Aggie Bye Week Report

The Aggies are off this week as they prepare for next Thursday's nationally televised Big 12 opener in Stillwater against the Oklahoma State Cowboys. Aggie Websider's David Sandhop discusses some news and notes from the week and looks back at the improved defensive performance so far

Return of the Wrecking Crew Defense?

In the 1980's and 1990's, Texas A&M football was defined by the Wrecking Crew defense. While the Aggie offenses of those days struggled to put points on the board, it was the aggressive, stifling defense that held opponents in check and kept Texas A&M in most ball games. In recent years, those roles were reversed as the offense under head coach Mike Sherman flourished under dynamic quarterback Jerrod Johnson and the defense couldn't slow down the opposition. The offense kept the Aggies in most games over the past several years. With Johnson uncharacteristically struggling on Saturday against Florida International, it seemed like old times as the defense rose up and kept the score in check until Johnson and the Aggies could get back on track and secure the 27-20 squeaker.

Johnson threw four consecutive interceptions in the third quarter alone, and when one of those interceptions was returned for a touchdown, the Aggies saw themselves staring at a 20-6 deficit entering the fourth quarter. From that point forward, defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter's defense took control of the game and saw to it that the A&M offense would have plenty of opportunities to score and regain the lead. At the point when A&M fell behind by 14 points, the defense forced five straight punts and only 35 yards of total offense which energized the Kyle Field crowd starving for a disruptive "Wrecking Crew-like" defense. The defensive momentum sparked the offense to 21 unanswered points and a 27-20 victory to avoid a disastrous home loss.

The Texas A&M defensive line continues its dominance in the trenches. Led by senior Lucas Patterson, the unit held Florida International to under 100 yards rushing and forced nine tackles for loss. Through the first three games of the 2010 season, the Aggies rank second in the Big 12 in rush defense giving up 69 yards per contest and just 2.2 yards per rushing attempt. This is a young group as well, with Patterson as the only senior. Juniors Tony Jerod-Eddie, Eddie Brown, and Jonathan Mathis have added quality depth to the rotation which bodes well for continued success next season.

Young Aggies Are Maturing

In 2009, the Aggies were forced to play as many as 18 true freshmen and the immaturity showed in several games. After jumping out to a promising 10-0 lead against Arkansas, a quick score by the Razorbacks shook the confidence of the young Texas A&M team and they went on to an easy 47-19 win. Weeks later in Norman, a feisty Aggie team surprised the Sooners trailing just 14-10 in the second quarter when a fumbled punt opened up the flood gates to 51 unanswered points that left the inexperienced Aggies' spirit broken.

Last Saturday, an older, more experienced Aggie team was faced with the adversity of a 20-6 deficit at the end of the third quarter and staring at a potential devastating home loss against Florida International. Instead of folding their tents like 2009, the 2010 Aggies rose to the challenge. The defense forced five consecutive second half punts and kept the Golden Panther offense in check while the struggling Texas A&M offense gathered themselves and scored 21 unanswered fourth quarter points for the 27-20 win. The Aggies are hoping that newfound maturity will help secure a road win when they travel to Stillwater for the Big 12 opener next Thursday.

Miller Getting Healthy During Bye Week

The bye week has come at a good time for the Aggies. While the team is relatively healthy from serious injury, A&M is battling some nagging sprains and strains that have limited the performance of some of its breakout players. Preseason Big 12 defensive MVP Von Miller sprained his ankle in the season opener against Stephen F. Austin and while he has played in the following two games against Louisiana Tech and Florida International his participation has been limited. According to Miller, his ankle has not been fully healthy and has been closer to 70-80% of normal. With the week off, he's confident he'll be 100% healthy and ready for Oklahoma State next Thursday. The Aggies will need Miller at full speed facing a Cowboy offense that ranks at the top of many NCAA offensive categories. In other injury news, safety Steven Campbell finally returned to full speed practice on Tuesday, but his availability for the OSU game is unknown at this point. Campbell has been sidelined with a foot injury since fall camp. Also on Tuesday, special teams player Aaron Arterburn injured his knee during practice on Tuesday and he may miss the remainder of the season with a suspected ACL tear.

Critical Three Game Stretch

After three home non-conference games to open the season, the Aggies will leave the friendly confines of Kyle Field for nearly a month and won't return until hosting Missouri on October 16. After a bye week, the Aggies go on the road for the first time in 2010 and it won't be easy as they face a red-hot Oklahoma State offense that ranks at the top of the NCAA in several offensive categories. The game will be a Thursday night nationally televised game 0 the Aggies first appearance on TV this season. Texas A&M will then return to the state of Texas and play Arkansas in the new Cowboys Stadium in Arlington the following week before returning to College Station for the Missouri contest. Many observers feel the critical three game stretch of OSU, Arkansas, and Missouri will determine the overall success or failure of the 2010 season. Winning two or more games in this stretch and the Aggies are well on their way to an eight-plus win season which shows tangible improvement within the program. Losing two of the next three games and the Aggies could be struggling to reach last year's six win plateau which will spawn questions about the direction of the program.

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