Big 12: 2011 Car Care Bowl

Video: Aggies are victorious

December, 31, 2011
12/31/11
6:42
PM ET


Texas A&M interim head coach Tim DeRuyter talks about the his team's big win over Northwestern.

Instant analysis: Texas A&M 33, NU 22

December, 31, 2011
12/31/11
3:24
PM ET

After a rough season that included the death of teammate Joey Villavisencio last week and the firing of coach Mike Sherman, the Aggies got a bowl win. It's been an emotional year at Texas A&M, but it will end in fine fashion with a good win over Northwestern.

The Aggies did it without top rusher Cyrus Gray, too. Gray missed his second consecutive game and the final game of his career with a stress fracture in his shoulder that he suffered early in a win over Kansas.

Here's some instant analysis.

How the game was won: Texas A&M was the better team and proved it for the first three quarters, but like we've seen all year, the team swooned in the second half. This time it came in the fourth quarter. The Aggies survived via two huge third-down catches from Uzoma Nwachukwu and Jeff Fuller to keep the ball out of Northwestern's hands in the final minutes. This season, the Aggies blew leads of 18 (Arkansas), 17 (Oklahoma State), 14 (Missouri), 13 (Texas) and 10 (Kansas State). They avoided a sixth loss in extravagant fashion this season with a clutch late drive to close out the Wildcats.

Turning point: Trailing 7-3, Texas A&M scored on its final three drives of the first half, highlighted by a vertical, 26-yard touchdown catch by Jeff Fuller from Ryan Tannehill. The Aggies took control and the Wildcats weren't able to get within realistic reach the rest of the game. The Aggies scored the first 10 points of the second half for a 30-7 lead.

Player of the game: A&M receiver Ryan Swope. Swope continued his tear this season with eight catches for 105 yards and broke a few tackles on a 37-yard catch-and-run to set up an early touchdown that put the Aggies ahead for good. Fuller had a huge catch late to seal the game, but Swope kept the A&M offense humming in the first half while it built the big lead.

Unsung hero: Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter. He spelled what looked like a gimpy Dan Persa and ran for 65 yards and a touchdown in a nice performance.

What it means: One epic bowl losing streak ended while another lives on. Northwestern had lost five bowl games going back to 1949 and made it a sixth. Texas A&M ended its eight-game bowl losing streak dating back to 2001. The Northwestern streak was represented on the sidelines by a monkey wearing a No. 63 jersey, the number of years since the Wildcats won a bowl.

Well wishes: Coryell Judie. The Aggies' kick returner and cornerback finally returned to full health against Texas on Thanksgiving after missing a handful of games with a hamstring injury. However, he suffered a fractured wrist during his final collegiate game. It's a rough break for a huge talent, but he'll hear his name called next April in the NFL draft.

Record performance: With his first field goal midway through the first quarter, kicker Randy Bullock broke Texas A&M's single-season scoring record set back in 1927. The Lou Groza Award winner surpassed Joel Hunt's record of 128 points and finished the season with 139 points after making three field goals and three extra points on Saturday.

Aggies won't have Cyrus Gray in bowl

December, 31, 2011
12/31/11
12:04
PM ET
Texas A&M running back Cyrus Gray won't play against Northwestern in the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas after suffering a stress fracture in his shoulder earlier this season against Kansas.

Gray led the team with 1,045 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns, his second consecutive 1,000-yard season.

Gray didn't play against Texas, and was replaced by Ben Malena, who rushed for 83 yards on 25 carries. He also caught a touchdown pass.

Car Care Bowl: Three keys for Texas A&M

December, 30, 2011
12/30/11
2:30
PM ET
Texas A&M and Northwestern will kick off the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas on Saturday at noon ET at Reliant Stadium in Houston, but here's a look at what the Aggies have to do to grab the win.

1. Be extra careful in those third quarters. It seemed like a fluke at first. Clearly, it was not. Every time, it seems like it's been something different. The common denominator in most of the second-half meltdowns, though, has been turnovers. Limit those in the second half, and Texas A&M should be fine. The Aggies are the better team here. Take care of business, and they win.

2. Make sure Dan Persa is one-dimensional. Persa's a good quarterback, and hasn't run nearly as much this year as he did in 2010 before he suffered a torn Achilles tendon. Still, the Aggies have plenty of speed at linebacker to keep Persa contained, and his arm won't be better than ones the Aggies have already seen, though they've struggled against some. Brandon Weeden, Tyler Wilson, Landry Jones, Robert Griffin and Seth Doege all have better arms than Persa, and all but perhaps Doege have better teams around them. Making sure Persa's legs are a non-factor should be enough for the defense to get the job done.

3. Play with a purpose, whatever that is. It's easy to see this game doesn't have much meaning for the Aggies. What could have been a season for the history books became a forgettable one very fast. At 6-6, the Aggies would seem to be the team that doesn't want to be here. There's plenty to play for, though. A loss would be one final indignity before leaving the Big 12 for the SEC, and a losing season with one of the most talented teams in College Station in a long time. Additionally, these guys could play as a tribute to a well-liked coach, Mike Sherman, especially the seniors. Maybe younger players can play to impress new coach Kevin Sumlin. Teammate Joey Villavisencio was killed in a car accident last week, too. He'd want nothing more than to see his team play its best game of the year. There's no reason to not give 100 percent in the preparation and in-game performance, even if that might seem like the case. If the Aggies show up and play like they're capable of playing, they win this game.

Car Care Bowl: Texas A&M-Northwestern

December, 30, 2011
12/30/11
1:00
PM ET
Texas A&M and Northwestern will kick off the New Year's Eve action in Houston with a noon ET kickoff at Reliant Stadium in the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas.

Here's a bit of what to expect:

WHO TO WATCH: Cyrus Gray, RB, Texas A&M. The Aggies' backfield has been banged up this year, and it already lost top back Christine Michael to a torn ACL. Gray was sorely missed in a season-ending, heartbreaking loss to Texas after suffering a stress fracture in his shoulder against Kansas. Gray is expected to return, and he's at his best when his team has to use him as the lone featured back. That will likely be the case in this one, and we'll see if he's back to 100 percent after the injury.

WHAT TO WATCH: Texas A&M's second half. You have to, don't you? The Aggies haven't played since Thanksgiving night, but a promising season was ruined by five losses in which the Aggies led by double digits, including early season losses to Oklahoma State and Arkansas in which the Aggies led by 17 and 18 points, respectively, and lost. Coach Mike Sherman was fired because of those losses, and Tim DeRuyter is temporarily in charge before leaving, but we'll see if this season-ruining trend ends.

WHY TO WATCH: Who knows what's going to happen with this team? The talent gap between these two teams is enormous, but the Aggies have underachieved all year. With a month off, a coach gone, another coach leaving and their new coach, Houston's Kevin Sumlin, roaming around practice, it's anyone's guess how this unpredictable bunch responds. It should be a fun one.

PREDICTION: Texas A&M 31, Northwestern 21: The Aggies are shaken up, with one coach (Mike Sherman) fired and its interim coach (Tim DeRuyter) getting ready to take over at Fresno State. The Aggies' talent takes over in this one, and Cyrus Gray is expected to return. The Wildcats rebounded later in the season to reach a bowl game, but have only one quality win all season: Nebraska. Texas A&M's talent takes control, and this big lead is safe.

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