A&M to battle in Top 25 matchup
Published: Friday, October 12, 2012
Updated: Friday, October 12, 2012 02:10
When schedules were released prior to the 2012 season, Aggie fans couldn’t have anticipated anything akin to Saturday’s looming matchup pitting the No. 22 Aggies (4-1, 2-1) against the No. 23 Louisiana Tech Bulldogs. But head coach Kevin Sumlin did.
The Bulldogs (5-0, 0-0) took home the Western Athletic Conference championship in 2011 and have dispatched such big-conference teams as Illinois and Virginia on the road this season. Sumlin said he’s been telling people all along that Louisiana Tech was a legitimate force, and it’s about time the nation paid attention.
“I’m not surprised by them being ranked,” Sumlin said. “Last season they lost three or four very close ballgames to some very good teams. They were a series away from beating TCU in a bowl game. This year all you have to do is look at them going on the road and playing Virginia, putting it on them. Then going to Illinois— they have a pretty good defense— and they put it on them too. They know what they’re doing in their system and they have answers for what you’re trying to do.”
This A&M-Lousiana Tech showdown was supposed to take place well before October, scheduled for week one. The threat of hurricane forced the hands of Louisiana Tech officials and the game was moved.
Where before the Aggies had an off week before a high-profile Southeastern Conference home matchup against LSU, A&M looks to back-to-back games against Top 25 schools from Louisiana as part of a six-game stretch featuring five away games and four programs currently ranked in the Top 25 nationally.
Both teams have braced for a shootout. Only two teams in college football have averaged more points per game than the Bulldogs’ 53.2 mark. Louisiana Tech’s won’t be the only Top 10 offense to take the field: A&M ranks eighth with 44.6 points per game.
Senior safety Steven Terrell said the Aggie defense relishes the opportunity to take on the potent offense.
“This week will be a test for the secondary,” Terrell said. “I love it when teams spread it out and throw it around. They’ve been doing a great job protecting the ball.”
Louisiana Tech employs a high-octane offense similar in speed to A&M’s, which could benefit Aggie personnel that have practiced against their team’s offense.
“They go no huddle and speed it up,” Terrell said. “It will be a fast paced game on both sides of the ball. They try to get the ball out on the edges, go no huddle and throw ball out there and make corners tackle. We’ve gone through it all spring and fall against our offense, so I think we’ll be ready.”
Several years of eligibility separate Louisiana Tech’s senior quarterback Colby Cameron and A&M’s redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel, but their teams have leaned on them in similar fashions. Cameron has racked up 1,456 passing yards and 13 touchdowns with zero interceptions to date this season, while Manziel has aired it out to the tune of 1,285 yards, 11 touchdowns and two interceptions. Cameron’s passing numbers may edge Manziel’s, but Manziel also leads his team in rushing with 495 yards and seven touchdowns, including three games of better than 100 yards rushing this season.
Defensive coordinator Mark Snyder said Cameron’s unselfishness has impressed.
“Louisiana Tech starts with their QB,” Snyder said. “He is very unselfish, has not turned the ball over. Doesn’t bother him to hand the ball off to a tailback who’s playing well. Give him some high percentage passes out here and then they’ll go deep on you.”
In a 30-27 win over Ole Miss last Saturday, A&M did something fans were not accustomed to: the Aggies swallowed a 10-point fourth quarter deficit to silence the Oxford crowd.
Senior center Patrick Lewis said the win is a symptom of a culture change brought about by Sumlin and his staff.