Aggies coach Sherman searching for positives

September, 20, 2008
9/20/08
11:15
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman sounded dispassionate Saturday as he tried to sift through the rubble of another disappointing home loss.

But this was a little bit different than the NFL. Sherman may have landed in a maelstrom churning along the Brazos after a 41-23 loss to Miami -- the Aggies' worst non-conference defeat at Kyle Field since a 30-10 loss to Alabama in 1988.

Texas A&M is off to its first 0-2 home start in 36 seasons and it doesn't look any easier. The Big 12 South appears to be more challenging than ever and the Aggies' struggles in the trenches against Miami aren't a good sign.

The Aggies' defense started badly on Saturday and quickly spun out of control. Miami gashed them for touchdown runs of 19 and 51 yards on two of the Hurricanes' first three carries. The Hurricanes picked up 12 first downs on their first 28 snaps as Robert Marve looked like the second coming of Steve Walsh in only his second career start.

It was just as apparent in the trenches offensively, where A&M appeared overmatched, save for some strong athletic plays by quarterback Jerrod Johnson. But those flashes were tempered by some obvious first-game gaffes in his Johnson's first career start.

"It was rough at times," Sherman said. "But at other times, I thought we settled down and made some plays. We're not where we want to be. There's no question about that. "

Sherman will have a challenging fix on a team that will require great patience.

Johnson was spectacular at times, but also struggled at other junctures. His two critical turnovers during a 61-second stretch in the second half basically blew the game open. An ill-advised scramble out of bounds late in the first half to allow Miami enough time to score another touchdown that extended their halftime lead to 24-10. And Johnson ran the team out of field-goal position on an earlier drive when he tried to make something happen when nothing was there.

"He made some really great plays," Sherman said. "But at other times there were a lot of little things as a quarterback he does that he needs to do a little bit better. He watches the tape from this game, he learns from it and we move forward."

One person who was exempt from all of Saturday's struggles was A&M quarterback Stephen McGee, who was wearing a ball cap and signaling offensive plays from the sideline. McGee's 29-game streak as an A&M starting quarterback that was snapped Saturday includes two bowl trips. Most importantly to A&M fans everywhere, McGee's streak also includes two convincing victories over arch-rival Texas.

So, it will be interesting to see if and when Sherman will decide to push McGee and his leadership aside for the athleticism and promise of Johnson, who clearly is his future.

There were enough mistakes to probably convince Sherman to stick with McGee a little longer. Aggie coaches have said that McGee clearly won the starting job this summer -- by a wide margin - after the job was opened when Sherman arrived. So it would be surprising to see that precision and experience not employed when McGee's sprained shoulder heals.

When asked about a potential quarterback change after the game, Sherman was adamant about not making a decision.

"This isn't the time and I haven't thought that far ahead," Sherman said. "My perspective only went to this game, so I'll have to give you an answer on that next week. I don't have that now and I haven't thought beyond this game."

Saturday's loss, coupled with a disappointing season-opening home loss to Arkansas State, was another low mark at a place where the Aggies once were almost invincible.

Home losses once were rare at Kyle Field, a reminder hammered home Saturday when former A&M coaching icon R.C. Slocum was inducted into the school's hall of fame before the game.

It was understandable why the A&M fans greeted Slocum with a standing ovation. The Aggies were 55-4-1 at home during the 1990s when he was coaching there. And Sherman, his offensive line coach, lost one only game at home during his first tenure as an A&M assistant from 1989-93.

"I'm disappointed we can't put wins in front of our fans on our home field," Johnson said. "And as a team there are a lot of things we can better on. But I think we're really close."

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