1) Establish a Consistent Rushing Attack
Johnny's good, but he's not so good that the A&M offense can be successful without an effective running game. For all of this pitch-and-catch that has become the flavor of the month in college football today, the old adage that the teams that can run the ball and stop the run are the teams playing for championships. Just look at the 2:30 game that will decide the SEC West division and probably the national championship. What does Alabama and Auburn have in common this season? I rest my case. The Aggies gave up on the run early in Baton Rouge and the offense struggled the rest of the way because LSU could pin their ears back and bring rush blitzes throughput the second half. Add in the fact that Missouri may have the best front four pass rushers in the SEC, and it is imperative that the Aggies establish a ground game and keep those rushers guessing to some degree.
2) Tackles Need to Earn Their Money
If there's a game that A&M's heralded bookend offensive tackles need to have a good performance, this is the game. Missouri leads the SEC in sacks with a four-man rush and that's a result of their excellent defensive ends. But the Aggies have a Top 5 pick in Jake Matthews and a potential first rounder in Cedric Ogbuehi. This match-up could make Ogbuehi a lot of money, or it could cost him a lot of money. The pair have been good, but not great this season. Hopefully for A&M fans, this challenge on the road will bring out the best in both talented tackles and they have their best outing of the season with every NFL GM watching.
For the first time in the Sumlin era, not only did A&M lose last week in Baton Rouge, but the team lost its cool and composure. That could be seen with the team's two biggest playmakers, Mike Evans and Johnny Manziel. There's no question that the referees were very lenient when it came to excessive contact by the DB's downfield, and Evans lost his cool several times. He was visibly frustrated and pleaded his case to the nearest referee quite often. He was not a major factor in the game, and he dropped a couple of passes that could have resulted in big plays. Manziel had his worst day as an Aggie. Part of that was discussed in No. 1 above with the lack of rushing game, but Johnny missed several big plays and wide open receivers. As he started to press, his decision-making became suspect as he had another bad interception in the red zone and another on a throw-away ball. It will be an electric environment with Missouri senior day and their shot at the SEC east division. A&M will need to block out the excitement and noise, and focus on the task at hand. The Aggies must also get off to a good start and hit Missouri in the mouth, so they will start pressing and doubting themselves.
4) Go For the Singles and Doubles
I know that it's fun to watch Johnny complete 50-yard jump balls to Mike Evans, but with his hand injury and the rush of Missouri, the Aggies need to execute the quick hitters. Complete those 8-10 yarders in the seam. Set-up some passes out in the flat to Trey Williams in space, and surprise the Missouri defense with some quick shots to the tight ends. Tempo is key for this game, and I'm not talking about time between snaps. I'm talking a quick tempo in the passing game. Snap…pop. Snap..pop. Snap…pop.
5) Run Johnny Run
People keep asking me what is the difference between 2012 Johnny and 2013 Johnny in terms of his running ability. He's not getting those big 20, 30, 40-yard scrambles like he had last season. That's simple. When Johnny runs, it's usually a quicker QB draw and the defenders are much closer to the line of scrimmage. When he makes one of his moves to escape the rush, he uses that time to find a receiver downfield, and only after he can't find a target and runs out of time will he tuck and try to a few positive yards before he's sacked. What's missing is his desire to run quickly after he escapes the pass rush the first time, when the pass rushers have lost containment and the DB's are consumed covering receivers far downfield. I'd like to see Johnny realize that he can do his most damage with his feet…not running early, not running late…but running after the first escape. That will lead to some bigger runs, and it will loosen up the Missouri defense. Johnny magic works when he can beat you either with his feet or his arm. This season, it's been just his arm for the most part. That's the difference. For A&M to win this game, old 2012 Johnny must return to the field.
Five Keys to Success - Missouri
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