As Ken Wood's punt lay still on the turf and the final seconds ticked off the clock in a 24-17 win over Texas, the 2010 Texas A&M football team accomplished a lot of milestones in recent program history. This was the Aggies first undefeated November since 1997 and the last time they defeated both the Longhorns and the Sooners in the same season. But amazingly, that's not the longest running streak that was broken on Thursday night. The 2010 season includes wins over every Big 12 program in the state of Texas. The Aggies have never swept Texas, Texas Tech, and Baylor in the Big 12 era that goes back to 1996. In fact, one has to check the SWC records to find the last time Texas A&M has made a clean sweep of its lone star brethren, some 16 years ago in 1994.
There were other major milestones reached after Thursday night's win in Austin. A back-up running back less than two months ago before an injury sidelined starter Christine Michael, junior Cyrus Gray has taken his game to another level and emerged as one of the best backs in the Big 12. Against the top unit in the Big 12, Gray shattered the interior of the Longhorn‘s defense to the tune of 223 yards which topped Darren Lewis' total of 212 yards in 1988 for the most rushing yards against Texas in the series' history. It also marks the first 200 yard rushing performance in over 15 years and Gray now holds the No. 5 rushing output in program history. Despite the magnitude of his accomplishments Thanksgiving night, Gray remained humble and brief.
"It was a good performance," Gray said. "But I give credit to the offensive line."
There's no question that this Texas A&M offensive line has come together late in the season and is a major reason for the team's mid-season turnaround, but head coach Mike Sherman was able to give credit to his junior running back.
"Fortunately for us, he was on top of his game today. I can't say enough about him. It is fun to watch him because he does things he has never done before each time he steps out on the field," Sherman said. "He has tremendous humility and respect for his teammates in spite of his own tremendous talents."
While Gray's exploits at DKR Stadium were a pleasant surprise, the big plays on defense by senior Von Miller was business as usual for the veteran who seems to rise to the occasion when the game is on the line. His interception inside the Aggie 10 yard-line in the final minutes of the game preserved the victory. Miller also added three tackles for loss for 20 yards, two sacks, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, and three quarterback hurries. Nobody was more aware of Miller's impact than Texas offensive coordinator Greg Davis.
"Von Miller is an outstanding player. He has a great first step. Most of the night we tried to chip with a back or slide to him, but he is a great player," Davis said. "When you have players like that, they are going to make some plays."
The great performances by Gray and Miller were needed to overcome the mistakes made in special teams which has haunted the Texas A&M coaching staff for the past two seasons. The Aggies thought they had solved the struggles with fielding punts with the emergence of Kenric McNeal, but the swirling wind caused him to misplay one attempt that was recovered by the Longhorns and eventually led to a touchdown. Earlier, a short punt was muffed by the up-man Dustin Harris which led to the Aggies' first turnover of the night. Finally, the Longhorns literally took the ball off the foot of punter Ken Wood inside the Texas A&M 10 yard-line in the fourth quarter, but Texas once again had to settle for a field goal in the red zone and they never got closer than the 24-17 final score.
While many Aggie fans were reveling in the emotion of defeating their in-state rival and in the process keeping the Longhorns out of a bowl game for the first time in the Mack Brown era, head coach Mike Sherman was stoic in his comments after the game and focusing the accomplishments of his team.
"This game had nothing to do with Texas. I have tremendous respect for them. They are an excellent football program," Sherman said. "This win was about maintaining our progression and continuing to win. Coming off the Nebraska game, we weren't focused on beating the Texas Longhorns, we were focused on being the best football team that we could be."
And with the Aggies sitting at 9-3 and closing out the 2010 regular season with wins over Oklahoma, Nebraska, and Texas, it's safe to say that Sherman's team was at its best down the stretch.
News and Notes
• The win was A&M's sixth straight win, all against Big 12 schools. It is the longest current streak in the conference. It is A&M's longest conference winning streak since the Aggies won seven straight in their Big 12 Championship season in 1998. It matches A&M's longest winning streak since the 2004 Aggies won six in a row.
• Thursday's win was Mike Sherman's first-ever win as head coach against the Longhorns (in three tries). A&M has now won three of the last five in the series against the Horns, including two of the last three in Austin.
• Gray became the first Aggie to rush for more than 1,000 yards in a season since 2003 when Courtney Lewis rushed for 1,024 yards. He is the ninth Aggie to log a 1,000-yard season in his career.
• Sophomore Ryan Swope took sole possession of A&M's season catches record. Swope had entered the game tied with Rod Bernstine, who originally set the record of 65 catches in 1986. Swope finished the game with two catches to increase his school record to 67 catches with one game to play.
• RB Cyrus Gray -- Gray had a career night against the Longhorns with a career-high 223 yards on 27 carries, which also marked his sixth-straight games with 100 or more rushing yards. It was the first 200-yard rushing game by an Aggie since Leeland McElroy had 229 vs. LSU. It was the most-ever by an A&M rusher against the rival Longhorns, breaking the old record of 212 set by Darren Lewis in 1988. It was the No. 5 rushing day in A&M history.
• LB Von Miller -- Miller was dominant with two sacks, three tackles for loss (20 yards), a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, three quarterback hurries, and his first career interception that clinched the win. His sacks on Thursday pushed him to the top of the Big 12 sack standings with 10.5.
• OL Jake Matthews -- The true freshman entered the starting lineup in October when veteran lineman Evan Eike injured his ankle. The son of NFL Hall of Fame lineman Bruce Matthews, Jake has made steady improvement in each start and it culminated in a dominating performance against the Longhorns. Matthews had key blocks on both Cyrus Gray touchdown runs, and threw two critical blocks on a running play inside the A&M 3-yard line that allowed the Aggies to run out the first half clock and avoid a potential disaster.
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