Red Raiders Eyeing McNeal, Aggies

In recent history, most Texas Tech fans would say the Red Raiders have not fared well against the wide array of mobile quarterbacks the Big 12 conference has to offer.

The most recent example lies three weeks ago when the Texas Longhorns marched into Lubbock and pounded out a 51-21 victory. You can credit quarterback Vince Young's 158 yard, four-touchdown performance for that loss for the Raiders.

This is a new week, however, and despite having three losses, Tech is looking to finish out the year strong with a bowl win. With two wins in their final two games, Tech could possibly do something it has not done since 1995: reach the Cotton Bowl.

However, a solid bowl and Tech's presence are merely a fictitious scenario at this point. Tech has two stout obstacles to dodge first and the first one comes this Saturday against the rival Texas A&M Aggies.

The Raiders know they have been suspect to dual-threat quarterbacks over the years and they well aware of what A&M quarterback Reggie McNeal can do to a defense. McNeal leads a team that is one of only five clubs to be ranked nationally in the top 25 both in rushing and in passing.

Linebacker Mike Smith has nothing but respect for the junior quarterback from Lufkin, Texas.

"He's a great athlete and he's probably one of the best quarterbacks we'll see all year," Smith said. "Coach (Lyle) Setencich will have a good game plan against him, and we just have to do our job and our alignment, stay focused, keep our minds in the game and shut him down."

Despite being 4-8 last season, McNeal has led his team to a much-improved 6-3 season. A&M is coming off a heartbreaking loss to the undefeated Oklahoma Sooners in which they lost 42-35 after leading most of the game.

Before being taken out because of an apparent injury in the third quarter, McNeal threw for 213 yards and threw for a touchdown and ran for another.

There has been little speculation on whether McNeal will start or not, but if the dual-threat sensation does start, they have to be ready for both the passing and running game.

Despite receiving 31 less carries than running back Courtney Lewis, McNeal is the Aggies leading rusher with 638 yards and eight touchdowns. Factor in his 2000 yards of passing and impressive ratio of 11 passing touchdowns to two interceptions, and he creates a serious threat to the 46th-ranked defense in the nation.

"He's as good as most in the country," TTU defensive coordinator Setencich said. "He throws very well. He's throws with more accuracy deep and short. He's a real fine quarterback."

The Aggies, who are currently on a two-game losing streak, are looking to beat Tech for the first time since 2000. Tech beat A&M soundly last year 59-28 in a game that could be considered over before it ever started.

This year the Aggies look different. They are a more experienced team. In fact, the Aggies are currently tied for third in the south division of the Big XII with Tech and Oklahoma State.

Setencich believes the Aggies are the most improved team from last year to this year and that Tech should be ready for an all-out battle.

"We understand how good of a football team we're playing," Setencich said. "You better get ready to play them or they'll beat you up."

The Red Raiders and Aggies line up this Saturday at Kyle Field in College Station. Kickoff is at 2:30 p.m. and the game will be broadcast on ABC.


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