A&M goes on Big 12 hunt with limited ammunition

Put down the razor blades and spit out that mouthful of sleeping pills. Don't even think about shaping your lasso into a noose or walking frightfully close to the edge of a really tall building. It may seem like the end of your world has arrived, but really it hasn't.

Put down the razor blades and spit out that mouthful of sleeping pills. Don't even think about shaping your lasso into a noose or walking frightfully close to the edge of a really tall building. It may seem like the end of your world has arrived, but really it hasn't.

Really now, who didn't see this coming? It shouldn't really have been that surprising.

Do you know any trophy hunters? When they show you their heads and capes and outrageous racks of horns they always want to tell you the details: Where they bagged their prey, the range, and what weapon and ammunition felled the mighty beast. Have you ever once heard the story of a borrowed .410 downing a stately elk, or ominous bear or any other worthy prize? I haven't either.

That, essentially, is what Aggie football in 2003 comes down to. Both the weapon and ammunition are borrowed, and the prey seems underwhelmed by it all.

Saturday night's embarrassment in Lubbock falls on many heads, the first of which is Dennis Franchione's. While it's true he's working with both a borrowed weapon and someone else's ammunition, he's the one at the trigger. Maybe nothing could have turned the loss into a win, but the magnitude of the defeat should leave no one unscathed.

Who didn't grow tired of A&M's three man pass rush that seldom even annoyed B. J. Symons much less impeded him? Shifting the three around the line before the snap and then dancing two or three other defenders in the gaps served less to slow the Texas Tech track meet than it did to leave the Texas A&M defense out of position again and again. Rush the passer or defend the field, but answering none of the above was not an acceptable.

The biggest fault in all this debacle lies with those who assembled these munitions. While they had no direct hand in planning, the strategy of the game and the lack of firepower, speed and depth didn't happen overnight. That, my friends, was several years in the making and occurred on one single watch.

Watching what unfolded on Fox Sports made me wish for last year when no TV network was interested enough to televise the Aggies and Raiders. There's a certain irony watching the Fox Sports studio show with two of Texas most likable former college football coaches offering their thoughts. The irony of course, one did so much with so little and the other so little with so much.

Where does all this leave the Aggies? Right where no one ever would have guessed. Checking the Big 12 standings you'll find Texas A&M at the bottom of the heap, looking up at not only Texas, but Texas Tech and Baylor as well. Swallow hard, because that one doesn't go down easy. Baylor, this week's opponent, is riding a three game winning streak and looking down at Texas A&M in the standings.

Of the four former Southwest Conference teams absorbed into the Big 12, the Aggies bring up the rear. Forget the conference, and get real. Before things are restored in Aggieland, A&M has to get competitive in their home state.

At the helm the Aggies have a man heralded as a builder and rebuilder of programs; and for him the jury isn't only still out, it's hardly been convened. You have to wonder if at the time of his decision, did Coach Fran realize the enormity of the task at hand?

Before he worries about the Nebraskas, Kansas States, and other members of the Big 12, Fran must concern himself with getting things right, right in his own backyard. Blowout losses to instate foes like Texas Tech register, and they register resoundingly on several levels. Respect is one of those. The other is marketability to high school playermakers, or the ammunition with which Texas A&M needs so desperately to reload.

Just up Highway 6 in Waco, Guy Morris seems to have turned Baylor back into true believers. Grant Teaff did it once before, and who's to say Morris can't turn the Bears back into thorns in many conference foe's sides? Coming off a second half comeback that made Colorado Morris' first conference victim, Baylor has the look of a team that's dangerous--one with little to lose and confidence higher than it's been since Teaff's 1992 departure.

On the plains Mike Leach seems to have more of the same. Lesser caliber weapons may not get you all at once, but they can ultimately inflict a wound that's fatal. Perhaps fewer big time coaches wanted to load up on the talent Spike Dykes left for Leach and upon which he's built, but the system delivers a mortal blow.

Mack Brown pulled out maybe his biggest caliber weapon this past Saturday when he called on Vincent Young to deliver the Longhorns from a potential second home loss of the season. As advertised, Young was lethal to Kansas State with both his arm and legs. Raw he may be, but Young looked unstoppable in leading Texas' fourth quarter rally, leaving them alive in the national championship picture.

Dennis Franchione clearly has his work cut out for him; but surely he knew that going in. With the reinvigorated Baylor Bears this week, and Nebraska and Oklahoma State lining up right behind them, the Aggies will have to call on every weapon at their disposal.

This may get bloody and brutal before it gets better. But until the Aggies have reloaded, they'll be big game hunting with too little ammo. Remember David and Goliath? David showed it can be done; but I'll feel better when Fran goes out elephant hunting and sights in with an elephant gun.

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