The big news from this game was the shoulder injury to Stephen McGee and the emergence of Jerrod Johnson in his first big game action of his collegiate career. Johnson certainly electrified the Aggies with his three touchdown passes and using his 6-foot-6 frame to quickly see those post routes downfield that McGee has struggled to identify quickly in the past couple of years. But as exciting as those three touchdowns were, Johnson and the offense again went limp in the second half gaining just eight yards in the third quarter and 39 yards in the fourth quarter. He also has some mechanics issues and his footwork is not crisp. However, he made enough big plays to win a road game, so this was a big accomplishment. Overall, I felt it was a solid first game effort. It wasn't great, but it was solid.
Running Back D
I know success at the running back spot has a lot to do with the blocking up-front, but the unit that was supposed to carry the load for this offense has been very pedestrian so far this season. I would have laughed had someone told me that this talented backfield would generate a long run of 16 yards against Arkansas State and New Mexico. But that's the reality after two games, and if this team is to be successful on offense, guys like Cyrus Gray, Michael Goodson, and Bradley Stephens must make big plays. On Saturday, the running backs combined for 82 yards on 30 carries for a dreadful 2.7 yards/carry average. And the offense abandoned throwing the ball to the backs as well, completing just three passes for 17 yards. If those numbers don't improve dramatically, this will be a long season.
Wide Receiver C
The good news is the emergence of Jeff Fuller as a downfield weapon. His grab over the Lobo defensive back in the corner of the end zone was a great play that reminded me of those Robert Ferguson fade route catches earlier this decade. He also added a diving 21-yard touchdown catch on a post route that put the Ags up 14-0.
Receiver/quarterback Ryan Tannehill again led the receivers with decent game catching three passes for 57 yards. Terrence McCoy was the only returning pass catcher to get on the board with two grabs for 20 yards. Howard Morrow almost made a great catch down the sideline for 40 yard, but he couldn't quite get a handle on the ball. It would have been a great catch, but every good passing team needs a receiver who makes the tough plays. The Aggies don't have that deep threat playmaker. Fuller may emerge as that threat across the middle of the field and in the end zone, but the speed guy just isn't there in 2008 and that will handcuff this offense to some degree.
Tight End C-
The highlight of the game was a crucial 9-yard touchdown catch by Jamie McCoy on a third down that would eventually be the game winner early in the fourth quarter. That was the only production at tight end for the game. McCoy still needs work with his blocking. Coach Sherman needed more blocking at the spot, so he moved Danny Baker to the position and was used quite often in double tight end formations and other run situations.
Offensive Line D+
As was the case last week, the offensive line came out early and established a consistent ground game that moved the first down markers. However, as the game wore on, the push wasn't there and the lanes were shut down in the running game while Jerrod Johnson was harassed all day in the pocket by the Lobos pass rush. When the offense can only muster a paltry 236 yards of total offense and the ground game averages only 2.4 yards per carry, you have to look at the offensive line because with those numbers it's clear that the Aggies did not win the battle up-front in the trenches.
Unfortunately, this will likely be an area of concern all season as this team just doesn't have the horses, especially at tackle. Thus, pass protection might be an issue all season.
Offensive Coaching D
The two most disappointing aspects of this game were the sloppiness of the execution in terms of false starts and delay of game penalties, and the lack of creativity in the play calling. One of the few bright spots in last week's game against Arkansas State was their flawless execution of the offense in game management with no offensive penalties and really very little confusion in getting the plays called and getting the right packages on the field. After such a clean season opener, the offense took a step backward with several false starts, delay of game penalties, and confusion several times in the second half that forced Texas A&M to burn all three timeouts early in the half. Luckily, the Aggies didn't need those timeouts in crunch time.
I was also disappointed in the lack of creativity in play calling. Certainly, a portion of that was due to Jerrod Johnson seeing his first significant collegiate action at quarterback (not including snaps in trash time last season), but the offense did not create mismatches and did not attempt to get the playmakers at running back in space. The running game didn't open up because the unit did not do a good job of spreading the field and creating that space.
OVERALL OFFENSIVE GRADE D+
Hop's report card - Offense
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