September 5, 2010

Aggies dominate SFA, 48-7

The Texas A&M Aggies started off their 2010 football season in style, manhandling Stephen F. Austin 48-7 before more than 82,000 fans at Kyle Field Saturday evening. In stark contrast to several recent season openers, the Aggies physically dominated the overmatched Lumberjacks, controlling the game in the first half before putting the contest out of reach with a third quarter outburst.
Jerrod Johnson shook of a subpar first half to finish the game 28-40 for 322 yards and two touchdowns, while running back Christine Michael added 105 yards rushing, more than 150 yards of total offense and two scores of his own to pace the Aggie offense. A&M also unleashed receiver Ryan Swope, who had 13 catches for 106 yards; nearly all of the passes were short tosses, with Swope using his speed and agility to make Lumberjack defenders miss on his way downfield.

But it was the defense, the scourge of recent A&M campaigns, which drew the most attention.

In spite of star Von Miller missing a large amount of the game due to a minor ankle injury, the Aggies shut down one of the FCS (the former 1-AA) most prolific offenses. The Lumberjacks would punt on their first six possessions, netting a mere two first downs, before Dustin Harris intercepted a Jeremy Moses pass and returned it 38 yards for a touchdown and a 17-0 lead.

For the game, the Lumberjacks would a total of 266 yards, including an abysmal 31 yards (1.3 yards per carry) on the ground. After the contest, new defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter said he was pleased with several facets of his group's opening performance.

"I was happy with the effort today. In a first ballgame things can be sloppy, and we had a couple of those things. You're not going to play perfect, but our effort was pretty good," he said. "I thought we played physical for most of the game. I thought we tackled well and I thought we got some stops. We forced two takeaways, and I thought we had a couple more opportunities we didn't take advantage of … Overall, I thought we played okay."

"Okay" would be a good synopsis for the A&M offense in the first half, which moved the ball up and down the field on SFA before stalling in the red zone. The Aggies opened with a 10 play, 74-yard drive and ended up with no points when Randy Bullock shanked a 23-yard field goal attempt off the left goalpost. A&M would not put any points on the board until 3:22 to go in the first quarter, when Michael blew through a hole from 15 yards out and scored with little difficulty. It would be the Aggies' only offensive touchdown in the first half, with Harris' interception and two Bullock field goals accounting for the 20-7 halftime advantage.

"In the first half we kind of shot ourselves in the foot offensively," head coach Mike Sherman said. "I have to do a better job of the red zone in the first half. In the second half we came back and I thought we executed well in the red zone. In the first half, put that one on me."

The Aggies would score touchdowns on their first four possessions of the second half, with Johnson scoring on a one-yard sneak, Michael scoring on a four yard run off left tackle and Johnson finding Jeff Fuller for a pair of short touchdown passes. By the end of the third quarter, the game was well out of reach.

"The first five minutes of the third quarter they came out and established what they wanted to do, and that's take it down the field and score," SFA head coach J.C. Harper said. "You have to take your hat off to them, they did what they had to do. You have to give Texas A&M all the credit. They have a heck of a defense, I think they are a great football team."

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