Can 'Canes stop Aggie rushing attack?

The Aggies enter Thursday night's game against Miami with one of the top rushing attacks in the nation. The Hurricanes have been pretty stingy on the ground through the first three weeks. Both teams have something to prove this week at the Orange Bowl.

Stephen McGee, Jorvorskie Lane and Michael Goodson have led the Aggies' rushing attack to 296.3 yards per game, earning the No. 5 spot on the NCAA's list of top rushing offenses through week three of the 2007 season. Miami boasts the No. 34 rushing defense in the nation, allowing just 108.7 yards per game on the ground.

Something's got to give on Thursday night at the Orange Bowl.

A&M may not be statistically balanced as far as the passing and rushing attack is concerned, but they are pretty balanced in terms of ball distribution.

The Aggies are one of only three schools (Navy, West Virginia) with three rushers ranked among the top-100 in the NCAA rushing stats.

McGee leads the way as the No. 4 rushing quarterback in the nation, averaging 87.7 yards per game on the ground. McGee also leads the nation in yards per carry on the ground, averaging 9.1 yards per carry.

But Miami head coach Randy Shannon said that in order to stop the rushing game, the Hurricanes have to stop Lane and Goodson.

"We've got to start with stopping the running backs, and when we get them in passing situations, we have to make sure our guys stay in their pass rush lanes to keep the QB contained," Shannon said.

But that's easier said than done.

Goodson is averaging 82.3 yards per game on the ground with two touchdowns. Lane is averaging just 65 yards per game, but has already scored seven touchdowns in three games. His 14.67 points per game is No. 4 on the NCAA scoring list, which is a big reason for the Aggies' success in the red zone

The key for the Aggies will be overcoming the speed of the Miami defensive front, which is the fastest defense the Aggies have faced this year—and it's not even close.

"They have very good field speed and field awareness," said A&M offensive lineman Kirk Elder. "A lot of that speed comes from recognition of plays and knowing what they're doing. They react really quickly and they bite on plays. They know what they're doing.

"(We have to) play assignment sound football and focus on our technique and assignments. If you're thin on them (blocking with your hands) they may shove you off or outrun you to the ball. We're going to be real thick on them and block them with our bodies, not our hands."

Shannon thinks that the Miami rush defense is ready.

"(The run defense) has been okay, but it wasn't very good last week against the quarterback," Shannon said. "We had a quarterback scramble for 68 yards late in the game. That's one thing you don't want, but overall we've done a good job. OU is a running team, Marshall is a running team, FIU, I don't know if they threw the ball more than 12 or 13 times in that game. Everyone's trying to come in and run the ball and shorten the game a little it."

But has Miami really been that effective against the run?

Sure, allowing just 108.7 yards per game on the ground isn't much, but have they really been tested by a team that really runs the ball like the Aggies?

Marshall is the No. 102 rushing team in the nation, averaging just 82.33 yards per contest. The Thundering Herd managed just 87 yards on the ground against Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA) New Hampshire in their last outing—so don't look for any Doak Walker Award candidates coming out of Marshall.

Oklahoma is a solid running team and gained 116 yards on the ground against the Canes, but that number is skewed thanks to a huge loss that resulted from a botched snap on a punt. That botched snap cost the Sooners a ton of rushing yards that would have made the number a lot larger. Of course, when your quarterback is lighting up the defense for 22-of-28, 295 yards and six touchdown passes through the air, I guess it doesn't matter if you run the ball or not.

Miami's last opponent, Florida International, racked up 159 yards on the ground, but the Golden Panthers are No. 105 on the NCAA's list of rushing offenses, averaging 79.33 yards per game. That same Golden Panthers squad managed just 83 yards against a mediocre Maryland squad and was held to -3 yards rushing by Penn State.

But the Aggies have racked up all of their rushing yards against Montana State, Fresno State and Louisiana-Monroe—which aren't exactly national power houses either.

All that amounts to is that both teams have something to prove this weekend.

Will the Aggies' rushing attack prove to be as dominant as it was last year—even against top competition like Miami? Or will the speed of the Miami defense neutralize the trio of McGee, Lane and Goodson.

Statistically speaking, the numbers are on the Aggies' side.

The nation's top 10 rushing teams have combined for a 22-5 record through the first three weeks of the season, and six of those teams are 3-0.

But then again, that's why they play the games.




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