7:00 PM ET, September 2, 2006
Kyle Field, COLLEGE STATION, TX
COLLEGE STATION (AP) -- Texas A&M coach Dennis Franchione got just what he wanted out of the Aggies' 35-3 win over The Citadel on Saturday night -- a never-in-doubt win and video evidence of where his team needs to improve.
"The theory among coaches is you should make a dramatic improvement from Game 1 to Game 2," said Franchione. "This game will be very valuable for teaching and learning."
Stephen McGee threw for 200 yards and a touchdown and ran for another score in his second career start as Texas A&M won its 20th consecutive home opener.
Courtney Lewis had a pair of 1-yard touchdown runs and Kerry Franks blocked a punt and returned the second-half kickoff 52 yards for the Aggies.
But the A&M defense, one of the nation's worst last season, still looks shaky under new coordinator Gary Darnell.
Duran Lawson completed 19 of 38 passes for 128 yards for the Division I-AA Bulldogs, who've lost 16 consecutive games against I-A opponents.
Though they didn't score a touchdown, the Bulldogs finished with 243 total yards, raising questions about the 4-2-5 defensive scheme Darnell implemented when he replaced Carl Torbush.
"We weren't perfect. We made a lot of mistakes," said senior safety Melvin Bullitt, who had tackles and a fumble recovery. "We'll go in and watch film and we'll capitalize on that."
Darnell was pleased, though, mainly because the Aggies didn't allow a touchdown for the first time in 18 games.
"I just think giving up points is a real issue," he said. "I don't like to give up points."
McGee, a sophomore, completed 16 of 24 passes without an interception. The Aggies were one of 11 teams to average 200 yards rushing and passing last season and they were balanced again, complementing McGee's night with 184 yards on the ground.
But like the defense, the offense wasn't flawless either, fumbling four times.
"It came down to us," McGee said. "We turned the ball over, we held ourselves from scoring."
The Citadel had 173 yards and nine first downs at halftime -- more than it had combined in two games last season against Florida State and Mississippi.
McGee and the A&M offense made sure the result was the same.
The Aggies went 63 yards for a touchdown on their opening drive. McGee completed his first two passes and Lewis scored less than six minutes into the game.
Chad Schroeder made a leaping 38-yard catch on A&M's next possession, but McGee fumbled a snap at the Bulldogs' 11. Two plays later, Bulldogs' receiver Andre Roberts fumbled after catching a screen pass, setting up Jorvorskie Lane's 5-yard TD run.
"We came in and we were clicking very early," McGee said.
At the start of the second quarter, Franks swatted Mark Kaspar's punt from inside the Bulldogs' 10, safety Alton Dixon recovered at 1 and McGee plowed into the end zone on the next play. Kaspar, a native of nearby Navasota, had a punt blocked for the first time in 83 career attempts.
The Bulldogs chewed up 8:31 on an ensuing 18-play drive to the Aggies' 7, but Kellen Heard sacked Lawson on third down. Blake Vandiver kicked a 29-yard field goal to trim A&M's lead to 21-3.
Franchione thought the time-consuming drive derailed the Aggies' offense.
"We blocked a punt and scored," he said, "but then we didn't have the ball for a long time and that got us out of rhythm on that side of the ball."
Darnell said the drive was his one disappointment about his defense's performance.
"You're on the job on defense to get off the field without giving up points," he said. "But at the same time, it was an 18-play drive. I'd like to think that somewhere along the way, we could've changed that."
But the lopsided score belied how well the Bulldogs moved the ball in the first half. Lawson was 12 of 22, but several of his incompletions were drops by his open receivers.
"We had guys in the right position," said Bulldogs' coach Kevin Higgins, "we just didn't finish off the plays. We've got to catch the ball better."
Franks broke free down the sideline on the second-half kickoff and Lewis scored again four minutes later to keep the Aggies in control.
McGee found a wide-open Schroeder for a 27-yard TD connection with 5:18 to go, capping an 84-yard drive.
"He's only going to get better," Franchione said of McGee. "For the most part, he was a good field general, he directed the team well and gave them a lot of energy."
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||4-17||4-11|
|4th Down Conversions||1-3||2-2|
|TD||9:16||COURTNEY LEWIS 1 YD RUN (MATT SZYMANSKI KICK)|
Drive info: 10 plays, 63 yards.
|TD||1:46||JORVORSKIE LANE 5 YD RUN (MATT SZYMANSKI KICK)|
Drive info: 2 plays, 12 yards.
|TD||13:49||STEPHEN MCGEE 1 YD RUN (MATT SZYMANSKI KICK)|
Drive info: 1 plays, 1 yards.
|FG||6:18||BLAKE VANDIVER 29 YD FG|
Drive info: 18 plays, 77 yards.
|TD||11:43||COURTNEY LEWIS 1 YD RUN (MATT SZYMANSKI KICK)|
Drive info: 6 plays, 41 yards.
|TD||5:18||CHAD SCHROEDER 27 YD PASS FROM STEPHEN MCGEE (MATT SZYMANSKI KICK)|
Drive info: 10 plays, 84 yards.