Texas A&M Aggies: UTEP Miners

COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin has a saying that is echoed by his players, especially at this time of the season.

"It's about us."

The message is clear and self-explanatory. And if the Aggies are going to do what they hope to -- win out the remainder of the season -- Sumlin wants them to take heed of those three words.

[+] EnlargeJohnny Manziel
Bob Levey/Getty ImagesTexas A&M signal-caller Johnny Manziel threw four more touchdown passes on Saturday night. He now has 26 TD passes on the season, matching his total from 2012.
On Saturday night, in a 57-7 win over UTEP at Kyle Field, it was all about the Aggies, who took care of business by dominating a beaten-up team. What's interesting is that No. 12 A&M (7-2) has the same record as it did at this time a season ago. The feelings are different, but that's partially because last season the Aggies exceeded expectations. Few outside of this town expected them to do much better than 6-6 or 7-5 in their first season in the SEC. This season, the bar was set so high that the same record at the same point seems almost pedestrian.

And while their own preseason goals -- an SEC championship and a run at a BCS national championship -- are out the window, there are still things left for Texas A&M to play for. If the Aggies win the remainder of their games, who knows? They might just sneak their way into their first BCS bowl since 1998.

The final three-game stretch is a challenging one. The Aggies host Mississippi State next weekend, then are off the following week before the difficulty level ramps up with trips to LSU and Missouri to close out the season. Both of those teams are still playing for a chance to go to Atlanta to play in the SEC title game, and in order to knock them off in their respective stadiums, the Aggies will have to put together a complete game, for four quarters -- something they really haven't done yet this season.

But in the past two weeks, in a 56-24 victory over Vanderbilt and on Saturday in the blowout win over UTEP, the Aggies have begun inching closer to playing that type of game. Throughout the first seven games, the defense was mostly poor while the offense carried the load. Special teams had issues, too, as the Aggies battled an inconsistent situation at place-kicker before moving Josh Lambo into the role, one that he has taken and run with.

The past two weeks, the Aggies defense has performed admirably. It had probably its best all-around performance against the Commodores, and on Saturday, against a much weaker opponent, the Aggies really only had one bad drive on defense, the nine-play, 73-yard touchdown drive that gave the Miners an early 7-2 lead.

UTEP, which came into the game without starting quarterback Jameill Showers (shoulder injury), couldn't move the ball with consistency against A&M when the Aggies began to rack up points. On top of that, A&M's defense was ball-hawking in the second stanza, coming up with three turnovers. The offense turned those into 21 points and blew the game open. UTEP finished with just 198 total yards, and life was understandably difficult with backup Blaire Sullivan running the offense. Still, this is an Aggies defense that had trouble stopping virtually everybody earlier this season.

"We've been having great practices the last few weeks," junior defensive end Gavin Stansbury said. "Also, I think it has to do with confidence. You have to have confidence in yourself and in your team to have a great game."

While the defense has stepped up its efforts the last two weeks, the offense has had its hiccups. Last week it was bitten by the turnover bug, giving the ball away four times. On Saturday against the Miners, the Aggies seemed out of sync in the first quarter. Quarterback Johnny Manziel and receiver Mike Evans couldn't get on the same page, though opportunities were there. The Aggies punted twice in the first quarter -- a rarity for them in any single frame.

What began as a snoozer with Texas A&M's offense sputtering turned into a rout with an explosive second quarter by the Aggies, who outscored UTEP 27-0 in the second quarter to take a commanding 36-7 halftime lead. From there, no doubt remained of the outcome as Manziel led two more scoring drives in the third quarter before calling it a night, after throwing for four touchdowns and running for two, including an impressive 49-yarder that looked like the 2012 version of Manziel.

The A&M special teams started well, meanwhile, blocking a punt that led to a safety and giving the Aggies an early 2-0 lead. But the unit had its issues, too. Punter Drew Kaser, who serves as the holder on point-after-touchdown kicks and field goals, bobbled a snap, which left a point off the board. Freshman LaQuvionte Gonzalez also muffed a punt in the second half, though the game was well in hand.

Those are issues that have to be rectified if the Aggies hope to close out the final three-game stretch with three wins. They still haven't put a good performance from all three phases together on one night, though they might be inching closer to doing so.

"It's hard to say, when you win 57-7, to say that you didn't play a complete game," Sumlin said. "As a coach, there's some positives there. Our guys understand that we can be better than we were tonight."

Five things: Texas A&M-UTEP

November, 2, 2013

COLLEGE STATION, Texas — No. 12 Texas A&M hosts a late game tonight, taking on UTEP at 9 p.m. ET at Kyle Field. Here are five things to watch for when the Aggies and Miners take the field.

