A&M Aggies and Bulldogs meet for first time
By Sports Network
Playing the second of three straight at home in College Station to open the 2007 campaign, the 23rd-ranked Texas A&M Aggies put their national ranking on the line this weekend against the visiting Fresno State Bulldogs at Kyle Field. A&M went into the season ranked 25th, but thanks to a 38-7 dismissal of Montana State at home last weekend the team jumped up two spots. Next week the program will host Louisiana-Monroe in another soft non-conference date and then hits the road to challenge the Miami Hurricanes in Florida before beginning its Big 12 Conference slate versus Baylor at the end of the month. As for the Bulldogs, they too began 2007 against a non-member of the newly-renamed Football Bowl Subdivision and got by with a 24-3 decision against Sacramento State at home over the weekend. Next week, Fresno State heads to Oregon to face the Ducks, before kicking off the 2007 Western Athletic Conference portion of the schedule versus Louisiana Tech at home. In terms of familiarity between these two schools on the football field, this game is the first-ever between them on the gridiron. After a disappointing 2006 campaign in which the team won a mere four games, the Bulldogs needed to start out on the right foot this time around and they seemed to have done that with a victory over the Hornets at home. From an offensive standpoint, perhaps the most impressive aspect of the game was that the Bulldogs controlled the ball for nearly 13 minutes in the final quarter alone. Quarterback Tom Brandstater connected on 16-of-27 passing for 199 yards and one touchdown, while Lonyae Miller and Clifton Smith both recorded a rushing score for the crew. Brandstater is being given another chance to show what he can do under center this season, but one has to wonder what will happen if his season goes the way that 2006 did when he was part of a passing attack that ranked eighth in the conference and 101st in the nation with just 158.2 ypg. Getting a soft opponent like Sacramento State to start 2007 may be just what the doctor and FSU head coach Pat Hill ordered. Needing to secure a level of confidence in his players, Hill allowed his defense to do the talking as they limited the Hornets to a mere 41 yards rushing on 26 attempts in the contest and a pitiful 59 yards passing on 12 completions. The defense failed to generate any turnovers in the contest, but A.J. Jefferson did make a name for himself by blocking a kick. Thanks to 10 assisted tackles, Marcus Riley was the most visible defender for the Bulldogs, finishing with a team-high six total tackles. Known perhaps more for its defense under coach Hill than anything else, Fresno State took a couple of wrong turns a season ago when it ranked 107th nationally in pass efficiency defense (145.9). Stephen McGee downplayed his passing ability in the opener against the Bobcats last week, opting to lead A&M in rushing instead with 121 yards and a pair of touchdowns on nine carries. When he did stay in the pocket, McGee connected on 10-of-20 passes, for 112 yards. Also scoring points on the ground for the Aggies were RBs Mike Goodson and Jovorskie Lane, while Jerrod Johnson's lone pass completion was a 17-yard scoring effort to Terrence McCoy. As was the case last season, the Aggies are again going to ride the horses they have coming out of the backfield as early and as often as possible. The team averaged 206.9 ypg on the ground a year ago, second-best in the Big 12 Conference and eighth in the nation, which helped to cover up for a lackluster passing game that ranked 11th in the league with a mere 190.1 ypg. Considering the Aggies ran just 58 plays on offense and Montana State rolled out 85 in the season opener, it is safe to say that the A&M defense was put out on the field just a little too long. While the unit did lock down the rushing game of the Bobcats, limiting the visitors to only 99 yards on 37 attempts, the secondary was a much more forgiving, as it surrendered 304 yards on 26 completions. Mark Dodge and Alton Dixon finished with 14 and 10 tackles, respectively. Chris Harrington added nine stops, one of which was a sack, and also forced a fumble in the contest. Sacks were a bit of a rarity for the Aggies in 2006, with the team coming in second-to-last in that department in the Big 12 with just 1.5 per game. Even worse, Texas A&M ranked dead last in the conference and 108th in the nation in tackles for loss with only 4.2 per outing. Harrington led the team in both departments a year ago, so expect the defense to look to him for leadership in those areas yet again.