A&M aims to rebound with Vandy
Manziel, team look for quick recovery following Saturday's loss to Auburn
Published: Thursday, October 24, 2013
Updated: Thursday, October 24, 2013 22:10
After a controversial ending to their second loss of the season, the No. 16 Texas A&M Aggies will play their fourth straight conference game Saturday at Kyle Field as they take on the Vanderbilt Commodores.
The Aggies (5-2, 2-2 SEC) were upset Saturday by No. 24 Auburn while the Commodores (4-3, 1-3) upended No. 15 Georgia.
The biggest question surrounding Saturday’s game will be the health of quarterback Johnny Manziel, who suffered an injury to his throwing shoulder in the second half of the game against Auburn.
While Manziel only sat out one possession, he appeared to be favoring his throwing arm throughout the rest of the game. Manziel enters the game averaging an SEC-best 327 passing yards per game to go with 18 passing touchdowns. If he is unable to play, junior Matt Joeckel and freshman Kenny Hill are listed as the backup quarterbacks.
“I feel confident in both of the backup quarterbacks,” said offensive coordinator Clarence McKinney. “It’s a different offense without [Manziel] but they can make plays.”
Head coach Kevin Sumlin said Tuesday at his weekly press conference that Manziel was “hopeful” for Saturday.
The matchup will feature two of the best receivers in the SEC this season. A&M’s Mike Evans leads the conference with 146.3 receiving yards per game and nine touchdowns.
“It’s hard to argue with [Evans’] greatness based on his improvement and consistency of performance,” Sumlin said. “It’s hard to argue that he’s not one of the better players in the country.”
Across the field, Vanderbilt’s Jordan Matthews is second in the SEC averaging 114 yards per game and is fifth with five receiving touchdowns. Matthews needs 14 receiving yards to break the SEC career record.
“[Matthews] is a really good receiver,” said defensive coordinator Mark Snyder. “He’s tall, long and fast. We’ll cover him the best we can.”
Vanderbilt is dealing with quarterback injuries of its own as starter Austyn Carta-Samuels went down with a left leg injury against Georgia. Carta-Samuels was replaced by redshirt freshman Patton Robinette, who completed 9-of-15 passes to complete the upset victory.
Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin said Monday at his weekly press conference that Carta-Samuels and Robinette would be evaluated based on practice to determine the starter against A&M. Franklin said he respects A&M.
“We’ve never played one another as institutions, which is interesting,” Franklin said. “[A&M has,] arguably, the most explosive offense in the SEC. A lot more balanced than you may think with the run and the pass. They are big and athletic up front and they have a very good corps of wide receivers.”
Franklin apologized to the students who live in dorms near the Vanderbilt football practice fields as the team simulated Kyle Field crowd noise at practices this week.
“We’re really excited about going to play Texas A&M in College Station,” Franklin said. “I do think [Kyle Field] has a reputation of being one of the best places in all of college football. Crowd noise will be significant this week so we will have the speakers blaring at practice.”
Texas A&M has averaged just under 47 points per game and enters the game on an FBS-best 10-game streak of
However, the dynamic Aggie offense will have its hands full against Vanderbilt’s defense. The Commodores are ranked fifth in the SEC, allowing 365 yards of total offense per game.
An emerging aspect of the Aggie offense of late has been the play of sophomore running back Trey Williams, who missed two games early in the season with an ankle injury but has since come back to rush for 217 yards and three touchdowns. Williams leads the team with an average of seven yards per carry.
“The last couple of weeks [Williams] has shown that he deserves to have the ball in his hands,” McKinney said.
In their only other game following a loss this season, the Aggies defeated the SMU Mustangs 42-13. A&M will look to avoid its first two-game losing streak in its brief SEC history.
In the 20 games played since joining the conference, the Aggies have lost to four different SEC teams. Those four teams have combined to win the last seven
“The fact that we lost Saturday helps us,” Sumlin said. “Right now, it’s not necessarily about the opponent, and that’s no disrespect, but it’s about us and what we can do to get better. There’s a bunch of things that we control that can dictate whether we win or lose.”