The Texas A&M football team got off on the right foot in Saturday's season opener with a resounding 41-6 victory over the New Mexico Lobos and new coach Mike Locksley. The offense came out of the gates on fire marching down the field 74 yards in the season's first drive to snatch an early 7-0 lead. After struggles in the next three series, the first team scored on its next six consecutive drives to put this one far out of reach. The 606 yards of total offense set a new record for season openers, and the production was somewhat balanced with 361 yards through the air and 245 yards on the ground. But the most important accomplishment on the night for the offense was ball security. The Aggies didn't turn it over at all, and that stat will win you a lot of ball games. Here's a breakdown by position for the offense. We'll look at the defense later today.
Jerrod Johnson had a good first half. He had a great second half. You can't argue his statistics for the game as a whole, completing 76% of his passes and throwing for 349 yards and two touchdowns. What really stands out for Johnson isn't the production as he threw for quite a few yards last year, but rather he did it without turning the ball over all night. Turnovers were his Achilles heel last season, so playing a clean first game is a big step for the second year starter. He also added 57 net yards on the ground and I thought he did a good job in his decisions to leave the pocket and run. He didn't take off too soon or hang in the pocket too long. In A&M's second, third, and fourth series, Johnson was a little sloppy, and he tended to under throw his short passes even though the receivers did a good job of picking the passes clean off the grass. Despite these small hiccups, Johnson played a superb game. There's still room for improvement, so the final grade is just short of the elusive A+.
Running Back A-
For the first quarter and a half, the running backs struggled to gain yards between the tackles. In fact, during that span, Cyrus Gray and Christine Michael combined eight yards on seven carries. At that point, the Aggies finally went wide with Michael and he burst through for 20 yards. That seemed to loosen up the Lobo defense as the true freshman took the next handoff up the middle as if he were shot out of a cannon and rumbled an additional 24 yards. From that point on, the running game had its way with New Mexico racking up 245 yards. Michael had the sexy 360 degree spin moves, but Gray showed a more aggressive running style than last year and appeared a little faster. In fourth quarter action, Bradley Stephens looked like a legitimate Big 12 back gaining 49 yards on only six carries.
Wide Receiver A+
What a difference a year makes. Last August, Coach Sherman had no idea where he was going to get warm bodies at receiver, much less playmakers. A year later, six Aggie receivers caught 24 passes for 293 yards including eight receptions by the freshman trio of Uzoma Nwachukwu, Kenric McNeal, and Brandal Jackson. But while the wealth was spread around to the fish, when it counted Johnson looked for his two veterans, Jeff Fuller and Ryan Tannehill, who played primarily in third down situations. Despite a slow start, Fuller managed double digit grabs (10) for 111 yards and a touchdown. Tannehill's 40 yards on three receptions sounds fairly benign until a closer look shows that all three catches came on third down plays, two of those resulting in a first down and the other setting up a Randy Bullock field goal. When the offense needed a big play, Fuller and Tannehill delivered. The receivers got open, and made plays with very few drops. This was a complete effort from top to bottom, from old to young.
Tight End A-
I thought Jamie McCoy played well and his blocking has improved. He also had a couple of difficult low passes thrown from Johnson that he snagged. He finished as the seconding leading pass catcher in the game behind Fuller with five receptions for 44 yards. McCoy also looked pretty good blocking out of the backfield when he lined up in the fullback position in the I-formation. Kenny Brown looks like he'll contribute in a back-up role. He had a catch late in the game for 12 yards.
Offensive Line B-
The line got off to a slow start in the first half. Matt Allen picked up two holding penalties and a false start, and it took until the middle of the second quarter before the ground game could get going with some successful power sweeps. Hard to knock any unit that contributes to a 606 yard effort, but as expected the OL has some issues at tackle both with the first string guys and with depth. In a closer game, four holding calls would be a back breaker. The unit needs to clean it up, and frankly the Ags need one of the true freshman tackles (Barrera, Scales) to develop into contributors over the next four weeks prior to the Arkansas game. If the line can elevate its play (and that's a big "if"), this offense has the ability to be the best in the Big 12.
What can you say about this staff in game one? You expect some hiccups on the sideline, maybe a couple of delay of game calls or an ill-advised timeout early in a half, but A&M did not have any execution problems on the sideline. I also thought the staff called a very nice game on both sides of the ball, with a balanced attack on offense and a multiple look on defense going back and forth between the 4-3 and 3-4. It's not until you see other teams like Colorado struggle with getting plays called and other tactical miscues that you can really appreciate just how well the A&M coaching staff prepared for this game. Both the players and the coaches were ready. The A&M team we saw Saturday was a well-coached team.
New Mexico Game Grades - Offense
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