1. Health issues: Last week there was much attention around the throwing shoulder of Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel after he injured it against Auburn the week before. But Manziel started and played well against Vanderbilt, throwing for 305 yards and four touchdowns. Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin said that Manziel threw early this week without any problems and he didn't anticipate that the shoulder would be an issue for Manziel this week. There are a couple Aggies whose status is uncertain heading into tonight's game: starting offensive tackle Cedric Ogbuehi and starting defensive tackle Alonzo Williams. Both missed last week's game against Vanderbilt. Sumlin called both a "maybe" to play, though later said Ogbuehi has a "pretty good chance to play." If Ogbuehi is held out, it would be strictly precautionary, Sumlin said. Williams "may or may not play," Sumlin said earlier this week.

2. No Showers: This was supposed to be the homecoming of sorts for UTEP quarterback Jameill Showers, who spent three seasons in Aggieland and backed up Ryan Tannehill in 2011 and Manziel in 2012 before graduating with his degree and transferring to UTEP for his final two seasons of eligibility. However, a shoulder injury that Showers suffered last week against Rice will keep him out tonight and possibly for the rest of the season, according to UTEP coach Sean Kugler. Instead, the Aggies will face sophomore quarterback Blaire Sullivan, who came into the Rice game last week in relief of the injured Showers. Sullivan was 6-of-9 passing for 112 yards with a touchdown and an interception while filling in last week. Showers will travel and remain a captain for the game for the Miners, but will obviously spend the day on the sideline.

3. UTEP struggles vs. the SEC and AQ teams: The Miners (1-6, 0-4 Conference USA) have had a tough season and they're going into a situation that has been tough for them historically. UTEP is 1-7 all-time against SEC teams, and in road games against teams from automatic-qualifying conferences, the Miners are 0-17. The last time it beat an SEC team was in 1967 (Ole Miss in the Sun Bowl).

4. A&M defense: The Aggies (6-2, 3-2 SEC) had perhaps their best performance of the season last week in the win over Vanderbilt, forcing three turnovers, compiling seven sacks and holding Vanderbilt to 329 total yards (95 rushing). If the Aggies are truly going to improve as a unit on defense, this week is another opportunity they'll have to take advantage of, as they face a backup quarterback for the second straight week. Defensive coordinator Mark Snyder said he dialed up a lot of pressure against Vanderbilt; he'll probably be well served to do so again this week and continue to build the confidence of his young and inexperienced group.

5. Early exit?: The final quarter of the Aggies' season are all SEC battles -- they host Mississippi State next week before hitting the road for battles against LSU and Missouri (with an off week before LSU). If Texas A&M can get a big lead early and finish UTEP off quickly, it would help. They can get the starters out early in the second half and let those banged-up guys get a breather, because if they plan on winning out, they'll need every weapon they have.
The legend of Dalton Santos was the talk of Van, Texas, a couple of years ago. Santos, a former Under Armour All-American, now is making his name even bigger as a Texas Longhorns linebacker. The Santos name continues to make waves around Van, as Dalton’s younger brother makes a case for being one of the state’s top offensive linemen.

Class of 2015 offensive guard Wyatt Santos has watched his stock rise in recent weeks after an outstanding performance at the East Texas Sports Network Combine on May 19 in Tyler, Texas.

Lessons learned: ETSN Combine 

May, 19, 2013
TYLER, Texas -- East Texas often is considered one of the nation’s most underrated areas in finding elite talent when it comes to college football recruiting. Sunday featured the inaugural East Texas Sports Network combine, which showcased more than 100 players from East Texas.

The event took place at the Accelerate Performance Enhancement Center (APEC) training facility, which has trained professionals such as quarterback Graham Harrell, running back Kendall Hunter and pro baseball pitchers Phillip Humber and Josh Tomlin.

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The drives home from college were rather lengthy for Shane Huhn. So he opted for a change of scenery to be closer to his family.

The UTEP safety indicated on Thursday that he is transferring to Texas A&M and will walk on to the team when he enrolls this summer. The 5-foot-11, 200-pound Huhn said location played a role in his decision.

"I wanted to be closer to home," Huhn said. "I want to spend off weekends and go hang out with [my brother] Erik. It'll be great, because it's only an hour and a half away. El Paso is eight hours away, so I wasn't able to see him as much as I wanted to. It's a good change. It's closer to home and everything's better now."

His brother, class of 2013 safety Erik Huhn (Cibolo, Texas/Steele), signed a letter of intent with Texas in February and will join the Longhorns this summer.

Shane, also a product of Cibolo Steele High, will have to sit out the 2013 season at Texas A&M per NCAA transfer rules. He'll be eligible to compete in games in the 2014 season and will have two years of eligibility remaining.

Huhn played in all 12 UTEP games last fall and started the final eight of the season at strong safety. He finished with 49 tackles (sixth on the team), two interceptions, four pass breakups, two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and a blocked kick.

He said he left the Miners on good terms.

