Aggies' big loss not a promising sign for rest of the season
October, 4, 2009
By Tim Griffin | ESPN.com
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Texas A&M's Von Miller came into Saturday night's game against Arkansas leading the nation in sacks. He was undoubtedly the most dominant defensive player in the Big 12 in the first month of the season.
But after producing three tackles and a sack on Arkansas' first 12 snaps of the night, helping to boost Texas A&M to an early lead, Miller was noticeably absent the rest of the game.
|Wesley Hitt/Getty Images|
|Texas A&M quarterback Jerrod Johnson couldn’t get comfortable in the pocket against Arkansas.|
"We knew that they were going to adjust what we were doing," Miller said. "There was a lot of pressure for the first plays. We were prepared for the game, but we just couldn't get it done."
The Razorbacks altered their plans by keeping a bulkier offensive lineman on Miller rather than trying to block him with a running back. The strategy worked as Miller accounted for one tackle the rest of the game.
"He's a great player and we knew we had to put a lineman on him," Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett said. "We couldn't block him with a back because he's that good of a defender. But once we did that, we got ourselves protected and made the right calls. And then, we put some points and yards up."
The Aggies thrilled their fans early in the game by jumping on Arkansas for a 10-0 lead barely nine minutes into the game. But they couldn't maintain the quick start as Arkansas' athleticism gradually wore them down.
"We jumped ahead of them and really had a good opportunity to take a significant lead, which we didn't do," Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman said. "Good teams take that lead and don't relinquish it. We allowed them to get back in the ballgame."
The way that A&M lost opens some significant questions about this team. As quarterback Jerrod Johnson scrambled for his life in the second half and A&M's back seven defenders struggled to keep up with the faster Razorbacks, it looked like 2008 all over again.
"I never want to scramble," said Johnson, whose 58 pass attempts was the second-highest total in school history. "I would prefer to sit in the pocket and throw the ball, but different situations presented themselves tonight."
Even with the team's strong start with victories over New Mexico, Utah State and UAB to start the season, the way the Aggies responded on Saturday wasn't a promising sign as they prepare for play in the Big 12 South.
If the Aggies had trouble sticking with Arkansas' defenders and a sophomore quarterback like Mallett, what will happen when they start meeting up with quarterbacks like Colt McCoy, Sam Bradford and Zac Robinson later in the season?
Despite that harrowing thought, Sherman considered Saturday's loss as a good lesson for his team.
"I'm pleased with what I learned about this team," Sherman said. "They don't have any quit in them. And they don't have any excuses in them, either."