Can You Stand Another Close Game?

The 6-5 Aggies come limping into Austin with their best defensive player listed as 'doubtful' (DT <B>Ty Warren</B>) and OU-killing freshman QB <B>Reggie McNeil </B>listed as 'questionable'. Texas A&M has lost four-of-six games this season at once daunting Kyle Field, and will face a smarting Longhorn team on Senior Day. So, should fans expect Texas to take out their post-Lubbock frustration by unloading on the <I>poooor</I> Aggies, thereby turning this one into a laugher by late third quarter?

Not according to head coach Mack Brown. In a season when half of UT’s games weren’t decided until the fourth quarter, the fifth-year coach said spectators should anticipate more of the same on November 29.

"I think it will come down to the fourth quarter," Brown said. "If you look at (A&M’s) games, they had a 31-10 lead over Nebraska going into the fourth quarter, a 35-17 lead against Texas Tech going into the fourth quarter (before losing both). Last Saturday, they were in double-overtime (loss to Missouri). Against Oklahoma State, on the last play of the game, they drop a touchdown pass in the end zone."

The Aggies have been in every game this season, but somehow found a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Of course, the Farmers are the only team to beat Oklahoma this season. Brown has to expect A&M to play their most inspired game of the year in hopes of at least adding some salve to a disheartening season.

Still, Brown is a master of coach-speak who can rattle off the "On any given Saturday…especially in this league" spiel almost as glibly as Fred Akers.

"We’re looking at teams now where a couple of plays make the difference between nine or 10 wins, or six or seven," Brown said. "It’s just amazing how tough this league has gotten. Right now the only teams that aren’t competitive, and the only two that won’t be bowl eligible, are Baylor and Kansas. Everybody else can line up and beat you. That wasn’t the way it was five years ago."

Texas is a "couple of plays" away from being 11-0; the Horns are also a couple of plays away from being 6-5.

What we’ve seen as of late in the Big 12 are mid-level teams like Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Iowa State making some noise by winning enough of the home games they used to lose on the legs of a marquee offensive player. (WR Rashaun Woods, QB Kliff Kingsbury, QB Seneca Wallace, respectively). Meanwhile, the Aggies have gradually slid toward the middle of the pack while Nebraska (7-5, with one game left against Big 12 North Division champ Colorado) got there in a hurry.

A&M’s win over Oklahoma may have saved head coach R.C. Slocum’s job this season, and that’s good news for UT fans. The stupefying thing about the Aggies this season is that their anemic offense hurt them in the early going, but their Wrecking Crew defense has been a wreck in losing leads at home against Nebraska, Missouri and Texas Tech.

A&M’s defense is nearly as banged-up as Texas’ (DT Marcus Tubbs, DE Kalen Thornton, LB Derrick Johnson have yet to practice this week). However, the Wrecking Crew has failed to come up big just when the Aggie offense was showing signs of life. Following the home loss to Virginia Tech, Slocum demoted former offensive coordinator Dino Babers to strictly coaching quarterbacks while naming wide receivers coach Kevin Sumlin to Babers' post. Sophomore QB Dustin Long became the signal-caller, while senior QB Mark Farris (who is 48-years old) became a benchwarmer. And when McNeil sparked the win against OU, he showed why he was almost as highly regarded as redshirted Texas QB Vince Young.

If the game were played tomorrow, Long would be behind center. Even so, A&M has discovered the forward pass consistently for the first time in 34 years.

"They’re throwing the ball so well right now," Brown said. "After last weekend, that’s a concern for us because we didn’t defend the pass very well. But they can run the ball, they’re throwing it and they’re very balanced. I think it’s a tribute to Dino Babers because he’s done a great job with both young quarterbacks after the change was made. And it’s a tribute to their staff that they’ve held together so well offensively, and they’re moving the ball on everybody. It will be really tough for us to stop them."


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