Aggies Get Back on the Horse
Texas A&M resets with easy win over SMU
By Rod Machen, 11:54AM, Mon. Sep. 23, 2013
Seven days after their high scoring and memorable loss to Alabama, Texas A&M looked forward to a comfortable victory while hoping for defensive improvement in a home contest against Southern Methodist University. They walked away with both.
The contest ended with a score of 42-13, and while that many points might look good on paper, against a middling Mustang team, it’s actually pretty pedestrian. Holding the pass-happy Mustangs to just 13 points, however, is a good first step for a defensive unit that could not contain the Crimson Tide.
Longtime offensive mastermind June Jones remains at the SMU helm, and he’s been joined by another mad scientist in offensive coordinator Hal Mumme, the former Kentucky coach and head of a coaching tree that strings together Mike Leach, Dana Holgorsen, and, now, Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin, making SMU’s arrival a solid test for an Aggie defense that struggles against against the pass. The yardage numbers didn’t look so hot – SMU gained 434 total yards, with 310 coming from University of Texas outcast and local Lake Travis star Garrett Gilbert – but other metrics looked much better.
The Mustangs managed only two field goals in the first three quarters of play, something any defensive coordinator would take. The Aggies also found a way to get some turnovers, with one interception to go along with two fumble recoveries, including one in the second quarter that A&M cornerback-turned-safety Deshazor Everett returned 12 yards for a touchdown.
The linebacking corps saw freshman Darian Claiborne earn a start after backing up Steven Jenkins to begin the year. In the defensive backfield, Tremaine Jacobs took Everett’s previous spot at CB, while nickelback Toney Hurd Jr. came in as part of a five-DB package set to combat the work of Jones and Mumme, who combined for 19 tackles, 13 of which were solo.
The Aggies also made their way into the backfield more often than in previous contests, registering a sack and numerous hurries, mostly thanks to converted WR Nate Askew at linebacker and freshman DE Daeshon Hall. The Aggie defenders surely would have loved more sacks, but Gilbert has matured a great deal since his trying times in Austin and found a way to get rid of the ball throughout the contest.
On the other side of the ball, the Aggie offense did its job, though penalties and general sloppiness kept QB Johnny Manziel and company from ever getting much of a rhythm. The Aggies were flagged 13 times for 114 yards, with many of those yards coming as a result of an usually salty offensive line. Manziel finished the game with 346 total yards, throwing for one touchdown and running for two more. WR Malcome Kennedy had another big day, as well, with six catches and a touchdown, and Ben Malena led the running backs with 71 yards and two touchdowns.
The kicking game provided the most excitement of the night, much of which Sumlin could have done without. Kicker Taylor Bertolet recovered his own onside kick midway through the first quarter, giving future opponents something to think about on kickoffs. In the second quarter, his night became a nightmare: On consecutive extra points, Bertolet missed, giving him ten such miscues dating back to last year. Sumlin eventually had enough, and sophomore Josh Lambo was given place kicking duties for the rest of the game – and, presumably, the rest of the season.
Lambo made a 40-yarder in the third, but had one taken away from him at the end of the second. The Aggies were set to go for it on 4th and one near the SMU goal line when a false start pushed them back. Lambo hit a chip shot, but an offsides call on a Mustang defensive lineman gave the Aggies a chance for a do-over. The field goal was removed from the scoreboard, but a botched snap resulted in a loss of downs on the next play. The football gods spoke once again: Never take points off the board!
The Aggies begin conference play next week with a trip to Fayetteville, Ark., the only such trip for the foreseeable future as the Texas A&M/Arkansas series moves back to Jerry World in Arlington next year. Expect Razorback coach Bret Bielema to test the other half of A&M’s defense with a run-heavy attack he brought with him from Wisconsin, which means exams continue for the Aggie D.