Sept. 1, 2009
"Every coach has a history, so you try to go back into the coach's history and what he's done." - Texas A&M Coach Mike Sherman.
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
In their study of New Mexico Lobos, in their preparation for Mike Locksley football at UNM, the Texas A&M Aggies have spent a great deal of film room time in Utah, Louisiana and Illinois.
Because in order to beat the Lobos in the future - Saturday at Kyle Field in College Station - the Aggies believe they need to know about Locksley's past at Illinois and the history of Locksley's two coordinators: Darrell Dickey on offense, Doug Mallory on defense.
You might think the Aggies' edge in this contest, besides Kyle's 80,000 strong, is their 28-22 win over the Lobos last September in Albuquerque. But too much about those Lobos has changed, namely a new coach, a new offense, a new defense.
"When you have a new staff, you're playing a different team," said Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman. "It's not like we're playing the same team. Obviously, we spent a lot of time, because of where the head coach is from, looking at Illinois. It's kind of a hodgepodge of research."
Sherman is hoping his Aggies can gain some sort of edge by looking at what Locksley did at Illinois, what Dickey did at Utah State and what Mallory did at LSU. Then his staff has to evaluate the UNM personnel and try to guess what kind of tweaks the Lobos will throw into their schemes to fit the Lobos' talent.
And then Sherman and his Aggies have to forget a lot of that stuff and just make sure they are sound on offense and defense. Ditto for the Lobos.
It's funny how football games often come down to fundamentals: blocking, tackling, kicking, catching a well-thrown football or maybe intercepting a poorly-thrown football.
What Sherman knows about the Lobos on offense is that they have given senior Donovan Porterie the huddle and UNM had enough talent at the receiver spots and the running back spots to give Porterie lots of options behind a solid O-line.
"More than anything, in the context of the game, you have to be able to adjust to something new," said Sherman. "We have to be able to handle things that maybe we haven't scripted in practice, because I'm sure there are things we haven't seen in practice that we will see in the game."
What Sherman knows about the Lobos on defense is that they have abandoned the 3-3-5 in favor of the more traditional 4-3 front and that the Lobos are a tad young and a tad small.
So, how will Sherman attack that new-look Lobo front? Since A&M and Sherman are a bit traditional, he might just go with a traditional approach and run the ball straight at the Lobos and use the ground game to set up the pass.
Not a bad thought considering A&M's line lists trench hogs that weight 300, 301, 303, 310, 312, 300, 305, 309 and 302. This is a lot of prime, Texas beef. The Aggies just might go to a two-back look with a tight end and challenge the Lobos to a physical war.
The emotional edge in the game has to lean to the Aggies simply because most of the 80,000 fans in Kyle will be leaning to the Aggies. "Our main goal this season is taking Kyle Field," said Trent Hunter.
All teams want to defend their home turf. Sherman claims the Aggies aren't harboring any bad memories from last year's home opener: an embarrassing 18-14 loss to Arkansas State.
But that might be coach-speak, or maybe a second-year coach hoping the hard-to-please Aggie fans have forgotten that first-year fiasco by Sherman. Sherman might be hoping those fans have forgotten the entire 2008 season.
The Aggies went 4-8 and 2-6 in the Big 12 South. They lost to the Texas Longhorns 49-9.
"We want to fire back from last year and make the point that Texas A&M is here," said Aggie Jeff Fuller.
The Aggies claimed to have an unhappy clubhouse in 2008 that led to a team divided. If so, the Aggies divided themselves and many teams conquered A&M. This season they claim to happy, motivated and talented. "The locker room is not divided anymore," says Hunter.
Like the Lobos, A&M went through a heated battle at the QB spot with Jerrod Johnson breaking the tape. Like UNM's Porterie, a big edge for Johnson was game experience. Johnson threw for three TDS in A&M's 28-22 win over UNM.
"What I remember of New Mexico last year was that they were a scrappy team, with strong fundamentals, that played hard," said Johnson. "We are going to have to be ready for a fight on Saturday. It's going to be important that we respect them."
The Aggies are expecting a turnaround from their belly flop of 2008. Still, again like the Lobos, this is a young team (27 freshmen and sophomores on depth chart) with a lot of question marks and a lot of growing to do.
The Aggies are picked to finish last in the six-team Big 12 South and surely this prediction is a reflection of the defense the Aggies placed on the field a year ago.
"Our main goal this season is taking Kyle Field."
Texas A&M Aggie Trent Hunter
And, like all the Aggies, it's a unit that has something to prove. "We kinda got a chip on our shoulders," said defensive lineman Von Miller.
The Aggies first chance to knock off that chip is against the University of New Mexico Lobos. For this game, the Aggies won't have to look at faraway places like Illinois or Utah for answers. They'll be in their backyard.
Editor's Note: Richard Stevens is a former Associate Sports Editor and sports columnist for The Albuquerque Tribune. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Previous GoLobo.com articles can be found on The Richard Stevens Corner.