Texas A&M Aggies brace for revved-up Texas Tech Red Raiders

Posted Friday, Oct. 17, 2008  comments  Print Reprints
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Game 6 rewind: Kansas State 44, Texas A&M 30

The good news: With the ground game struggling again, quarterback Jerrod Johnson had a career day, setting school records for passing yards (419) and total offense (487) while throwing for two touchdowns and running for another. Often operating out of a spread look with an empty backfield, Johnson's favorite targets were Ryan Tannehill, who set a freshman record with 12 catches for 210 yards and a TD, and Jeff Fuller. True freshman Randy Bullock replaced injured kicker Richie Bean and converted his first field-goal attempt, a 26-yarder.

The bad news: Tackling problems continue to plague the Aggies, who allowed backup tailback Logan Dold to become the sixth player this season to rush for more than 100 yards against them. Quarterback Josh Freeman did much of his damage on the ground, rushing for four TDs, but he also completed 21 of 26 pass attempts for 234 yards. Texas A&M had another special teams disaster -- this time a blocked punt for a touchdown that gave the Wildcats an early 14-3 lead. Even worse, the Aggies sent three offensive linemen (Travis Schneider, Michael Shumard and Robbie Frost) to the sideline with injuries, forcing guard Lee Grimes to play three positions in the game. Schneider and Shumard were in walking boots early this week, and their status for Saturday's game is uncertain.

What they said

"I do believe we’re making progress offensively. Our players are falling into what we are trying to accomplish, particularly from a passing-game standpoint. We have to be more efficient trying to run the football. We were in an empty backfield about 50 times in the ballgame. That can be very damaging going against a really good pass-rush group because they just have to put their ears back and rush the quarterback. We were fairly efficient at it, but I don’t know that you can bank on that every single week." -- Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman on the Aggies' improving offense

We have to avoid the penalties and turnovers. For the most part, we shot ourselves in the foot from the beginning. We need to try to cut back on the mental and physical mistakes and try not to get ourselves in a hole early." -- Aggies quarterback Jerrod Johnson on falling behind early the past two weeks

This week's matchup

Texas Tech (6-0, 2-0 Big 12) at Texas A&M (2-4, 0-2)

When: Saturday, 11 a.m.

Where: Kyle Field, College Station

TV/Radio: FSN Southwest/KFXR 1190-AM

The line: The Aggies are a 20.5-point underdog

Last meeting: Texas Tech 35, Texas A&M 7 in Lubbock last season

Three things to watch

1. The scoreboard. Mike Sherman believes his team is due for "something special" to happen, but it's hard to imagine the Aggies suddenly solving their defensive problems against the nation's most explosive offense. In the midst of a 56-28 loss to Oklahoma State two weeks ago, some fans were already wondering what kind of damage Tech and Oklahoma would be able to do. We're about to find out. The Red Raiders scored 56 on the Aggies in 2005 and 59 in 2003, but those games were in Lubbock. In case you're wondering, the most points scored by an opponent at Kyle Field is 57 by Texas in 1977.

2. Head games. Although Mike Sherman hinted that Stephen McGee might return this week, giving the Red Raiders a little something extra to prepare for, sophomore Jerrod Johnson appears to be getting into a rhythm. Will the Aggies play both quarterbacks? It probably won't matter if they can't establish the run. They are averaging 126 rushing yards per game, which ranks 86th nationally and 10th in the Big 12.

3. The running Raiders. That's right, Texas Tech can run the ball too. A&M defensive coordinator Joe Kines said Baron Batch and Shannon Woods run as hard as any backs he's seen in a long time, which only makes life harder for an Aggies defense that ranks 111th out of 119 teams in the nation in rushing defense. Opposing teams have rushed for at least 215 yards in five of the six games this season.

Did you know?

* Texas Tech has scored at least 30 points in 10 consecutive games, which leads the nation. Texas is second with nine.

* The Aggies have outgained their opponents in total yardage in the past three games after being outgained by a combined 282 yards in the first three games.

* Only one freshman has ever led Texas A&M in receiving -- Richard Osborne in 1972. That's almost certain to change this season as redshirt freshman Ryan Tannehill (28 for 201) and true freshman Jeff Fuller (24 for 324) are far and away the top pass catchers after six games.

By the numbers

11 -- Interceptions this season by the Red Raiders defense, which ranks third in the nation and is one more than they had in the entire 2007 season.

17 -- First-down catches by Ryan Tannehill, just ahead of Jeff Fuller's 14.

170 -- Receiving yards by Texas Tech's Michael Crabtree in last season's win over the Aggies.

200.1 -- Difference in average yards produced by the two offenses. Texas Tech averages 556.3 yards per game, while Texas A&M averages 356.2.

What they're saying
I think it’s a coach showing confidence in a very veteran team, and a belief in what they’re doing. And also in their ability to get it. He has a lot of confidence they can get that first down. I think if you’re able to do that with the talent you have, it sends a great message to your team.” -- Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman on Texas Tech coach Mike Leach's tendency to go for it on fourth down from any position on the field

“We’ve had some trouble playing early games, especially on the road, and it will be a challenge to get up and be ready to go earlier. It’s something we need to address and make sure everybody’s ready to go. Coach [Lincoln] Riley said he was going to call all of us early this week and wake us up to get into the rhythm for next week, but he didn’t get very many good responses from the receivers about that idea.” -- Texas Tech wide receiver Eric Morris on the 11 a.m. start

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