A&M gears for bounceback
Published: Thursday, September 19, 2013
Updated: Thursday, September 19, 2013 21:09
Coming off a heartbreaking loss to top-ranked Alabama, Texas A&M (2-1, 0-1) will look to rebound as they take on the Southern Methodist Mustangs (1-1) on Saturday. The loss dropped the Aggies from No. 6 to No. 10 in the AP Poll, but kept A&M in the top 10 for the sixth consecutive regular season week.
Once again, Texas A&M’s high-powered offense, led by Johnny Manziel, will be on display at Kyle Field. Manziel is coming off a school record of 464 yards passing against the Crimson Tide and currently leads all SEC quarterbacks in passing yards with 984 through the first three games, an average of 328 yards per game.
Sophomore receiver Mike Evans has been a major factor in Manziel’s early season success. Evans leads the nation with 518 total receiving yards and 172.7 receiving yards per game. Evans’ 518 receiving yards also has him second in all-purpose yards in SEC, behind LSU’s Odell Beckham.
“The sky is the limit for [Evans],” said offensive coordinator Clarence McKinney. “The talent is there but he’s really just starting to learn the position.”
The combination of Manziel-to-Evans has become one of the top quarterback-to-receiver hookups in the nation after Evans’ 279 yards receiving against Alabama.
These two, and the rushing attack led by senior Ben Malena, are the main reasons Texas A&M has averaged 609 yards of offense per game. The Aggie offense is also tops in the SEC with 94 first downs, ahead of Ole Miss with 81, through the first three weeks.
“The mindset of our offense is to score every time you get the ball,” Malena said. “We stress third down and red-zone scoring.”
The Aggie secondary will have their hands full against an SMU “Run ‘n Raid” offense led by quarterback Garrett Gilbert.
The Mustangs are coming into the weekend averaging 352.5 yards per game — a statistic common after passing enthusiast head coach June Jones left Hawaii to take over the program.
Texas A&M will likely be without starting safety Floyd Raven Sr. for the second consecutive game as he continues to heal from a broken collarbone that could sideline him for the remainder of the season. The Aggie defense has held opponents to 229 yards through the air despite Raven’s absence.
“Young guys are stepping up on defense each week and older guys are becoming leaders,” said senior defensive back Toney Hurd, Jr. “Confidence is growing.”
Texas A&M is also hopeful for the return of sophomore running back and return specialist Trey Williams who is nursing an ankle injury suffered in the opening week of the season. Williams has missed the past two games and his return is questionable for Saturday. Last season, Williams averaged 22.3 yards per return as the deep man on kickoff return.
The Aggies are looking for their third win in as many years against the Mustangs. Last season, Texas A&M faced SMU in Dallas and came away with a 48-3 victory while the Mustangs left Kyle Field in 2011 with a 46-14 loss.