Thursday, October 6, 2011
Ending A&M's slide will start with defense
By David Ubben
Texas A&M needs a win.
Seasons that begin in the top 10 usually don't feature three-game losing streaks. But after two second-half collapses they'd rather forget, this is where the Aggies sit.
"If you start looking at what-ifs, it becomes overwhelming and you start to fall apart," Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman told reporters this week. "But you have to have the maturity and the focus to fix what you can fix at that second, and not worry about what-ifs. You can’t play with what-ifs, you have to play with what is, right now."
And what is right now? A trip to Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock, Texas. The Aggies won in West Texas in 2009, but before that, hadn't won in Lubbock since 1993.
That stretch of seven games included losses by 28, 39 and 31 points, as well as a shutout loss.
The good news for A&M? Despite the second-half breakdowns, it still has a team capable of making those past struggles an afterthought.
"Both games we should have won, but for whatever reason we didn’t. We have no one to blame but ourselves. It’s nothing that any of our opponents did to us. We didn’t win," said defensive end Tony Jerod-Eddie.
Said quarterback Ryan Tannehill: "We are so close. Things haven’t worked out. We haven’t capitalized on our opportunities. We haven’t gotten the lucky bounce we need to get. The ball they fumbled into the end zone and ended up recovering, if it bounces to the left or the right, we recover it and the game is totally different. But that’s part of football, sometimes the ball bounces your way and sometimes it doesn’t."
Fixing that has to start with the defense.
A unit that ranked among the Big 12's best a season ago has slipped to the nation's worst pass defense in two weeks. With Seth Doege quarterbacking a business as usual offense at Texas Tech, rewriting Texas A&M's history in Lubbock will require a better night from the secondary. The Red Raiders rank ninth nationally in pass offense and would love for those numbers to improve.
"Their confidence is probably hit a little bit," said defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter. "As we showed them the bad plays we had from Saturday -- and there were way too many of those -- we showed them the things we did as good as any defense I’ve been a part of. Our challenge to them is, who are we guys? Are we this team that busts these coverages, or don’t read routes, and are playing soft, and we don’t get lined up? Or are we this defense that gets after a really, really good offense in Arkansas?"