- Sam Khan Jr., ESPN Staff Writer
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COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Through a half, Texas A&M has made an impressive Southeastern Conference debut, taking a touchdown lead over the Florida Gators at the half.
Kevin Sumlin's Aggies have moved the ball consistently and struggled on their first defensive drive, but have done better since the first few minutes by generating pressure on quarterback Jeff Driskel.
Stat of the half: It's easy to point to yards -- the Aggies gained a whopping 269 offensive yards in the first half to Florida's 101 -- but the real story is the number of plays. The up-tempo pace that Texas A&M runs under Sumlin and offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury yielded 47 offensive plays to Florida's 27. Texas A&M moved the chains consistently, with each of their first three drives consisting of double-digit plays and yielding scores. At this pace, the Aggies will run 94 plays.
Player of the half: Quarterback Johnny Manziel. The redshirt freshman, who is making his first career start and first career appearance, has showed almost no first-game jitters. He's been efficient in the passing game (16-of-20, 141 yards) and has been dangerous with his legs, using his speed and agility to gain 41 yards on nine carries, including an 11-yard touchdown run that gave the Aggies a second-quarter lead. He appears to have a tremendous feel for the game and though he has made a few mistakes, none have been of the major variety that have costed the Aggies.
What’s working for the Aggies: Tempo and balance has been key so far for Texas A&M. They've kept Florida's defense on its toes with a good mix of run and pass and all three running backs -- Christine Michael, Ben Malena and Trey Williams -- have contributed, combining for 60 rushing yards and 55 receiving yards.
What’s not working for the Aggies: The deep ball. Texas A&M has completed a lot of short passes but hasn't been able to get a lot of good looks downfield. The longest pass play was a screen pass to Williams, where he did most of the work to get 28 yards. Manziel almost connected with Mike Evans for a big pass play late in the half, but he was out of bounds. You figure the Aggies will have to stretch the field at some point in the second half.
What Texas A&M needs to do to win: Continue to pressure Driskel. The Aggies have done a good job defensively of generating pressure, led by defensive end Damontre Moore's 2.5 sacks. Driskel has been perfect when he has gotten the ball away, going 6-of-6 for 85 yards. The Aggies will have to disrupt that to keep the Gators from matching them on the scoreboard.
4dSam Khan and Greg Ostendorf