Surely the game after facing the top offense in the nation should seem like a breather for a defense, right? Not when the next game is against a team that put up 62 points the previous week. The Texas A&M Aggies enter Manhattan with a little momentum and a lot of talent at the quarterback position.
"They offer some things we haven't seen in the past weeks. They have an excellent balanced offense." How balanced is the A&M offense? The unit, which is third in the Big 12 in scoring, is second in the Big 12 in rushing, at over 238 yards per game, and also second in the Big 12 in passing, at over 252 yards per game. McNeal is currently fifth in individual rushing in the league, and second in the league in total offense.
McNeal will be a key focus for the Wildcat defense, which has yet to face a true dual-threat quarterback this season. "Reggie McNeal is a very talented young guy," Snyder said. "He presents some problems with the pass, but he also presents some problems with the option and the quarterback run game." McNeal is currently averaging 84 rushing yards per game, behind only Missouri's Brad Smith quarterbacks in the nation.
A staple in the Aggies' offense is the option, and, accordingly, Snyder said maintaining option responsibilities would be key. "If you focus all your attention on (McNeal), he hands it or pitches it to somebody else, and they can beat you that way."
Snyder also expressed concern in McNeal's ability to scramble on passing plays. "You've got to keep him in the pocket," Snyder said. "Then you have to have enough pass rush that he doesn't have a day-and-a-half to throw."
McNeal is coming off a week in which he compiled 413 yards of total offense, including 150 yards on the ground. "We got to be able to control his ability to get out of the pocket and throw the football," Snyder said. The Wildcats pass rush, which has totaled ten sacks on the season, will need to step up to contain McNeal. Snyder said the team has struggled when rushing just the four down-linemen, but has done considerably better when blitzing one or two players.
Even with a strong pass rush, the defenders making it into the opposing backfield will have to take a different approach. With the pass-happy Texas Tech offense, it was all about getting to the quarterback and disrupting throws. With A&M, the players realized things would be a little different. "With Reggie McNeal you can't really go and attack him, because he has serious moves," senior defensive tackle Quentin Echols said.
"He's a very, very good quarterback," safety Marcus Watts said. "He can throw a good ball. He's elusive." Watts said the Wildcats were fortunate to face two quarterbacks with similar skills, Allan Evridge and Allen Webb, in spring practices and two-a-days. "It's going to be a difficult challenge, but at least we've seen athletes like Reggie McNeal."
What will be the key for the Wildcats' defense in
facing yet another high-powered offense? Watts said
the Wildcats can't afford to let their mistakes from
the Texas Tech loss carry over. "We've got to get
(the mistakes) corrected, and not let them continue to
affect us, like they have been doing all year," Watts
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