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September 1, 2008Nobody was expecting a 10-win season or a Big 12 championship in Texas A&M head coach Mike Sherman's first season in College Station, but no one saw Saturday's shocking result in the season opener either. Arkansas State, a 5-7 team a year ago that finished in the middle of the pack in the Sun Belt conference upset A&M, 18-14, on the Aggies' home field in Sherman's debut.
With the game a few days in the rearview mirror, the Aggies are looking forward to Saturday's road trip to New Mexico State where the Lobos will be trying to rebound from a similar 26-3 loss to TCU.
"This is one game out of our season. As I told them you have 24 hours to digest, analyze and be accountable for what happened. I told them that after the game. We're totally accountable," Sherman said. "They outplayed us, outcoached us and beat us as a team. We have to hold this thing together. Not one player lost it. We lost as a team. We're all involved in this loss and when we play at home we should win these games and there are no excuses. On the same lines we have to have accountability and honesty when we look at the tape. Let's not be defensive and fix what needs to get fixed. After that's over with it's out of our system."
After racing out to a 14-3 lead in the first half, the Aggies fell flat after halftime and saw the Red Wolves score 15 unanswered points to earn the win. After watching game film, Sherman looks back at the first half as the point where things started to unravel.
And the point of emphasis is on himself.
"We missed some opportunities in the first half to score some touchdowns," Sherman said. "I go back to that fourth and one. It wasn't a great call by me. They stretched out the field and we probably should have gone right up the middle to keep that drive alive and get some points on the board."
The second half started out poorly with the Aggies getting the ball to start the half and promptly losing 17 yards on a sack. After that moment, things took a turn for the worse.
"In the second half that sack certainly put us in a very tenuous position and it seemed like it took the wind out of our sails. I had talked to the team at halftime that this team is going to gain confidence if we let them hang around. We wanted to come out and get the knockout punch right away," Sherman said. "I thought we put a lot of pressure on them (in the first half) and then to do that on the first drive we had the look in our eyes that we don't need at that point in the game. The tempo of the second half we were lacking. We just couldn't get anything to flow."
GROWING PAINS ON THE O-LINE
After a solid first half running the ball, the A&M offensive line steadily digressed through the second half. Quarterback Stephen McGee was flushed from the pocket constantly while running back Mike Goodson stopped getting the production he got in the first half.
The Aggies started three new starters on the offensive line while Michael Shumard made just his fourth career start, but at a new position at left tackle. That youth and inexperience showed late in the game.
"I thought they played pretty good in the first half," Sherman said. "I've said from day one that when you have a new offensive line with a new scheme and new techniques it's going to be a work in progress whether they're five returning starters or no returning starters. They're a group that has a lot of pride and good work ethic and will keep getting better."
Against a New Mexico defense that is fast, aggressive and shows multiple fronts, the Aggies have to grow up awfully quick before heading to Albuquerque.
"(New Mexico is) a very aggressive defense. They run multiple schemes and are all over the place," Sherman said. "Just getting targeted, nevermind blocking their players but just getting guys on the right guys is an issue. I do have a concern about that going into this ball game."
With a new coaching staff and new schemes on both sides of the ball comes growing pains, and one of those pains is the trust the players have in the game plan. In Saturday's loss, Sherman said that it was obvious after watching game film that the players were hesitant in trusting the calls. That turned into disaster on the field.
The good thing for the Aggies is that they saw it too when watching game film, and Sherman expects an improvement before Saturday's game at New Mexico.
"It's not so much about trusting us but trusting the call and doing it the way we want it to be done. Part of that is repetition, repeatedly over and over again," Sherman said. "This is the first game we've played with these guys. It's getting a feel for it and seeing it on tape and saying, 'Yeah, you're right. If I had done it that way I would have made the play.' It's a process they have to go through."
Inside Northgate you can find out everything Sherman had to say Monday about these subjects and much more such as the situation at place kicker after two missed field goals Saturday, if McGee has any improvement to make, Sherman's thoughts on expanding Jerrod Johnson's role at receiver and much more. Click here to get the complete transcript an audio of our conversation with Mike Sherman!
Also, click this link to get the full interview and audio with A&M quarterback Stephen McGee!
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