NCF Nation: Reggie McNeal

Halloween in the Big 12

October, 29, 2010
Oh yes, it's a holiday weekend, and it's football season. That means a theme post. Don't fight it, it's already here. Just give in.

Here are a few Halloween honors heading into this weekend's games.

Scary movie: This one goes to the team with the worst loss this season. It was a warning of things to come, but who pegged Texas to get rolled by three touchdowns at home to a weak UCLA team?

Trick-or-Treat: This award goes to the game featuring the most to gain or lose. There's no question it's happening this weekend between Nebraska and Missouri. The winner could glide into the Big 12 championship game, favored in each of its final four games, and Missouri could be five games from a possible national title game appearance. Lose, and the division title slips out of each team's hands.

Wizardry: This award goes to the league's most "spellbinding" player so far this season. He's not only the most productive, he's the most exciting, even though he'll be sitting out this weekend. Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon will run past you, run through you or jump over you. Either way, he's coming down with the ball.

A.J. Klein
AP Photo/Charlie NeibergallIowa State linebacker A.J. Klein has quietly had a monster season.
Ghosts, Goblins, Ghouls: This one goes to three guys putting up good seasons, but doing it under the radar. Iowa State linebacker A.J. Klein is a first-year starter, but he leads the Big 12 with 86 tackles. No other player in the league has more than 79. Texas A&M has had a disappointing season, and so has its quarterback, Jerrod Johnson. Top receiver Jeff Fuller hasn't. He's third in the league with 687 receiving yards, behind only Blackmon and Ryan Broyles. His nine touchdown grabs are also third in the league, behind only Blackmon and Texas Tech's Lyle Leong. Aaron Jones at Baylor has already kicked a league-high 16 field goals, hasn't missed any of his 31 extra points and is sixth in the Big 12 in scoring.

Cursed -- Texas A&M: Johnson looks like he's fallen victim to the curse of the Texas A&M senior quarterback. First there was Mark Farris in 2002, followed by Reggie McNeal and Stephen McGee. Johnson ended up splitting time with Ryan Tannehill last week, and might not even finish the season as his own team's starter after opening it as the Big 12's Preseason Offensive Player of the Year. Johnson underwent offseason shoulder surgery and says he feels fine. His play argues otherwise. He only threw eight picks all of last year, but tossed as many in two games earlier this year in a near loss to Florida International and a last-second loss to Oklahoma State. All three of Texas A&M's losses have come to ranked teams, but they never thought they'd have three this early in the year.

Halloween costume: Somebody get Taylor Martinez a "The Flash" costume! Ironic that he's the one who could do it the fastest, though, no?

Monster Mash: This one goes to the league's scariest matchup. How about anyone against Nebraska's running game? The Huskers have three of the league's top 10 rushers, in Martinez, Roy Helu Jr. and Rex Burkhead. No other team has more than one.

Thriller: The most exciting play of the season so far? Dan Bailey's game-winning field goal against Texas A&M, but no single play had the "What just happened?" factor of Missouri kick returner Gahn McGaffie's 86-yard touchdown to open the game against Oklahoma. It also had the most impact, helping send Missouri five spots up the BCS rankings and precipitated a double-digit jump in the human polls. Of course, it might not have been possible without T.J. Moe's 68-yard catch-and-run, go-ahead touchdown in the final minute against San Diego State, highlighted by three Aztec defenders giving each other their best shots while Moe ran free.

Jason Vorhees -- Iowa State won't die: Utah tried its best. So did Oklahoma. But there they were, celebrating inside a Texas visiting locker room to the surprise of everyone. Let's see what these resilient Cyclones have in store for the rest of the season.

Posted by's Tim Griffin

The morning after games are a little different for Texas A&M quarterback Jerrod Johnson these days.

 Stephen Mally/Icon SMI
 Jerrod Johnson is completing 63 percent of his passes.

It's not like he's complaining about the assortment of postgame bumps, bruises and scrapes that keep turning up. Johnson is just happy to be playing again on a regular basis.

"On Sundays, things are pretty slow and I'm pretty sore," Johnson said. "But I'm feeling all right. That's what we did was work hard all summer to deal with all of the grueling stuff we face. I think I've held up pretty well."

A&M coach Mike Sherman is relieved at that comment, which might be one of the biggest understatements in recent memory.

After taking over the starting job when Stephen McGee went down with a shoulder injury, the sophomore has pumped some life back into A&M's program. His recent passing binge has fueled the Aggies' modest two-game winning streak leading into their game Saturday against No. 4 Oklahoma.

"I knew he was a very talented player and bright," Sherman said. "But to think he would be as comfortable as he is, I can't say I thought that would happen. He still has a ways to get better at, but his comfort level has exceeded my expectations."

Johnson and McGee were involved in a tight battle for the starting job during fall camp. McGee eventually won out and started the Aggies first three games.

But Sherman found a way to get the 6-foot-5, 229-pound Johnson in the game, starting him at wide receiver to capitalize on his athleticism. Johnson still leads the Aggies with a 20.5 yard per reception average from earlier in the season.

And when McGee went down with a shoulder injury against Miami, Johnson directed the victory off the bench and also started the next game against Miami before returning to wide receiver against Army. But McGee re-injured his shoulder against the Black Knights and Johnson delivered a game-winning touchdown pass in relief.

He hasn't looked back from there, erupting on a record-breaking pace he credits to the growth of his teammates with him. Eight freshmen are listed on Texas A&M's offensive two-deep roster, including three who are listed as starters or co-starters.

"It's slowed down a little bit, but the biggest thing is the guys around me," Johnson said. "They've done a great job of learning the offense. I think the game has slowed down and I've gotten better, but it's a great job of the team coming together."

(Read full post)