Sherman, A&M at Crossroads

After another mistake-filled close loss to a ranked team, Mike Sherman and the Texas A&M football team is at a crossroads in the 2010 season. Aggie Websider's David Sandhop takes a look back at Saturday's game with Arkansas and discusses the dilemma the team faces at the quarterback position.

It's the same song, different verse for the Texas A&M football program. With another chance to show the football world that they've turned the corner under third year head coach Mike Sherman, the Aggies once again put up a valiant effort against a ranked opponent but eventually fell to the No. 11 Razorbacks 24-17.

The Texas A&M defense continues to show significant improvement over last year's unit that finished a dismal No. 114 in the nation in total defense. Tim DeRuyter's bunch faced two of the most explosive offenses in the country from the Big 12 and SEC, and in both games has held their own limiting both teams below their season averages in yards and points.

On Saturday, the defense started sluggishly, surrendering two touchdowns on Arkansas' first three possessions of the game. However, Tim DeRuyter's unit made the proper adjustments, got pressure Ryan Mallett, and held the potent Razorback offense to just three points and 125 yards of total offense in the second half. It also helped that the A&M defense sandwiched those two scores with an interception returned to the Arkansas two yard-line by cornerback Terrence Frederick that set-up the Aggies' first touchdown of the game that kept them in the game.

But despite the defensive success, all eyes are squarely on Jerrod Johnson and the Texas A&M offense. Coming off a productive 2009 campaign that garnered a Top five national ranking and many of the main components returning, the offense has suddenly become the main area of concern and it all starts with the struggles of the preseason Big 12 offensive MVP. In weeks three and four, the issue was turnovers. Johnson threw a combined eight interceptions, fumbled a ball that resulted in a critical defensive touchdown and then threw the fatal interception in the final minute that led to the winning field goal in last week's 38-35 loss to Oklahoma State.

Well, Johnson did protect the ball on Saturday against Arkansas. He didn't throw an interception until the last play of the game on a desperation Hail Mary. However, Johnson played more conservatively and seemed to focus solely on Jeff Fuller as his only receiver of choice. In fact, only four completions went to receivers outside of Fuller, and two of those came in the last minute with Arkansas in prevent defense.

The rumors about Johnson's shoulder problems are growing louder and louder with each sub-par performance. In a season of promise and hope where an Aggie defense deep in a decade-long hibernation has suddenly awakened in 2010, Texas A&M is still having troubles getting over the hump and all signs point to Johnson's recent efforts as a major culprit. On Saturday, he completed just 15-of-40 passes and in this three game skid he has completed fewer than 50% of his passes (66-of-133) and has thrown nine interceptions, a far cry from Heisman hopeful numbers. But more importantly, Johnson's performance is now compromising the 2010 season, one filled with promise especially with the emergence of a well-respected defense.

But there are other veterans on offense that are struggling with ball security. Christine Michael turned the ball over once again on Saturday which makes four times that the starting sophomore running back has put the ball on the turf this season. While Jeff Fuller had a career day with eight receptions for 154 yards, he also turned the ball on a critical play when he was trying to gain extra yards after a short pass completion. In all, the Aggies have committed a bloated 18 turnovers in the past four games after opening the season with an error-free contest against Stephen F. Austin. In looking back, it's amazing that the Aggies stayed within a score of Oklahoma State and Arkansas while turning it over nine times.

The pressure is squarely on head coach Mike Sherman. Despite a program that has shown significant improvement in almost every phase of the game, he's now faced with a 3-2 record with four nationally ranked teams still on the 2010 docket. Many Aggie fans and donors were looking for a breakout year in 2010 with 8-9 wins on the season. That number is still feasible, but the margin for error has been exhausted...and unfortunately for Sherman, this team has made a lot of errors so far. It doesn't make the task any easier that a red-hot Missouri squad is coming to College Station on a roll after smothering Colorado on Saturday.

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