Compared to the success of the offense in recent weeks, the unit's performance was sub-par in terms of yards and efficiency. Going into Saturday's contest, the Aggies were averaging 440 yards per game and they were coming off a 509 yard effort against Iowa State on the road. The offense managed 308 yards against Colorado. In addition, A&M completed only 48% of passes and the 214 yards through the air was the lowest total in conference play.
Once again, A&M could not put together four quarters of football. In fact, all three touchdowns were scored in the third quarter alone. In the other three quarters combined, the offense managed just 102 yards, and 26 yards came on the last series on the game when the Aggies ran out the clock.
So with all of these below average statistics, how did the Aggies win? That's an easy one. They made big plays, which is something this unit struggled with early in the season. In that pivotal third quarter, the future of this Aggie offense for the next 2-3 years showed why there's so much optimism around the Bright Complex. While many A&M Internet communities have questioned Cyrus Gray's explosion and ability to make the big play, in the past two weeks he's cashed in on a 27-yard touchdown run at ISU and a 54-yard run that set up another score in the third quarter. Jeff Fuller continues to improve and now adds big play ability to his resume' with a picture perfect 59-yard strike from Jerrod Johnson and more importantly he avoided the tackle and finished off the play which is so critical in football.
In the end, the offense did enough to win the football game. However, it was the offense leaning on the defense for support which is something new in 2008.
I thought this was one of Johnson's sub-par efforts compared to the strides he made in recent weeks. In the first half, I felt there was not much energy with the offense and it showed in the numbers gaining only 82 yards with three drives of -1, 0, and -3. Johnson completed almost 80% of his passes against ISU, but he fell below the 50% mark on Saturday. Overall, I felt Johnson played tentatively for much of the game and tended to float several balls where his receivers bailed him out, particularly on the pass to Tannehill where he was double-teamed in the middle of the field and he somehow fought off both defenders for the ball. There was another pass to Tannehill and one to Terrence McCoy that I felt were thrown too softly and too late.
Now contrast that to the third quarter when he threw a beautiful tight spiral dead on the money to Fuller, and then there was the 32-yard touchdown pass to Tannehill just over the arms of the outstretched Buffalo safety. When it's all said and done, despite some of the mistakes, he still threw three touchdown passes and the Aggies won the game. That's the name of the game. However, I think we can all admit that the Aggies won't win against OU with one quarter of good football and a completion percentage under 50%.
Running Back B-
The backs are having troubles finding space to run, so there wasn't much production against an active front four for Colorado. However, the running backs get a B- for two plays. First, was Cyrus Gray's 54-yard run that set up a 3rd quarter touchdown. I also thought he made a great cut and showed explosion on his misdirection to the outside and turned on the speed down the sideline past the pursuit. Finally, a safety with the angle tripped him up. I think that run showed that Gray can be a playmaker at running back and he has the moves and speed to get it done in this conference. Second, Jorvorskie Lane's game clinching first down on a second, third, and fourth effort was big. No other running back in the Big 12 makes that play. Bt on the flip side, lane disappointed me with his lack of blocking on Saturday, which had been good at times. Saturday was not one of those times.
Wide Receiver A
What can you say about this unit that hasn't been said already. Well, I can think of one. This unit has become dependable in the short and medium routes, but they proved on Saturday they can produce the homerun ball. Jeff Fuller used his body perfectly to gain separation at the last second to catch Johnson's throw and avoid one tackler to the end zone. That was an NFL play he made, and barring injury or other unforeseen circumstances, Fuller will play in the NFL. Ryan Tannehill made an improbable 32-yard catch over the top of a safety that at first looked like an interception. The receivers continue to mature and get better every week, and that should have Aggie fans ecstatic.
Tight End B+
Jamie McCoy finished the day with only three catches, but two of those were completed on third down and moved the chains. Also, McCoy is improving in his blocking and I think he's setting himself up to compete for all-conference honors next season.
Offensive Line C-
Travis Schneider returned at right tackle, but Lee Grimes hurt his hand and missed part of the game. The line was pushed around and manhandled by a surprisingly tough Buff defensive line, especially at the interior spots with Evan Eike and Vincent Williams at the guard positions. Jerrod Johnson was sacked five times, and he was hurried and forced to throw the ball away on several other occasions so the protection was not where it needs to be. Holes for the running game were few and far between, gaining all of 94 yards and 54 yards coming on one play. But we knew there would be problems here, and the line again held the rope long enough in that third quarter for the skill players to make big plays and win the ball game.
Offensive Coaching A-
The playcalling was solid as usual, and there's no questioning the development going on at most positions. Some fans were complaining that A&M got too conservative late in the fourth quarter, but the offense tried to throw the ball several times without success because the pressure on Johnson was disrupting plays. Rarely have I had any complaints about what the offense is trying to accomplish.
OVERALL OFFENSIVE GRADE B
Hop's Offensive Grades
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