The Aggies needed to beat Baylor for many reasons. First and foremost, A&M needed to get back on-track after two losses. A slip-up against Baylor and the Aggies are staring at a season-ending four game losing streak and a 5-7 record, and questions about the improvement of this program are raised…from recruits. Second, a Baylor win makes the Aggies bowl eligible, and finally a win continues a 25 year dominance of our Brazos brothers to the north. So this one was important, and the Aggies definitely answered the bell. The game also shows that Baylor's "buzz" from last year was a lot more about Robert Griffin than it was Art Briles building a program in Waco.
And the Aggies did it the old-fashioned way...running it down their collective throats to the tune of 375 yards. Think back to last season and the difficulty A&M had in establishing the run. Granted Baylor isn't Texas or Oklahoma, but the Aggies struggled to run against even the weaker defenses in 2008. Bottom line in football, even in the modern era of the forward pass – this is still a sport where a team that controls both sides of the line of scrimmage will be successful. If you can run the ball and stop the run, you'll win a lot more games than you lose.
When you rush for 375 yards, then there are some big plays and A&M certainly had a couple. The critical turning point in the game came on a 14 point turnaround when Terrence Frederick intercepted a Kendall Wright pass at the one yard line, then two plays later Christine Michael takes a handoff and bumps outside to the sideline and then put on a burst to outrun the Bears to the end zone 97 yards later. Cyrus Gray also had a 40+ yard run early in the game to set-up the first score, but the remaining 235 yards came from methodically moving the chains 5-8 yards at a time. Simply put, A&M imposed its will on Baylor's defense. Everything else is just window dressing. It's also a nice feeling knowing this unit can dominate a Big 12 team up-front and the line will only get better in the next two years with the talent being recruited to College Station.
For those questioning whether this team is getting better, just look at this 38-3 game and how the Aggies won it compared to the physical and merntal beating this program took in Waco last year. The loss of Robert Griffin certaonly factored into this game, but he's on odffense. The Aggie offense was quickly derailed when the passing game struggled and Jerrod Johnson struggled under the pressure. A&M was able to take all of those things off the table and ran it down the gut yard by yard, block by block.I'll take that kind of performance over a 400 yard passing game any day of the week. A&M has proven over the last two years that a team can easily lose dsespite 400 yards through the air. Give me one example in football where a team rushed for 400 yards and lost?
Given the yardage and the 35-point victory, I was tempted to give this unit a solid A for the game. However, I had to deduct a few points for the missed opportunities in the red zone. While A&M dominated the yardage and time of possession, they left Baylor within striking distance until midway through the third quarter. A couple of drives stalled in the red zone that only resulted in three points. Then, Michael didn't secure the ball and he was stripped in a rugby pile at the 10 yard line. These mistakes didn't hurt against Baylor but they will against Texas and whomever the Aggies face in a bowl game in December.
Jerrod Johnson's performance wasn't as sexy as some previous efforts, but he complimented the run-based offensive strategy very efficiently and effectively. He threw for just 153 yards and his longest completion was a mere 18 yards, but when the offense is controlling the line and running the ball effectively, there's no need to try low percentage long passes downfield. That's the beauty of a productive running game. The quarterback can execute safer plays and isn't needed to make big plays that come with risk.
I thought Johnson had his best game running the ball. He picked his spots, but he seemed to have quicker feet and made some nice cuts that made Baylor defenders miss. He also ran with aggression and found the first down marker on several key third downs in the first half.
Running Back A-
I know that Christine Michael got all the headlines with his 97 yard run. It was certainly a great play and he showed a nice burst of speed coming around the corner that allowed him to spring down the sidelines for the longest run from scrimmage in program history. But I think Cyrus Gray has slowly developed into a big-time Big 12 running back. He follows his blocks well and gets the tough yards, but when he sees an opportunity to get extra yards with a cut, he can cut with the best of them. He started slow as a freshman, but I think he's as good as any back in this conference. This two-headed Michael-Gray monster will be fun to watch in 2010. The lone deduction came on C-Mike's fumble in the red zone. At some point, a running back needs to know when to get down. When you get stood up while still fighting for an extra half yard, you are inviting a defender to jump in and strip the ball – that's exactly what happened on his fumble.
Wide Receiver A-
It was a quiet game for the receivers, but when it was time to make a play, they made it. What I really liked was the blocking. Uzoma Nwachukwu had a great block on the Gray long run, and as a whole I thought they held onto their blocks and did a good job.
Tight End A-
Speaking of blocks, Jamie McCoy had the block of the season, decleating a poor Baylor Bear on a catch and run by Ryan Swope . McCoy also had another quality block on a first half scramble by Johnson.
Offensive Line A
How can you find any blemishes with an offensive line that helped generate 375 rushing yards? The pass protection was solid. They gave up one sack and flushed out Johnson a couple of other times. Lee Grimes played remarkably well, especially with a strained ligament in his knee.
OVERALL OFFENSIVE GRADE A-
Hop's Offensive Grades - Baylor
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