Terrell makes his mark forcing key takeaways
Published: Friday, October 5, 2012
Updated: Friday, October 5, 2012 01:10
To remember the last truly elite defenses to don the maroon and white, A&M fans have to look back to RC Slocum’s “Wrecking Crew” of the late 1980s and early 1990s. Known rightfully as “Linebacker U” in the same era — with such greats as Aaron Wallace, John Roper and Quintin Coryatt — there was one area of strength often overlooked in Slocum’s stalwart units: defensive backs.
Since the end of the “Wrecking Crew” era following Slocum’s departure, and as the game of football evolved into more “spread based” concepts, the secondary hasn’t lived up to its previously exceptional reputation.
One of the larger question marks for the 2012 season in a conference known for its defense, the A&M secondary was hurting for experience. After losing four seasoned seniors and as underclassmen were injected into starting jobs, the unit was begging for a leader.
Senior safety Steven Terrell answered the call.
Named a team captain prior to the season’s beginning, the speedy defensive back is making his presence known after mixed experience as a starter and backup. With 91 career tackles, two interceptions and 11 career starts leading up to his senior year, Terrell had his sights set on going out the right way in his final hurrah.
In a heated rivalry game with serious season implications against Arkansas, Terrell did what the Aggies couldn’t accomplish a year prior: force turnovers — and two to boot.
“This whole week we’ve been emphasizing turnovers because as great as our offense is, we know if we get turnovers they’re going to turn them into points,” Terrell said following the Aggies’ 58-10 drubbing of the Razorbacks. “That’s all we were working on, trying to get turnovers. Luckily we got some this week.”
Turnovers were a rare commodity for the Aggies in 2011, a commodity desperately needed as the offense was regularly distributing it to other teams. A similarly talented conference rival with comparable expectations that season, Oklahoma State, took advantage of turnovers better than any other team by forcing 44 takeaways. The Aggies, meanwhile, only forced 15 last season.
The result? Oklahoma State skyrocketed to a 12-1 record and conference championship status. The Aggies skidded to a disappointing 7-6 finish after a preseason Top 10 ranking.
By Terrell picking off vaunted Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson twice — particularly the first with the score at 13-10 A&M — he bucked more than the trend of losing to Arkansas, but possibly the trend of losing much at all.
A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin lauded the initial interception and teased Terrell for nearly giving the ball back to Arkansas in his excitement. He then expounded on the significance of the mighty takeaway.
“I thought that was a big play. He tried to give it back to them. I saw [it] on the big screen to see what all the commotion was,” Sumlin said. “We’ve been talking since we’ve been here about critical plays and game-changing plays … they’re not only turnovers, they’re game-changers.”
Terrell’s interceptions were game-changers indeed. What was a 13-10 grudge match became 27-10 at the half. After picking off his second Wilson pass at the beginning of the second-half, Arkansas had lost its will to fight.
Terrell said the win over the Razorbacks, a team he had not performed well against in previous meetings, was especially meaningful to him. It was also a sign of his increased maturity as a leader of the team.
“I’m trying to do my job and help the team, be a leader for these younger guys,” Terrell said. “It was a big win for us, especially for me. I’ve played horribly, honestly, against Arkansas until this year. It was a big game for me, a big game for this defense and the whole team.”