Aggies Overcome Adversity on the Road

The Texas Aggie football team found itself trailing by 16 points in the first half against a fired-up Baylor squad in front of a rabid Floyd Casey Stadium crowd. With a 21-0 run in the second half to beat back the Bears, the Aggies may have done more than win a conference game - they may have found their heart.

It appears that the Texas A&M football program may have grown up Saturday night in Waco in front of a raucous Floyd Casey Stadium crowd. The Aggies have won some big games by their standards in the Mike Sherman era. Just last week, Texas A&M took down the No. 8 Oklahoma Sooners at home 33-19. In 2009, the Aggies went into Lubbock and caught Mike Leach's nationally ranked squad off-guard and cruised to an easy 52-30 win. That win was certainly more improbable than last Saturday's 42-30 victory over Baylor. However, the question with this program since 2009 has been its ability (or inability) to handle pressure and adversity on the road.

In 2009, a young, feisty Aggie team was giving the Sooners all they wanted in Norman trailing just 14-10 midway through the second quarter. But a muffed punt and a quick Oklahoma score dazed Texas A&M and the team folded like a cheap tent giving up 28 unanswered points in a 10 minute span in the second quarter in route to a 65-10 thrashing. In that same season, early turnovers in Manhattan, Kansas allowed Kansas State to jump out to a 10-0 lead and the youthful Aggies completely disappeared in a shocking 62-14 white washing. The Aggies held a 10-point fourth quarter lead over a mediocre Colorado team and gave up 14 points in the final eight minutes to lose another 2009 road game. And finally, in 2010 in Stillwater against Oklahoma State, the Aggies turned it over five times including an interception in the final minute while marching for the winning score to blow yet another crucial game on the road.

So history wasn't on Texas A&M's side this Saturday when Baylor jumped out to a 30-14 first half lead. The Bears were controlling the line of scrimmage and pounding the ball down the defense's throat while the offense constantly shot itself in the foot with costly penalties. All signs pointed to another collapse in front of a rabid Baylor crowd smelling blood in the water as the Bears lined up for a field goal at the end of the half that would have given the Bears a comfortable 33-21 lead and the ball to start the second half. But, the Aggies were the ones who rose up, blocked the kick, and went into halftime on an emotional high.

In the first half, the Baylor offense ran all over the Aggie defense to the tune of 367 yards and 30 points. However, under the leadership of defensive veterans Von Miller and Michael Hodges and a few tweaks from defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter, the defense stopped the bleeding and went on the offensive in the second half. Instead of folding, the defense stiffened by putting pressure on Robert Griffin and rattling his cage with several big hits that seemed to unnerve the Baylor signal caller. In the end, the Aggies managed to hold the Bears to 136 yards and no points in the final 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, the Texas A&M offense methodically picked apart the Baylor defense through the air and on the ground. Cyrus Gray finished with 137 yards and four touchdowns as a determined Aggie offense manhandled the Bears in the second frame and scored 21 unanswered points in the half and 28 unanswered points since Baylor was looking to run the Aggies out of Waco at 30-14 midway through the second quarter. What a difference a year of maturity makes on the road under hostile conditions. What a difference four consecutive wins make in a season that looked all but lost at 3-3 and 0-2 in the Big 12 just a month ago. Now, the Aggies are flying high and still in the Big 12 title hunt, and the team is confident with the No. 7 Nebraska Cornhuskers set to visit College Station next weekend on national television in prime time. Yes, what a difference a year makes.


News and Notes

Coryell Judie's 84-yard kickoff return for a touchdown gave him TD returns in back-to-back games, which had never been done by a Texas A&M player. Judie became one of a select group of Aggies with multiple kickoff return TDs in a season. Last week, Judie had a school-record 100-yarder in the Aggies' win over Oklahoma. For the season, Judie has seven returns for 279 yards (39.9 average) and the two TDs.

• Receiver Jeff Fuller grabbed sole possession of A&M's record for consecutive games with at least one catch. Fuller has now made a catch in 30 straight games, which is every game of his career. The record was originally set by tight end Martellus Bennett, who made a catch in 29 consecutive games from 2005-2007.

• The Texas A&M defense hasn't been dominant in recent weeks, but they've been good when it counts in the red zone. With three goal line stands last week, the Aggies held OU to 2-of-6 in red zone scoring chances. That trend continued against Baylor with the defense turning back the Bears twice in the red zone. In the last two weeks, the defense has allowed a meager 4-of-10 scores when opponents reach the red zone. Heading into last weekend, Texas A&M was second in the Big 12 in red zone defense at 63.6%.


Game Balls

• Junior Cyrus Gray scored a career-high four times against the Bears while posting his fourth consecutive 100-yard rushing game. With a career-high 137 yards on 28 carries, Gray became the first Aggie rusher to post four straight 100-yard game since Rodney Thomas did it against LSU, Oklahoma, Missouri and Texas Tech in 1993.

• While there were several players with better statistics on the night, the MVP of this game could very well be Jeff Fuller for making one of the most acrobatic catches in college football this season. With the Aggies trailing 30-21 with six minutes remaining and the offense facing a third down and nine from the Baylor 43 yard line, QB Ryan Tannehill appeared to over shoot Fuller at the 25. But Fuller leaped high and with one hand snagged the ball out of the air to extend the drive. In fact, Cyrus Gray scored on the next play to make it 30-28. Without that catch, it's questionable whether the Aggies comeback and win the game.


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