Aggie Defense: More Wrecked Than Wrecking

Texas A&M's homeland security has been undermined by its weak defense.

There was a time when Kyle Field was college football's most impregnable fortress, as the Farmers boasted a 31-game home win streak before Texas put an end to that in 1995. Now, the Aggies are in danger of dropping their seventh home game in 14 outings when the Longhorns invade Friday. Sifting through the rubble of a transition season, the Aggies can point to a once-proud Wrecking Crew defense that has been more wrecked as of late.

This week, the A&M run defense is ranked No. 106 nationally and dead last in the Big 12, surrendering 209.8 ypg. The Ags are also the league's bottom dweller in pass efficiency defense (NCAA No. 13) and, as such, are the Big 12's worst scoring defense (38.2 avg., NCAA No. 113). Of course, an historic 77-0 loss at Oklahoma wreaks havoc on your defensive stats, but anyone who saw the entire game (out of a morbid sense of curiosity, perhaps) knows that head coach Bob Stoops called off the dogs by mid-third quarter.

"Up to this point, something's not working for them," WLB Derrick Johnson said. "The season's been kind of rough for them. I still think they're good, but they've been having a tough time. It's kind of shocking to see a Texas A&M team with its history of defense go down the drain just a little bit this year."

With a BCS bid on the line for 9-2 Texas and with the Aggies staggering toward the finish line at 4-7, Johnson knows A&M is primed to play the spoiler. And it's relatively easy to overlook a team that you have owned since way back in the 20th Century.

"From the mindset of the team I wish (A&M's record) was better because sometimes, when you go into a game and the (opposing) team's record is pretty sorry, some people play complacent," Johnson said. "Everybody has to get focused this week, knowing that Texas A&M could knock us off and spoil our season. I mean, this is their BCS bowl game."

The injury-bug has bitten the Aggies this season, junior QB Chance Mock noted.

"They've had some injuries and what not," Mock said. "Watching the film last week, I know they play sound defense. They're in the right position. Every once in a while a play busts on them. They've given up big plays the past couple of weeks. They're so close to being a great defense like they used to be."

MLB Jared Morris, the Aggies' leading active tackler, suffered a season-ending knee injury against Utah. But most of A&M's killer injuries have come on offense. WR Jamaar Taylor was just 10 catches and 36 yards shy of breaking the career school record in both categories. The Farmers also lost a pair of OL this season (Andre Brooks, Jami Hightower).

Head coach Mack Brown considers A&M's statistical demise an aberration, attributed largely to injuries and inexperience. The Aggie defense will likely start one freshman and four sophomores against Texas.

"I think you'll see them have a great program again," Brown said, before adding that head coach Dennis Franchione has revived sagging programs at both Alabama and TCU. "He understands what he's doing and where he's going. He's very organized. He's very tough. He works really hard, he's really smart and he'll do a great job. Nobody questions that. I hope they don't win Friday, but he'll win next year."

Most Orangebloods know that Brown is well acquainted with third-year Aggie defensive coach Carl Torbush, who was also on Brown's staff at North Carolina. But not all are as familiar with the fact that either Torbush or Texas offensive coordinator Greg Davis was going to join Brown's staff at Texas in 1998 while the other remained in Chapel Hill as Brown's successor.

"We had it set up where he and Greg Davis both interviewed at North Carolina and, if either one of them got the head coaching job, and obviously they both wanted it, they understood they weren't going behind my back to get it."

Brown probably expected Davis to get the North Carolina gig, but Tar Heel athletic officials opted for Torbush.

"He (Torbush) was already out here (in Austin)," Brown said. "He met Coach Royal one day and took the head coaching job at North Carolina the next."

Torbush's tenure, however, was short-lived. He was canned following the 2000 season and ended up in College Station with Franchione. Once again, Davis and Torbush will be scheming against the other on Nov. 28.

"He and Greg spent two years against each other every day (at North Carolina)," Brown said, "but I don't think that will have any influence on Friday's game."

It shouldn't -- not against the 2003 Aggie defense.

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