"I left on a good note," Huhn said. "I just told them that it had nothing to do with the coaching staff ... it has nothing to do with the football team, I just think it's time for me to have a little change in scenery. They were cool with it, they understood. There were no hard feelings."

Huhn does know a current A&M coach -- special teams coordinator and tight ends coach Jeff Banks was an assistant at UTEP last season.

"I gave him a call to find out what his thoughts were about A&M," Huhn said. "He just told me that it's a great school. It's a great education for starters. I think everyone knows that. He said it's a great opportunity to play football there, with them joining the SEC and everything that's happened with them. He said 'If you want to come here, it's a great opportunity and I think you'll enjoy it a lot.' I took that to heart and thought about it and the possibilities."

"It's a great place to play," Huhn said. "High level competition in the SEC and a great football atmosphere so I'm excited to be a part of it."

Bayou City Beat: Recruiting nuggets 

April, 29, 2013
Each week this spring, GigEmNation reporter Sam Khan Jr. will bring you notes and nuggets from watching and visiting with high school football prospects in the Greater Houston area that week, including observations of Texas A&M commitments and targets and other players that catch his attention. Here's this week's installment:

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BRENHAM, Texas -- ESPN Watch List cornerback Darrion Johnson keeps his eye on one specific area when he takes in a team's practice during a visit.

Naturally, he watches the defensive backs.

Johnson is looking for several things: how the secondary coach works with his players, what the tempo is like, how physical the players are. Those are all important things for the 5-foot-10, 180-pound cornerback from Brenham (Texas) High School as he gets a feel for what school fits him best.

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Memorable year for 2014 QB Aaron Sharp 

November, 6, 2012
HUMBLE, Texas -- Aaron Sharp is not surprised with what his team has accomplished this season.

After going 9-2 and making the playoffs for the first time a year ago, Sharp and his Houston Summer Creek teammates had high expectations coming into this season and so far, they're meeting those, sitting at 9-0 heading into their regular season finale against 9-0 Dayton (Texas) High School for a district championship.

"Yeah, this was pretty much an expected season from us," Sharp said. "We had a lot of people coming back from a good year that we had last year. We had more talent come in, so I think it was a real big season expected for Summer Creek, and we're just doing what we're supposed to be doing.

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Five from Friday: 2014 LBs shine 

November, 4, 2012
Each week, GigEmNation will bring you five things from watching high school football action in the Midlands region that week, including observations of Texas A&M commitments and targets and other players that catch our attention. Here's this week's installment:

1. The two 2014 star linebackers on the field Friday night in La Porte, Texas -- La Porte High School outside linebacker Hoza Scott and Houston North Shore inside linebacker Zac Whitley -- played big in what was a big game for both teams. Scott had a sack early, and Whitley was in on the majority of tackles for North Shore in the early going. Throughout the night, both showed athleticism, speed and that they're good tacklers. Both can hit hard and look like smart football players who are in the right position at the right time. Texas and Texas A&M have offered both prospects. A&M leads for Scott, who also has offers from Alabama and LSU, while there's no stated leader for Whitley.

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Five from Friday: TE Griffin stands out 

October, 22, 2012
We introduce a new feature on GigEmNation today: Five from Friday, where GigEmNation writer Sam Khan Jr. discusses five things he saw and learned while on the road watching football recruits from games in the Midlands region.

Derrick Griffin
Sam Khan Jr./ESPN.comTight end Derrick Griffin caught two touchdowns passes for Rosenberg, Texas.
1. Rosenberg (Texas) Terry tight end Derrick Griffin is still as good as advertised. The 6-foot-6, 228-pound Griffin displays incredible athleticism, from his speed, his hands, his leaping ability and his propensity to block downfield. His team uses a run-heavy veer offense and the Rangers are on their third-string quarterback, so Griffin didn't get as many opportunities on Friday in his team's 30-0 win over Bay City (Texas) High School. But when he got the opportunities, he took advantage as two of his three catches were for touchdowns. He said he's still "keeping his options open" at the moment while maintaining his commitment to Texas A&M, but it's noteworthy that he was sitting front and center at Kyle Field for the LSU game on Saturday with teammate Victor Davis and Manvel's Tavares Garner, both Texas A&M cornerback commits.

2. Whoever takes a chance on Eugene Wright is going to get a quality player. The Rosenberg (Texas) Terry back is undersized (5-8, 160 pounds) but he's quick and shifty and can change the game at a moment's notice when the ball gets into his hands. On Thursday against Bay City (Texas) High School, Wright averaged a whopping 14.2 yards per carry, gaining 128 yards on nine totes including a 58-yard touchdown to lead the Rangers to a 30-0 win. Notably, all those numbers came in the first half as Wright was injured in the second quarter and didn't return. But the Rangers already had the 30-0 lead at halftime so his services weren't needed in the final two quarters. Wright has had interest from Boise State, Texas Tech and West Virginia this year.

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Zwerneman previews Texas A&M season
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