This team is built for the run. This team has one of the most experienced offensive line units in the country, the same line that gained a combined 450+ yards against this same OU defense the past two years combined. This team added a playmaking speed back to its arsenal last season, and he reeled off a couple of big runs against this same OU defense last year. So why did basically the same cast of characters that are a year older, a year wiser, and a year stronger struggle to gain over a 100 yards on the ground in 2007?
Could it be that the newness of this scheme has worn off and Big 12 opponents are now seeing this zone read triple option for the third time and have figured out how to defend it? Could it be that turmoil has hit the Aggie team, especially at running back where Michael Goodson stood on the sideline for the first half seemingly healthy and apparently not playing for non-medical reasons?
Whatever the answer, at this point it really doesn't matter because after five years all that matters are the final results, and Saturday was another in many losses to OU, Tech, and Texas in the Franchione era.
Actually, based on last year's recipe for success, I think the defense has had its moments this season. On Saturday, they came out and were very physical with the Sooners up-front and they had a little attitude in stuffing the OU offense and forcing punts on their first two drives.
If you look back, the defense did the same thing to Texas Tech and Kansas. Yet, the offense was abysmal and put more and more pressure on the defense and they finally snapped. On Saturday, that snap occurred on the muffed punt return that set-up a short field for OU that led to the game's first touchdown. And we all know that this Dennis Frachione-coached team is not one built to come from behind, especially on the road against a Top 5 team.
A&M needed a perfect game from an execution standpoint, and then hope for some turnovers and gifts from OU. The opposite happened. The Aggies lost the turnover battle 2-0, and that's basically all she wrote when you add in the difficulties running the ball.
Again, A&M needs more than a running quarterback from its offensive leader. Most of McGee's 155 yards passing came on the game's meaningless final two scoring drives. Without the threat of throwing downfield, everything else in this offense breaks down.
Obviously, running back has been the year's biggest disappointment. With Goodson out and Keondra Smith in, the running backs managed a whopping 57 yards among them. The two-headed monster of Lane and Goodson netted 28 yards apiece.
I don't know whether to blame the lack of downfield passing on the receivers, the quarterback, or the offensive scheme. On second thought, there's enough ineptitude to go around to all three. E.J. Shankle had a couple of nice catches which is nice to see from the underclassman, but far too little and way too late.
Oh what could have been with the Legion of Doom. They finished with a combined five catches for 77 yards, including a very nice 23 yard TD catch in the back of the end zone by Bennett. Again, it was at the end of the game with the game out of reach.
You just have to shake your head at what has happened to one of the most heralded offensive line units in the preseason. Coming off a Top 8 rushing performance in 2006, every starter returned in 2007. However, in every big game (Miami, Kansas, OU) the line has not performed well and the vaunted A&M rushing attack has faltered.
OVERALL OFFENSIVE GRADE: D-
If there's one unit that I think is playing solid football for the most part, it's the defensive line. Not only did they do a good job of stuffing the OU run in the first quarter, but they also put some occasional pressure on the pocket. However, once OU took the lead, some running lanes opened up and Bradford had time to hit his tight end running free throughout the secondary.
I thought Mark Dodge made a couple of nice stops near the line of scrimmage in those first couple of drives that the Aggies stuffed. Dodge and Tupe combined for 13 tackles. Featherston didn't pick up the tight end on OU's first short TD pass inside the 5 yard-line. It was a decent, yet unspectacular game for the linebackers.
There are things in life we can't explain. How do birds know when it's time to fly south for the winter? Why do your kids automatically need to tee-tee after you just spent 10 minutes getting them dressed? Whatever happened to Brad Lidge, and why can't the Texas A&M secondary cover a tight end? Another thing hit me on Sunday as I'm watching rookie Melvin Bullitt of the Colts effectively break up a pass against arguably the best receiver in the world, Randy Moss. Why couldn't he do that at A&M? Well, I think we know the answer to that. Oh, and that was great coverage by Marquis Carpenter and it was a bogus interference call.
OVERALL DEFENSIVE GRADE: C-
I'm not going to say that the muffed punt cost A&M the game because the Aggie offense showed no signs of life anyway, but it certainly didn't help and it broke the spirit of the defense that held on to the rope until that point. Bottom line, this team must have net positive outcomes from its special teams, and instead it went the other way. One quiet little note. The kickoff return team is having a solid year.
OVERALL SPECIAL TEAMS: D
Hop's Report Card - Oklahoma
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