Aggies struggling to run--and stop the run

A lack of explosive plays from the running back trio of Goodson, Gray and Stephens is one thing, but not stopping opponents' ground attack is another. Aggie Websider's Dallas Shipp takes a look at the struggles of the Aggies to run the ball and stop others from racking up the rushing yards on them.

Day after day, the practice reports read the same way—(insert your favorite running back's name here) looked really impressive today. Yet, through the first two games of the season, the Aggie running backs have failed to show the same explosiveness that they displayed through August, leaving A&M head coach Mike Sherman somewhat puzzled.

"I'm surprised (at the lack of explosive plays from our running backs)," Sherman said. "I think we have good running backs. And it's not all-offensive line. I think there were opportunities where we could have had more explosive runs. We need to break some tackles. I didn't think we did a very good job of that this last ball game."

Sherman did add that the Lobos' defensive front with extra defenders in the box played a big roll in the Aggies' most recent contest.

"This team played with a lot of guys in the box and that's going to be a lot more difficult. The pass game was what you had to emphasize to get into the end zone because they were going to beat you with population between the tackles. But I did expect us to break a tackle," Sherman said. "A couple of opportunities there we almost did, but didn't quite get it done. I think our longest run was nine or 10 yards on a weak isolation play. Bradley Stephens looked like he was going to break one. But I think we should have more explosive plays."

Mike Goodson, Bradley Stephens and Cyrus Gray combined for 162 rushing yards on 29 total carries, averaging a respectable 5.6 yards per touch. However, the longest rush of the game was a 13-yard run by Goodson, which isn't exactly the kind of explosion Sherman was hoping for when he moved Jorvorskie Lane over to fullback.

Even worse—the trio ran for just 60 yards against Arkansas State, which is definitely not what Sherman had in mind.

Aggies rush defense not much better

As much as the Aggies have struggled to run the ball on offense, their inability to stop the run on defense may be even more troubling.

The Aggies have allowed 235.5 yards per game on the ground in the first two contests of the year, against teams that aren't exactly among the nation's powerhouse programs.

"I'm concerned with that, I think we should be better," Sherman said as a matter of fact. "I think we should be more physical at the point of attack. What helped them this week on the 43-yard run was a matter of a linebacker that didn't fit up in the gap the right way and if we had done that I think it would have been a 2-yard gain."

But that wasn't the only time the Aggies struggled to stop the run. The Lobos ate up considerable yardage throughout the second half, chipping away at the Aggies' lead and nearly having a shot to win the game in the closing minutes had they recovered an onside kick.

"There were some runs there in the first half that I thought we handled pretty well," Sherman said. "I thought we chased the ball extremely well. But in the fourth quarter those 2-yard runs were 5 or 6-yard runs. They oozed extra yardage out of them, which (Arkansas State) did a week before but showed up more in the fourth quarter I think than it did in the first and second quarter. But I do have concerns about that.

But as much as the Aggies have struggled, Sherman still has confidence in defensive coordinator Joe Kines and his staff.

"I know this defense, I've studied it before I hired Joe," Sherman said. "I used to look at it in the past when I was an offensive coach even before I thought about hiring Joe, and once you get everybody on the same page, and get everybody fitted up right and understanding what their responsibility is, I feel very confident that we'll be a good run defense if not a very good run defense. But I think we have to have a better physical presence with our front seven, because I thought our safeties played pretty well in the ballgame."

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