Dallas Colleges: Mustangs-Aggies-090411
COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- As the final minutes drained out of Texas A&M's leisurely 46-14 win over aspiring Big 12 member SMU, Christine Michael sat between his running mate and trailblazers.
He and Cyrus Gray chatted with an assistant coach before offensive lineman Brian Thomas jokingly jabbed him and the two shared a laugh.
Later, he carefully undid the tape on his wrists and waited for time to expire.
It was all very normal, and a welcome change for Michael.
It capped a night when he returned and ran for 85 yards and two touchdowns, finally joining his teammate, Gray, who led the way with his eighth consecutive 100-yard game and two scores of his own.
"I haven't been out there since October 31st," Michael said, not needing any reminder of the night he broke his leg and ended his season.
Technically, it was the 30th, but against Texas Tech, in the middle of what would become a six-game winning streak to close the regular season, Michael suffered the injury and with one carry, his sophomore season was over.
For home games, he'd watch from the press box high above Kyle Field, far from the sideline. On away games, he didn't travel with the team.
"The leg felt so bad, I didn't want to do any moving, so I just stayed home," he said.
He had to settle for a postgame cell phone call to Gray and other teammates.
"I forgot what it was like to win with my teammates," he said.
Sunday night was a reminder.
Teammates told him to keep it simple. Complement Gray, run hard like he always does and "be a beast."
"Give the team that we're playing hell, just like you give us in practice," they told him.
They did exactly that.
"Cyrus and C-Mike did their thing," said receiver Ryan Swope.
Their "thing" is being one of the nation's top 1-2 punches at running back, with Gray providing the flash and straight-line speed, and Michael bruising defensive front sevens with his shoulder-lowered blows.
"[Gray] shows tremendous patience in his running style, and demonstrates a phenomenal burst through the hole," coach Mike Sherman said. "Christian is probably more explosive from snap to start at the line of scrimmage."
It's been nearly 10 months since Michael was able to log a carry, but the first time he did, he scored, and did it with Gray flanking the opposite side of his quarterback, Ryan Tannehill.
"I was very nervous and anxious at the same time," Michael said. "That first hit I got opened me up and brought me back to reality. It's a big difference in playing in front of 86,000 and just playing in front of your team."
Gray took advantage of Michael's absence to become the league's top back entering 2011, but the Aggies' first touchdown in Week 1 went to the teammate he'd missed for the second half of last season.
Gray was the workhorse in landmark victories over Oklahoma and Nebraska, each time telling reporters he felt like he was playing for both himself and Michael, who could only watch.
"It was exciting to see my brother out there," he said.
Michael's return excited the crowd of 86,951, too -- the largest for a season opener in program history. It won't be the last time.
Cyrus and C-Mike are back.
The Aggies played in front of a crowd of 86,951, the largest ever for a season opener and the sixth-largest of all-time. They treated them to exactly what they wanted to see, a 46-14 win.
Texas A&M never trailed, and quite frankly, its offense looked unstoppable.
Ryan Tannehill & Co. have the league's most complete attack, and they showcased it against a Mustangs defense that looked helpless at time.
Tannehill finished 21-of-26 passing for 246 yards and two touchdowns.
Cyrus Gray and Christine Michael each scored two touchdowns and combined for 217 yards on 36 carries.
I'm heading down for interviews, but we'll have a lot more later Sunday tonight.
No, not because of the wind, which is absolutely swirling around College Station on a warm, overcast Sunday afternoon.
Once the Aggie War Hymn gets rocking in pregame, we'll be ready for one of the best moments of any trip to Kyle Field. Each upper deck of the stadium, including the press box, will sway as the fans in the stands "Saw 'em off" Kyle hasn't hosted a game since Thanksgiving, so it will be a welcome feeling.
The Aggies had to wait an extra day to get kicked off, plus a record crowd for a season opener is expected, sure to be buoyed by the possibility of a future in the SEC.
It will be a wild atmosphere, likely up to par for what's the best in the Big 12 (for now).
SMU and Texas A&M will kick it off at 7:30 p.m. ET. Plenty more to come later tonight.
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