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September 4, 2008

Big 12: Sherman era gets off to slow start

MORE PREVIEWS: ACC | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-10 | SEC

Mike Sherman managed a few laughs this week in assessing a shocking 18-14 loss to Arkansas State in his Texas A&M coaching debut.

"Is there a transition time? Yeah. But at the same time, that wasn't part of my contract," Sherman deadpanned.

When someone asked how long it would take before players quit thinking about new schemes and just started reacting, Sherman said, "I don't have a date on that. I'm sure (Texas A&M athletic director) Bill Byrne would be very interested in what that date is. I know it needs to be sooner rather than later."

But when he was pressed on what specifically went wrong in a loss that ended a 20-game winning streak in home openers at A&M, Sherman kept using the word "trust."

"Players have to trust the call. They have to trust that we know what we're doing," Sherman said.

That trust will get put to the test again this week in Sherman's first road trip with the Aggies. On paper, A&M should have no problem with New Mexico, which lost its opener to TCU. But on paper, A&M should have had no problem with Arkansas State.

Sherman took the blame for a failed fourth-and-1 in the first half that killed momentum. He said a sack on the second play of the second half seemed to gut his team, and was disgusted his offense couldn't score after having second-and-goal from the 2 in the fourth quarter.

"That was ridiculous," said Sherman, who also watched kicker Richie Bean miss field goals of 32 and 25 yards.

When Sherman was asked about the competition at kicker going forward, he got the backup kicker's name wrong. He called Randy Bullock "Buckley."

The Aggies need to get to know each other quickly because New Mexico plays a 3-3-5 defense that is aimed at causing confusion by blitzing on almost every play from a different angle.

"They are multiple and all over the place," Sherman said. "I do have concerns about that going into this ballgame."

  • BEST MATCHUP
  • Oklahoma sophomore QB Sam Bradford vs. Cincinnati's secondary. Bradford led the nation in pass efficiency last season. He started this season by going 17 of 22 for 183 yards and two touchdowns in a 57-2 rout of Chattanooga. But he may face the best secondary he has seen Saturday against Cincinnati, thanks to CB Mike Mickens, a first-team All-America in 2007, and FS DeAngelo Smith, a converted cornerback who tied for the national lead last season with eight interceptions. The big question: Can Cincinnati generate any kind of pass rush? While the Bearcats have second-team All-America Terrill Byrd at tackle, they also have two new starters at end going up against OU's veteran offensive line.

    BIG 12 SCHEDULE
    SATURDAY
    San Jose State at Nebraska, 12:30 p.m.
    Eastern Washington at Colorado, 3:30 p.m.
    Cincinnati at Oklahoma, 3:30 p.m.
    Texas A&M at New Mexico, 5 p.m.
    Northwestern State (La.) at Baylor, 7 p.m.
    Montana State at Kansas State, 7 p.m.
    Kent State at Iowa State, 7 p.m.
    Louisiana Tech at Kansas, 7 p.m.
    Southeast Missouri State at Missouri, 7 p.m.
    Houston at Oklahoma State, 7 p.m.
    Texas Tech at Nevada, 9 p.m.
    Texas at UTEP, 10:15 p.m.

  • PLAYER TO WATCH
  • Texas A&M quarterback Stephen McGee. McGee is the unquestioned leader on the A&M team, and he completed 70 percent of his passes in the loss to Arkansas State. But he also threw two interceptions and took four sacks, and didn't throw a touchdown pass. When McGee was named the starter by Mike Sherman, backups Jerrod Johnson and Ryan Tannehill were moved to receiver. In fact, they were the two leading receivers by yards in the opener. Sherman said McGee needs to trust the play calls more and not ad-lib. If McGee struggles, the identity of the A&M team will continue to erode.

  • WHO'S HOT
  • Texas QB Colt McCoy completed a school-record 13 consecutive passes to open the game against Florida Atlantic and finished 24 of 29 for 222 yards while also running 12 times for 103 yards in a 52-10 victory. Kansas State QB Josh Freeman is the highest-rated quarterback in the Big 12 nationally (No. 10) after going 18 of 24 for 232 yards and three TDs without an interception and also running for two more scores in a 45-6 victory over North Texas. Kansas QB Todd Reesing was 37 of 52 for 256 yards with three TD passes to Dezmon Briscoe in a rout of Florida International. Texas Tech's Graham Harrell threw for 536 yards in a 49-24 victory over Eastern Washington. Iowa State's defense came up with five interceptions for a school-record 202 yards in returns in a victory over Division I-AA South Dakota State.

  • WHO'S NOT
  • Texas Tech had a school-record 18 penalties for 169 yards, and the defense gave up 364 yards and 24 points in the victory over I-AA Eastern Washington. While Missouri defensive end Stryker Sulak recorded three sacks and LB Sean Weatherspoon had two interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown in a victory over Illinois, the Tigers' defense gave up 42 points and 451 passing yards. Nebraska gave up 342 passing yards in a 47-24 victory over Western Michigan in new coach Bo Pelini's debut. Baylor starting quarterback Kirby Freeman was benched after three stalled drives and replaced by true freshman Robert Griffin, who went 11 of 19 without an interception and ran for 29 yards and a score in a 41-13 loss to Wake Forest. Griffin was named the starter for this week's game against Northwestern State (La.).

  • WHAT THEY'RE SAYING
  • "There was a time in practice when somebody wasn't physical enough, and he took someone by the helmet and head-butted them. The point is he's very emotional and gets us fired up. Things like that make you say, 'I don't want to get that guy mad.' " Texas DT Roy Miller on new coordinator Will Muschamp cutting his face while pounding his dry erase board over a busted coverage in the first half of Texas' win over Florida Atlantic

    "It seemed like we could do whatever we wanted in the first half. Then, in the second half, it seemed like we couldn't get anything going. That really surprised me. Before the game, we knew we were going to win. And when the game was over, I think we were all in shock." Texas A&M QB Stephen McGee after losing to Arkansas State

    "We are a spotty team." Texas Tech coach Mike Leach after beating Eastern Washington with a school-record 18 penalties for 169 yards

  • ETC.
  • Missouri All-America wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, who had a 99-yard kick return for a touchdown, injured his ankle against Illinois and is questionable for Saturday's game against Division I-AA Southeast Missouri State. Texas is playing at UTEP for the first time Saturday. Oklahoma has won 19 in a row at home, which is the nation's best current streak. Kansas has scored at least 40 points in each of its past eight home games. The Jayhawks play host to Louisiana Tech on Saturday. Nebraska's win over Western Michigan was the Huskers' 23rd in a row in an opener, the longest current streak in the nation. Oklahoma leads the nation in total defense after allowing just 36 total yards to Chattanooga. Texas had 503 yards of total offense against Florida Atlantic. It was the 35th time in coach Mack Brown's tenure that Texas went over the 500-yard mark. Before Brown got to Texas, the Longhorns had had just 23 500-yard games. Texas Tech saw its nation-leading streak of 234 consecutive PATs ended against Eastern Washington. Oklahoma State returned a kickoff for a score and also had a 68-yard punt return against Washington State.

    MORE PREVIEWS: ACC | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-10 | SEC

    Chip Brown is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at cbrown@rivals.com.



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