A&M passing woes
COLLEGE STATION, Texas - Texas A&M's triple-overtime 47-45 victory over Fresno State had everyone on edge. Even those with access to nuclear warheads were itchy.
"Okay, Ags. I really don't need that kind of stress right now," ranger65 wrote Saturday night on TexAgs.com, a fan message board. "But a W is a W. All the best to everyone."
Ranger65 is known around Washington as Robert Gates, the former A&M president turned secretary of defense.
Against Fresno State, McGee completed 13 of 24 passes for only 79 yards. After two weeks, the Aggies are averaging 104 passing yards per game, which ranks 115th nationally out of 119 teams.
"Well, we've got to be better," Franchione said after practice Sunday. "It's not one aspect. It all has to get better. I think we all think it should be better. I think we all believe it will be better. I think it will be timely, and it has to be if we're going to achieve our goals. ... We recognize that fact. We worked on it today, and we'll continue to make it a priority."
It's wrong to say A&M isn't throwing downfield. The Aggies are indeed trying. But for one reason or another, the passing game just isn't working.
A&M employed a balanced attack on the opening possession against Fresno State. McGee completed short passes to Martellus Bennett (4 yards) and Kerry Franks (5 yards).
On first-and-10 from the Fresno State 31, McGee was looking downfield, but Jorvorskie Lane was late picking up a blitz. Thus, a pass intended for Pierre Brown fell incomplete. On the next play, Fresno State's Tyler Clutts batted a pass down at the line of scrimmage.
The Aggies came out in a five-wide receiver formation on third-and-10, and McGee hit Bennett for a 13-yard gain. That play set up Lane's 18-yard touchdown run.
On the next drive, McGee was looking for Franks deep on a crossing route. But the Bulldogs had Franks covered, and McGee's correct progression was to find Bennett. Three more yards.
McGee found Mike Goodson in the second quarter, and Goodson turned the short pass into a 12-yard touchdown reception. But on the next drive, E.J. Shankle dropped a catchable ball. McGee tried to find Earvin Taylor on the next play, but nobody was open.
A&M stuck with the running game in all three overtime periods. McGee attempted only one pass, and that was a ball he threw away to prevent a sack. By that point, the Aggies had decided they were winning or losing the game on the ground. A&M finished with 318 rushing yards and, as Gates pointed out, a W is a W.
"I'm not concerned at all," Bennett said. "If the defense can't stop us from running it, we're going to keep running it."
Center Cody Wallace said this offense will hang its hat on running the football. That's how these Aggies were built, and nothing's going to change overnight. But Franchione knows things must get better.
After all, there are still 10 games left on the schedule.
CONQUERING BY AIR Recent history shows that a team doesn't need a great passing game to win the Big 12, but it has to be better than what Texas A&M has done through two games: Year Big 12 champ Record Scoring avg. Passing YPG (NCAA rank) 2002 Oklahoma 12-2 38.6 202.0 (68th) Sooners also had a suffocating defense led by Derrick Strait 2003 Kansas State 11-4 36.6 212.4 (67th) RB Darren Sproles was electric, and so was QB Ell Roberson 2004 Oklahoma 12-1 34.8 253.7 (27th) QB Jason White had plenty of targets, including Mark Clayton 2005 Texas 13-0 50.2 237.2 (40th) QB Vince Young made plays with his legs, not his arm 2006 Oklahoma 11-3 30.3 191.6 (70th) QB Paul Thompson was asked to manage the game, not lose it