A&M, SMU revisit historic rivalry
Aggies look for momentum versus Mustangs in Dallas
Published: Friday, September 14, 2012
Updated: Friday, September 14, 2012 01:09
The Aggies entered a Kyle Field atmosphere last week ripe with tension and anticipation, nervousness and optimism. The team put on a show offensively in the first half and tightened up defensively in the second, but the visiting Florida Gators stole the day, 20-17.
The question remains which team — A&M’s first or second half personality — will show up for the rest of the 2012 season.
Head coach Kevin Sumlin and his team will answer that question Saturday on the road against SMU.
Sumlin said he is encouraged moving forward based on things he saw while reviewing film from the opener.
“Once you get past the initial reaction of losing a football game you go back and look at what you can do better, try to assess effort, and in our estimation we were very pleased with our effort on offense and defense,” Sumlin said. “The next thing is execution. When you’re in a close game and you have nine penalties, that’s not going to cut it.”
The Aggies’ new home — the Southeastern Conference — is vaunted coast to coast for its physicality. In its SEC opener, offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury said the team stood up to the test.
“I think the things that stood out was that, physically, our kids stood up to them and played hard,” Kingsbury said. “I thought that really jumped out.”
Freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel looks to improve on his first career start. He committed no turnovers and gashed Florida’s defense early with his legs but led a second-half offense that was held scoreless. Senior receiver Uzoma Nwachukwu said Manziel impressed in his debut.
“That was his first time running out on Kyle Field and playing in a college football game,” Nwachukwu said. “He did that well with all that pressure on him. He did a great job of controlling the game and not forcing anything.”
The Aggies struggled on first and second down against Florida, a problem junior offensive lineman Luke Joeckel said “shot ourselves in the foot a little bit.”
“Getting into those third-and-long situations, it’s hard for the offense to capitalize,” Joeckel said. “We had some of those things that shouldn’t have happened that sometimes happen in your first game — getting used to snap counts and playing in front of fans — because that’s not something you get in practice.”
Sumlin and Kingsbury utilized three running backs — senior Christine Michael, junior Ben Malena and freshman Trey Williams — a formula Sumlin said fans would see more of this season.
“Ben is a powerful guy, a solid up-the-field guy; Christine is a bigger guy with some wiggle; Trey has some home run speed,” Sumlin said. “All three of them bring something to the table.”
The SMU Mustangs, led by University of Texas-transfer quarterback Garrett Gilbert and senior running back Zach Line, bounced back from an opening week loss to Baylor with a 52-0 trouncing of Stephen F. Austin. The Mustang defense forced 10 SFA turnovers in the contest.
Line enters the season off back-to-back campaigns of better than 1,000 yards rushing. Senior Aggie linebacker Jonathon Stewart said the defense looks to gang-tackle Line.
“He’s a big, strong, powerful guy,” Stewart said. “He’s a hard-nosed worker.”
A season ago, A&M rolled over SMU 46-14 in the opener. The schemes are different — as is the personnel and the conference patches on the Aggie jerseys — but A&M will look for similar success against the Mustangs in 2012.