century-plus rushers against A&M. Utah has three solid running backs in Mike Liti, Quinton Ganther and Marty Johnson this year.

Free safety Jaxson Appel, who led the Aggies with 135 tackles last season, thinks the defense should be improved for several reasons. There is better talent and more depth, and this is the second season of working under Torbush and his system.

"Everyone understands what they're supposed to do without that little bit of hesitation we had last year," Appel said. "A lot of times, that can be the difference between making the tackle and missing the tackle."

According to Torbush, nearly half of the school-record 5,178 yards allowed last year came after contact. That means the Aggies weren't as physical as necessary and put themselves in position to miss tackles.

"I think we're bigger and stronger and faster at every position, and we have the young guys who can make us better," Torbush said. "We've looked pretty good against ourselves. But we don't play ourselves Thursday night."

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09-01-2004, 10:07 AM
We get a good test tomorrow night against a UTah team that can run great. If A&M can not stop Utah, then it will be a looooong season once again. I have faith that with another year working with the players, the coaches will bring this once proud defense back to prominence.

09-01-2004, 10:08 AM
A&M tries to regain its footing
Copyright 2004 Houston Chronicle

You try to imagine how much pressure might be descending on the Texas A&M Aggies, a young team hoping to rebound from its first losing season in 20 years.

When the Aggies took their belly-flop, they didn't take any halfway measures. They lost eight games in 2003 and were blown out in half of them by 45 points or more, including a record trashing by Oklahoma, 77 to zip.

Now they open their season Thursday night against Utah, on the road, which isn't a happy thought right there.

A year ago, in coach Dennis Franchione's debut season, the Aggies won their first two games at Kyle Field against Arkansas State and this same Utah squad. If they had known what loomed ahead, the Aggies would have scissored their American Express cards and stayed the hell at home.

Rout a double-edged sword
Their prospects are less than ideal for their faceoff with the Utes. Nine-point favorites last year, the Aggies held on by their fingernails to win 28-26, stopping a two-point conversion try with eight seconds on the clock.

But out of that shaky start, two totally weird things happened. The Aggies struggled to adjust to coach Fran's new systems and defeated only Baylor and Kansas, the sadder sacks of the Big 12, in their last 10 games. They developed fangs and fur while destroying Baylor 73-20, but that absence of mercy may have backfired.

The Sooners claimed they were partly motivated to avenge the Bears when they slapped their brand on A&M. Frankly, we find this hard to believe and out of character for Oklahoma. When did the Sooners start feeling sympathy for Baylor, and why?

Utah takes off after loss
Meanwhile, the Aggies had turned Utah into a championship team, and one suspects coach Fran and his staff wore out that game film trying to figure how they did it.

Well, sir and madam, their method was highly unconventional, a statement that has no hidden political meaning and in no way refers to whatever is happening this week in New York. Or not happening.

On the two-point attempt for a tie, Utah's quarterback was injured and lost for five weeks. Alex Smith replaced him, helped upset Cal on national TV, passed for 340 yards against Oregon, and led the Utes to nine wins in their next 10 games and their first outright conference title since 1957.

The Mountain West champs shut out Brigham Young in the season finale and Southern Mississippi in the Liberty Bowl. They have not been scored on in their last 10 quarters as the Aggies come to town.

For those who might be looking for omens, these may or may not qualify. The 1957 season was the last time the Aggies were ranked No. 1 in the nation, a station they occupied until Rice upset them 7-6 in their next-to-last game.

It was also the year John David Crow won the Heisman Trophy and Bear Bryant left College Station to return to Alabama the school Franchione left to return A&M to national eminence. But you knew that.

Both schools greeted new coaches a year ago. The new man in Salt Lake City is Urban Meyer, no relation to Urban Legend. Meyer is a former special-teams coach, and Utah will open with a full deck on defense. The Utes have two savvy linebackers in Corey Dodds and Spencer Toone.

Injuries all but wiped out their running backs, but Smith passed for more than 2,000 yards and rushed for 660. His touchdowns-to-interceptions ratio was almost unreal, 15 to three. NFL scouts are already touting the 6-4 junior as a high draft pick after next season.

Smith has a terrific go-to receiver in Paris Warren, a senior. No, the Utes won't always have Paris, but the former Oregon transfer has size and is a running threat on reverses.

There is no point in asking what kind of elixir the Aggies need to drink or what chants they must use to transform themselves into the maroon ogres of old.

They need quarterback Reggie McNeal to regain the form he showed as a freshman, when the Aggies knocked off then-No. 1 Oklahoma. Reggie came off the bench to connect on touchdown passes of 61, 40, 17 and 40 yards. He looked like the quarterback the Aggies had been waiting for all their lives until an ankle sprain cost him the rest of his freshman season. He needed surgery for a shoulder that hampered him as a sophomore.

