COLLEGE STATION, Texas — After an off week of rest and recuperation, No. 9 Texas A&M (4-1, 1-1 SEC) hits the road to take on Ole Miss (3-2, 1-2) on Saturday night. The Aggies' offense has been prolific this season, averaging 586.4 yards per game (third-best in the nation) and 49.2 points per game (fourth). Laying the groundwork for that success is the Aggies' offensive line, which had three returning starters and two new faces, one of which is starting center Mike Matthews.
Matthews, who is the younger brother of A&M starting left tackle Jake Matthews and the son of NFL Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews, has shined in his first season as a starter. The sophomore got playing time as a backup last season behind then-senior Patrick Lewis, but has stepped in and helped the Aggies' maintain their rapidly-paced attack.
Earlier this week, Matthews discussed his progress this season, his thoughts on the Aggies' offense and what they're expecting from Ole Miss' defensive front:
How would you grade yourself; how do you feel you've played so far this year?
Mike Matthews: I've had a couple of dumb mental errors with false starts but physically, I feel like I've played really well. We'll have to see where it goes from here, try to fix my mistakes and get better at what I'm doing.
What has been the most challenging thing for you so far?
Matthews: I guess the false starts. That bothers me because it was stupid stuff. I wasn't focused in and I've got to focus on that and get the play started. I was out there thinking about what I needed to do on that play, I wasn't focused on just getting the ball to the quarterback and initiating the start of the play.
Have the coaches yelled at you for not being fast enough in terms of tempo?
Matthews: No (laughs). We're really emphasizing it this week, because we're trying to get back to it. I think we've done a pretty good job of staying fast. Every week we're trying to go faster because you can always go faster. We're trying to get faster and faster every single game.
What do you like best about the way the offense is playing right now?
Matthews: Just how many points we put up. I feel like we're unstoppable. We're always driving down the field, making big plays and guys are just really playing great. Every time we step on the field, we expect to put points on the board, whether it be field goals or touchdowns -- but we're looking to put touchdowns on the board.
You guys had a couple scoring drives against Arkansas where every play was a run. Is that just happiness for an offensive lineman?
Matthews: Oh yeah. As an offensive lineman, run game is first. You just want to go out there and pound the rock. For us to go out and do that -- we're known as a passing team -- but for us to go out there and pound the rock, it's pretty nice to know that we can still do that.
What do you expect to see from the Ole Miss defensive line?
Matthews: They're very versatile. They have big dudes that will go and run you over and they have elusive dudes that will beat you with speed. As an offensive lineman, you just have to be ready and waiting for a guy to come bull [rush] you or be ready for a dude to try to beat you with speed. You have to be on your toes and be ready to see what happens.
For yourself personally, how has reality been as the starting center been through five games compared to what your preseason expectations were?
Matthews: I think before the season, I expected to come in and just do good things. I knew I would have some mess ups here and there. But I think as the season has played out, I've kept my standards and played pretty solid.
You often hear stories of quarterbacks taking out their offensive linemen to dinner. Has Johnny Manziel had the chance to take you guys out?
Matthews: He took us out to dinner [before the Alabama game] and it was really nice, a good place. He let us eat a lot. I got a steak and it was amazing. Usually we'll do it whenever we feel like we need to come closer as a team and an o-line and as a unit, whenever it needs to be done.