Texas A&M vs. Arkansas
You can take Texas A&M out of the Big 12 but you can’t take Texas A&M out of Texas A&M.
There are certain programs that defy logic and defy explanation when it comes to really, really big moments in really, really big games. There might be a turnover in players, coaches, and attitudes, but if a team can’t close, is can’t close, and for the second straight week, the Aggies failed to come up with any semblance of defense in the second half, and the running game that was so effective in the first half went bye-bye.
Arkansas did its best to do everything possible to keep the Aggies in the game, with missed tackles, 12 penalties, and a defense that allowed over 600 yards, but when it was time to come through late in the game, the A&M defense weakened, the pass rush was non-existent, and the receivers didn’t make plays.
This was hardly the statement A&M wanted to make now that it’s making a jump to the new league, and until the Aggies can prove this year they can come up with wins against teams like Oklahoma State and Arkansas, they’re going to go into every second half thinking, “not again” the moment there’s any adversity.
But remember, A&M had the same problems last year, losing to Oklahoma State and Arkansas in back-to-back weeks, before turning things around after a loss to Missouri. It might take a similar rebound for head coach Mike Sherman to be the main man to lead the program into the SEC, but the second half of the slate this year is far more difficult than it was last year.
For Arkansas, the second half might be the season-changer. The run defense is awful, the ground game is non-existent, and there were too many mistakes, but Tyler Wilson and his 510 passing yards showed just how dangerous the team might still be in conference play. There might be several big holes and several big problems, but with Auburn, Ole Miss, and Vanderbilt up next, now there’s a chance to go on a nice run. And next year, the Hogs will welcome in the Aggies with open arms.
Sherman tanked … again.
Unless Texas A&M somehow rallies to a Big 12 title in the second half of the season, no one will convince me that Mike Sherman is the right man for the job in College Station. The head coach and his staff deserve to be vilified for failing to keep their kids properly motivated and focused after securing huge halftime leads in consecutive games. A week ago, the Aggies were up by 17 before falling to Oklahoma State, 30-29. And on Saturday, they yielded 25 of the final 28 points to inexcusably blow a game to Arkansas, 42-38. In the last two show-me games versus ranked opponents, A&M has been outscored 52-12 in the final 30 minutes, which goes down as a serious indictment of the men in charge. To take nothing away from Cowboys head coach Mike Gundy and Razorbacks head coach Bobby Petrino, who are skilled tacticians, the Aggies would be 4-0 with the right head coach and collection of assistants calling the shots.
Sherman is not the right man for the job at A&M. Period. Don’t let another nine-win season cloud your judgment regarding this discussion. The Aggies have better than nine-win talent, but without the right executives making decisions and mentoring the kids, they’re simply not going to get there. As unorthodox and untimely as it may sound, the administration would be well-advised to begin a search for a new head coach right now. Sherman is not going to win on a big-time level, and the disparity on the sidelines will only get wider when Texas A&M joins the SEC a year from now.
By Matt Zemek
There’s no need to get cute or fancy about this: Plainly put, Mike Sherman lost this game for Texas A&M with two awful decisions that were made even worse by the fact that the second awful decision was exactly the same as the first one.
In a game between two teams with poor defenses and potent offenses, punting was simply not an option if the fourth-down distance was minimal and the line of scrimmage was anywhere near midfield. Yet, A&M’s head coach got the strange idea that with his running game blowing away Arkansas’s front seven, punts on fourth and one offered the best path to victory. Yes, against Bobby Petrino’s offense. Yes, one week after Sherman abandoned the running game in the third quarter against Oklahoma State. Yes, against an Arkansas defense with stacks of injuries and a lack of quality depth. Yes, against an Arkansas defense that absorbed Alabama’s physical style a week before.
Yet, when Sherman punted on a fourth and one and watched Arkansas trim a 35-20 deficit to 35-27 in the second half, one would have thought that a smart guy (who has coached in the NFL playoffs) who is making a lot of money would have been able to learn a simple lesson: Keep the ball away from Tyler Wilson and the Razorbacks’ turbocharged passing attack.
Nope – Sherman insisted on punting despite owning a ground game that was gobbling up yardage like there was no tomorrow.
Arkansas tied the game at 35 on the ensuing possession, and the rest was history. This is not knee-jerk emotionalism in the heat of the moment: Sherman should be fired. When a coach so consistently fails to do his job and presides over collapses he could have prevented, there’s no reason to stick around in the big-boy world of the SEC. When A&M enters its new league next year, it should hire a better college football coach to handle the challenge. Another Aggie season lies in ruins. Mike Sherman shouldn’t be allowed to pick up the rubble in 2012.
By Barrett Sallee
Follow me on Twitter: @BarrettSallee
This is the kind of story that college football needs. Instead of talking about street agents, tattoos, jet skis and recruiting violations; we need to focus on guys like Arkansas running back Broderick Green.
Just five months after tearing his ACL, Green scored two touchdowns against Texas A&M, including the game-winner, capping off a rousing Hog comeback from down.
For Arkansas, this win was huge. The Hogs appeared to be spiraling out of control in the first half, just one-week after getting run out of Bryant-Denny Stadium by the Alabama Crimson Tide. They desperately needed a morale boost, and got one thanks to the porous A&M defense. Arkansas’ line still can’t block and the defense is still shaky, but this is the type of game that can jump start a season that looked to be left for dead heading into the locker room.
For the Aggies, this couldn’t have been more of a disaster. A&M wanted to make a statement to the SEC, the conference in which it will participate next year. Instead, the only thing it proved is that all the stereotypes of Big 12 football tend to be accurate.
Lots of offense, no defense.
If Texas A&M doesn’t fix its second half defense, the transition to the SEC won’t be very smooth.
By Russ Mitchell
Follow me on Twitter @russmitchellcfb
Mike Sherman's electing to punt on two late fourth and ones - with his team averaging about eight yards a carry - was gutless.
Sherman better find his testicular fortitude before he and Texas A&M join the SEC next year. The Big 12 plays good football, and the state of Texas is a tough place.
But you simply cannot show such gross cowardice in the SEC and survive. Even if A&M had somehow pulled off out the W, that kind of play calling is like a red rag to a bull in the SEC.
It will haunt you.
Don't think so...just wait until Sherman makes his first run of road games next year. Wait for the chants. Wait for how other coaches will scheme against him. Respect - at least in terms of how he will coach in tight situations - has been damaged.
We should be talking about QB Tyler Wilson's resilience in the face of another absolute beating (this kid is going to die if Arkansas doesn't find a tackle that can pass block)... We should be talking about RB Broderick Green, who was supposed to be out for the year after knee surgery... Or RB Dennis Johnson doing his best imitation of Maurice Jones-Drew. We should be talking about another A&M second half collapse.
Instead we're talking about how "Punt, Bama, Punt" now has "Punt, Aggies, Punt" for company.