COLLEGE STATION, Texas - One game into the season, Texas A&M coach Dennis Franchione is already facing the same old question.
Why can't the Aggies throw the football?
Quarterback Stephen McGee completed 10 of 20 passes Saturday against Montana State for only 112 yards. Franchione said there were five dropped passes and protection breakdowns. But receiver Earvin Taylor is convinced things will get better this week against Fresno State (1-0).
"It's the first game," said Taylor, a senior. "Of course, people saw that we had a couple of drops and everything. But we're going to improve a lot in the next game. I think that was just shaking out the cobwebs."
Receiver Kerry Franks said: "It was first-game anxieties. Everybody was built up to make big plays, and it didn't work out the way we wanted. If we just go into the game having more confidence in ourselves, then everything will fall in place."
The Aggies seem confident. But do the coaches trust their players?
McGee didn't attempt a pass to a receiver until A&M's 18th offensive play against Montana State. He didn't complete a ball to a receiver until the 23rd play, a 10-yard catch by Taylor.
Offensive coordinator Les Koenning pointed out that No. 23 A&M (1-0) did get some big plays downfield with the pass.
"There were some other times they were called that we didn't have the time to get them down the field," Koenning said.
To expect the Aggies to come out slinging the ball all over Kyle Field may be unrealistic. For longtime A&M fans, this isn't new.
The school record for passing yards per game was set in 1986. The final tally: 244.6.
Franchione faced similar questions last year when the Aggies ranked 72nd nationally in passing (190.5).
"I know it's been the big topic for about four years, five years, 20 years ... before I was born," McGee said with a laugh.
So what happens if the running game isn't working or McGee can't get loose? Can the Aggies lean on the receiving corps to move offense down the field?
It's still a major unknown at this point.
"If all that happens, they have got to be vulnerable to some other things," Franchione said. "Can we exploit their vulnerability? Then, yes, I think we can."
Maybe it was just first-game jitters and nothing more. The Aggies get another chance to air it out against the Bulldogs.
"If we just utilize the receivers," Taylor said, "I think we'll be all right."
AIRING OUT AGGIELAND Texas A&M has never been known as a passing school. Little has changed in four-plus seasons under coach Dennis Franchione. Year Passing YPG NCAA rank Comment 2003 212.6 66th WR Terrence Murphy had 762 yards, no TDs 2004 261.2 23rd Reggie McNeal 26th in I-A in pass efficiency 2005 207.4 78th Back to the ground (234.9 rushing YPG) 2006 190.5 72nd Lowest passing total since 1998 2007 129 97th McGee and Co. last in Big 12 after one week