Oklahoma Sooners: Mike Sherman

Instant analysis: Texas A&M 41, OU 13

January, 4, 2013
1/04/13
10:46
PM ET


ARLINGTON, Texas -- Another Cotton Bowl, another bad loss for the Big 12. Excluding current SEC member Missouri's win back in 2008, the Big 12 has lost the Cotton Bowl to an SEC opponent in eight consecutive seasons. Johnny Football put on a show after a month away and showed zero signs of rust and a zillion signs of being an endless source of frustration for Oklahoma's defense.

The Big 12 finished 4-5 in its nine bowl games, and the SEC improved to 4-3 in its bowl games. Let's take a look at some instant analysis for Texas A&M's 41-13 blowout win over the Sooners.

It was over when: Facing a fourth-and-5 late in the third quarter, Manziel hit Ryan Swope over the middle on a short slant. Swope shed a tackler and raced 33 yards to put the Aggies up, 34-13. That capped a run of three Oklahoma three-and-outs to begin the second half and spelled doom for the Sooners.

Game ball goes to: Johnny Manziel. I mean, who else? He broke the Cotton Bowl record for total yards with 516 and accounted for four touchdowns. It could have even been five, too, if not for Malcome Kennedy's bobbling a pass in the end zone that was eventually intercepted by Oklahoma's Javon Harris.

Stat of the game: Oklahoma averaged 4.8 yards per play. Texas A&M averaged 9.6 yards per play. It was really that simple in this one. Johnny Football made the Aggies dangerous on what seemed like every snap. Oklahoma's offense played well in the first half, but it rarely looked easy, and Texas A&M prevented the Sooners from breaking big plays. It also clamped down in the red zone.

Unsung hero of the game: Texas A&M's offensive line. Get a good, long look at Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews serving as bookends on this line. They might be gone soon, cashing big-time checks as NFL first-round picks. Mike Sherman had well-chronicled struggles, but the offensive line guru left some big beef for Manziel and the Aggies offense to operate behind. It showed tonight. Oklahoma rarely blitzed, for fear of Manziel running loose in the second level, but he had all day to throw and little pressure on most snaps.

What Texas A&M learned: Heisman jinx, December distractions, coaching changes, whatever. It all seemed pretty irrelevant in this game. Johnny Football looked like his usual self, if not better. He broke loose for 47 rushing yards on Texas A&M's opening drive and didn't slow down from there. Kliff Kingsbury checked out as Texas A&M's offensive coordinator, but Clarence McKinney had a solid performance in his debut as play-caller. Manziel insisted he wasn't distracted and that the whirlwind of awards and television appearances after winning the Heisman hadn't changed him. His performance validated those claims.

What Oklahoma learned: Just like Kansas State and Notre Dame, the Sooners were incapable of beating the elite teams in college football this year. A 10-3 season isn't bad, but it's not good enough at Oklahoma. The Sooners might not have even been happy going 1-2 in those losses, but 0-3 will leave a very bitter taste in their mouths thinking back on a season that was very average by the Sooners' sky-high standards. Any notion that it had a formula for stopping or even slowing down the Johnny Football train went out the window. He had his way with the Sooner defense, which tackled poorly, too.
Unranked Texas A&M's 33-19 upset of then-No. 8 Oklahoma last season left two lasting images.

For the first time in a long time, players left the field to chants of "Wrecking Crew," the moniker ultimately reserved for the best Texas A&M defenses.

The other was the dominant play on the line of scrimmage that birthed those chants.

Three times, Von Miller's crew stuffed Oklahoma at the goal line, the biggest coming in the final minutes to seal the win, denying DeMarco Murray the end zone on three runs inside the 5-yard line.

[+] EnlargeChristine Michael
AP Photo/Brandon WadeChristine Michael will need room to run for the Aggies to upset Oklahoma on Saturday.
Once again, Texas A&M is unranked and facing Oklahoma with three losses. This time, it travels to Norman, where it was beaten 65-10 in its last trip back in 2009.

The Sooners and Aggies are the two most physical offenses in the Big 12, and if A&M is going to spring another upset, it will have to win the battle of the line of scrimmage. The Big 12, with its elite skill-position talent and deep stock of quarterbacks, doesn't always have games decided up front. This one will be.

"Our offensive line is coming around," said Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman, who played true freshmen last year at both offensive tackle spots. "Until this last ballgame, defensively, we’ve been pretty good against the run."

Consider: Oklahoma leads the nation with 34 sacks. The Sooners have allowed three sacks, tied with Boise State for the fewest nationally.

Texas A&M, meanwhile, has given up just seven sacks and is third nationally with 30 sacks.

"A lot of us have definitely stepped up," said Texas A&M defensive lineman Spencer Nealy. "We definitely always play with a lot of effort, and at times, like any other position, we’ll have mistakes, but as a whole, we played pretty good."

The Aggies, though, have ascended to second in the Big 12 at 224 yards rushing per game while Oklahoma has sunk to eighth, though the Sooners possess the league's top passing attack.

Oklahoma will be without leading rusher Dominique Whaley, too, who suffered a broken ankle in Saturday's win over Kansas State.

Texas A&M fields the league's best 1-2 punch at running back, and last year's growth took place without one of them even on the field.

"The maturation of [the offensive line] really helped us. We struggled early in the season. We gave up a lot of sacks in the first half of the season. We didn’t run the ball very well," Sherman said. "We weren’t protecting well, we weren't running the ball well. They started to come into their own. A couple of our young tackles were talented but they didn’t have the experience. I thought they grew up in the second half of the season and we emphasized the run game more and took some pressure off the passing game and tried to stay out of long-yardage situations. ... They had a big part in the second-half run last season."

It's only continued into 2011. Christine Michael's broken leg that forced him out of the second half of the season has healed, and he's on course for a career season with 811 yards, third-most in the Big 12. Cyrus Gray has 704 yards of his own to rank ninth in the league.

Those two are fully capable of carrying the Aggies to the upset.

Despite the high sack numbers for A&M, it's given up more passing yards per game than any team in the country. How?

"It’s not ability at all. We’ve got some of the best players in the Big 12," Nealy said, pointing to fundamentals.

The best way to slow Oklahoma's passing attack is to keep it off the field. That means running the ball well and pressuring Landry Jones.

Texas A&M's offensive and defensive lines can do that. They proved it last year.

Now, it's time to do it again.

First Glance: Breaking down Texas A&M 

October, 31, 2011
10/31/11
1:02
PM ET
Record: 5-3 (3-2 Big 12)
Sept. 4: SMU, 46-14 (W)
Sept. 17: Idaho, 37-7 (W)
Sept. 24: Oklahoma State, 30-29 (L)
Oct. 1: Arkansas, 42-38 (L)

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Drive Through: Playoff Field After Week 4
Heather Dinich looks at who she thinks should be in the playoffs after four weeks of the season.
VIDEO PLAYLIST video

BIG 12 SCOREBOARD

Thursday, 9/25
Saturday, 9/27