A&M urgently needs running back Courtney Lewis and wide receiver Terrence Murphy to play big. And the defense has to get stops. Jaxson Appel, a fine free safety, can't make all the tackles.

Getting back to the question posed earlier, there may be only modest pressure on the Aggies because the expectations for them are modest. Utah is ranked ahead of the Ags, but we don't know exactly where because the poll we saw covered only the top 40 teams.

Yet a publisher we know OK, he puts out a tip sheet ranks the Aggies first among the nation's most-improved teams. First! He rates Alabama second check it out, Dennis and UTEP third.

Now, that could be pressure.

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09-01-2004, 10:55 AM
pooooor aggys

09-01-2004, 01:58 PM
Which Class are you Jim?

09-01-2004, 02:46 PM
Mikey, I have no class. :)

Mikey, I did not go to A&m...I went to UM and SWT.

09-01-2004, 03:28 PM
oh my bad....I figured since you referenced A&M as "we" and you are not an idiot, or Pooh, you might have gone there. :)

Tommy Duncan
09-01-2004, 03:44 PM
I nominated Jim to be an honorary Ag.

Ed Helicopter Jones
09-01-2004, 08:24 PM
Utah 24-10.

09-01-2004, 11:31 PM

09-01-2004, 11:35 PM

09-02-2004, 01:07 AM
Does anyone else have a problem with a school that has no female cheerleaders?

Tommy Duncan
09-02-2004, 01:18 AM
That's because the good looking women are in the stands. If you go to a football game to look at the cheerleaders, well, perhaps you should rethink your strategy.

09-02-2004, 10:40 AM
Mikey, they do have female cheerleaders in all the other sports.

09-02-2004, 12:01 PM
Actually TD....I can do both! :eyebrow

I did not know that Jim....ok, that restores my faith in higher learning. :)

09-02-2004, 02:10 PM
Her ya go Mikey.:)


09-02-2004, 03:36 PM
Utah should win this game easily. They are very tough at home.

09-02-2004, 07:07 PM
they are also playing one of the worst teams in the nation

09-02-2004, 10:41 PM

09-02-2004, 10:50 PM
A&M is getting destroyed. Longhorns fans better get their cracks in now before OU shows up on the schedule.

09-02-2004, 11:42 PM
Suck on that timvp!!!
Reggie Reggie Reggie!

09-02-2004, 11:43 PM

Expectations most be low this year.

09-02-2004, 11:46 PM
You know nothing about college football. This is a very young team at a highly ranked opponent in their first game of the year. This game is the first of 11 games, it is to be used as a stepping stone to get better and better as the year progresses.

09-02-2004, 11:49 PM
Reggie is going to have a great year. He needs some protection though.

09-02-2004, 11:51 PM
too bad the defense is young too. :cry

09-02-2004, 11:53 PM
Yeah, McNeal is tearing it up. 11-29 for 181 yards. He's Michael Vick ... without the passing skills.

09-02-2004, 11:56 PM
timvp, again you are showing your total ignorance. stats mean nothing. How many passes have been dropped??? How many times has he been hurried? His total yd count is over 300 and counting.

09-02-2004, 11:57 PM
timvp, again you are showing your total ignorance.


Congrats on your victory.

09-03-2004, 12:00 AM
It is funny that the only time you ever talk to me is when one of my teams loses. I think you have a serious inferiority complex towards me for some reason., and it helps your low self esteem when my teams lose. It is soooo obvious.

I am looking forward to your next post to me when the Red Sox lose in playoffs, or the Redskins lose a few games.:rolleyes

09-03-2004, 12:08 AM
Stop being paranoid. Who knew that a Maryland alumni would root for A&M? I sure didn't.

Enjoy your victory. What's the score?

09-03-2004, 12:50 AM
Looks like the defense is still holey. :(

Lots of work to do before they open Big 12 play against Big 12 champion Kansas St.

09-03-2004, 10:04 AM
Texas A&M is HORRIBLE! They are much worse than I imagined.

09-03-2004, 11:53 AM

09-03-2004, 01:13 PM
I thought the Ags would put up a better fight.

Ed Helicopter Jones
09-03-2004, 03:23 PM
I think Utah is a better team than most people give credit to.

The Mountain West is always underestimated.

A&M will be better than they were last season.

09-04-2004, 01:29 AM
Utah is finally getting their due- there's talk of them crashing the BCS party this year!

As a Utah alum, all I can say is HA-HA! :) Arizona (U of A) is next!