The offense continues to improve, and on Saturday night the unit put together a complete game for 60 minutes to spoil Iowa State's homecoming by rolling up 509 yards in route to a 49-35 road win. The passing game has improved every week, and the sophomore quarterback and underclass wide receivers have really picked up the new offense and have provided a lot of excitement for the future on this side of the ball. Granted, the Cyclones are weak on defense, but A&M did what they were supposed to do on Saturday and that is to score touchdowns. The Aggies scored touchdowns on seven of their 10 possessions and never had to settle for a field goal. Iowa State's offense generated more yards and never had to punt on the night, but four of their drives resulted in a field goal attempt, and that was the difference in the game.
Amazingly, Texas A&M managed six drives over 50 yards and eight drives over 37 yards. It was easily the most dominant offensive performance on the road in recent program history, and it happened with a sophomore quarterback, a freshman running back, two freshman receivers and a sophomore, a junior tight end, and an injury-riddled offensive line that started a true freshman seeing his first collegiate action. If that doesn't give A&M fans hope for the future on offense, I don't know what will.
Jerrod Johnson was so close to getting an A+, but the fumble kept him one notch below. However, that was the only mistake Johnson made on the night completing 31 of 39 passes for 381 yards and four touchdowns. It's no secret that Johnson's mechanics aren't ideal, and he threw several balls that fluttered and weren't all that pretty in the air, but 85% of the time the pass found its mark. Johnson is also doing a good job of reading the defense and going through his progressions. On one play, Iowa State disguised a blitz and brought a couple of linebackers at the snap. Johnson didn't panic, and quickly picked up Jamie McCoy releasing in the space voided by the linebackers that resulted in a nice gain. I really liked the last touchdown pass to Jeff Fuller when Johnson released the ball just as Fuller was making his cut back. The timing was perfect and both players trusted the route, which is something previous A&M offenses would not do.
Running Back B
It wasn't a spectacular performance by the running backs, but it was a solid effort without the services of Michael Goodson. Cyrus Gray showed a couple of nice cuts and a burst on his 27 yard touchdown run. He finished the game with 69 yards on 14 carries. Keondra Smith had a nice 10-yard run early in the third quarter that contributed to A&M's fifth touchdown that opened up the game. Bradley Stephens ran hard and gained 25 yards on five carries. The running backs all averaged around 5 yards a carry, which is solid. It wasn't eye popping by any stretch, but 120 yards on the ground with this patchwork OL isn't too shabby.
Wide Receiver A
What can you say about a receiving corps that was left for dead back in August, but is now flourishing under the direction of this new offensive management. Freshmen Jeff Fuller and Ryan Tannehill again led the way. Fuller had eight catches for 95 yards and a touchdown while Tannehill notched six receptions for 78 yards. What is even more encouraging is the emergence of Terrence McCoy as a third receiver. He finished with six grabs for 67 yards and the huge 35 yard touchdown in the first quarter to answer Iowa State's first touchdown. Even Howard Morrow is getting about one big play a game as he caught a 22-yard pass. On the day, the receiving unit gained 262 yards on 21 catches. Last year, receivers were accounting for 3-4 receptions a game, and were really a non-factor in most contests. What a difference a year makes. What a difference a philosophy makes.
Tight End A
Jamie McCoy will have his struggles blocking on the line, simply because he's a smaller athlete that built more for skill than power. However, that skills pays dividends many times over in the passing game as Jamie McCoy has become one of Jerrod Johnson's primary targets in the middle of the field and elsewhere. McCoy has become a sure-handed receiver as well. That was evident on Saturday when he blistered the Cyclone defense for 110 yards and two touchdowns on seven catches. Add McCoy to the receiving trio of Fuller, Tannehill, and younger brother Terrence, and Johnson has four legitimate targets downfield. Not bad for a group that had few answers at tight end and receiver last August.
Offensive Line B+
Yeah, I may be grading off a curve for the offensive line, but so be it. The unit is what it is, which is very young and very depleted. They added another freshman to the pile when Joe Villaviscencio made his collegiate debut in place of a struggling Vincent Williams and he performed quite well under the circumstances. For the most part, Johnson had time to find the open receiver. Even on blitz packages, the offensive line held their blocks just long enough for Johnson to find the open man in space. The running backs were consistently getting 3+ yards a carry which indicated that the line was getting decent (certainly not great) push up-front. I thought Lee Grimes had another gritty, positive performance at right tackle. Hopefully, he'll get to move inside next week if Travis Schneider returns to the lineup. That would greatly improve this unit. Still, they held the rope, and you must give credit to Jim Turner for the job he's done holding this group together. It hasn't been pretty, but it could have been a disaster and I think Turner is the reason why they've held together.
Offensive Coaching A
Hey, give the man some credit where credit is due. Coach Sherman knew he needed to keep the pressure on the ISU defense, and he went for it on fourth and 1 from his own 30 yard-line. A punt there and this game could've taken a different turn. Instead, he had faith in the offense to get that yard and go down and take the first lead of the game. The Aggies never trailed in the game, and that was big. Had they punted at that spot, there's a good chance they are down 14-7. But more importantly, the coaching staff is developing and "coaching up" these players on offense and that's the ultimate key for this program and this offense. The offensive players are playing with confidence instilled by a system they believe in. The coaches are calling good play sequences during the game. Basically, it's a successful system to date.
OVERALL OFFENSIVE GRADE A
Hop's Offensive Grades: Iowa State
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