- Created on Saturday, 26 November 2011 01:03
- Last Updated on Thursday, 16 May 2013 07:51
- Written by Travis Pulver
Thursday night saw a historic rivalry come to an end (at least for the time being) with the 118th meeting between the Texas A&M Aggies and the Texas Longhorns. Like many games in what was the third longest running rivalry in college football, it came down to the wire.
As much as the Aggie Nation was hoping for a big win to hold over the heads of t-sips (that’s someone that supports the Longhorns) for years to come, it was not meant to be as Longhorn kicker Justin Tucker booted a 40 yard field goal through the up-rights to give the Longhorns the win, 27-25.
Watching the Longhorns celebrate the historic win on the home field of the Aggies was almost as bad as losing the game itself for Aggie fans everywhere.
From the moment the game ended and likely for weeks to come, analysts and fans of both teams and college football in general have complimented the two teams on a game well-played and hard-fought. They have all almost uniformly mentioned that such a tight game is enigmatic of the intensity that the rivalry has, and how it is a shame that it must end.
As they collectively close their statements on the game they state how they hope that cooler heads will prevail prior to next season, and we will not have to wait six or seven years for the 119th edition of this great game.
While it is easy to agree with the hope that cooler heads will prevail, I have to disagree with just about everything else that they have said.
I am from Texas. I was born and raised there. This football game has been a focal point of my Thanksgiving weekend my entire life; much like it has been for many people that have grown up in the state of Texas. As a former football player (Crosby High School and the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy) and a graduate of Texas A&M I feel like I have the right to say what I think about that game:
As a player who has been involved in rivalry games, I would be embarrassed if I was the head coach of either team. The number of personal foul penalties in that game was unbelievable. The Longhorns had three and the Aggies five, including the phantom one that the refs called on the final drive of the drive to keep Texas moving.
Well that’s just part of playing in an intense rivalry!
If there was one or maybe two personal fouls, that would be true. Eight of them speak of a lack of discipline in the players and the failure of the coaches to install it in them not the mention the failure of the referees to properly control the game.
If memory serves, the Aggies had a lineman and the Longhorns a defender each responsible for two personal fouls. The NCAA rules state that the second one warrants an ejection, but neither player was removed from the game.
Referees should never impact the game, but they did without a doubt here.
That has offended me as a football player and lover of the game. My unhappiness as an Aggie goes a little deeper.
The offense was put behind the 8-ball somewhat with the loss of a second running back, Cyrus Gray, but that should not have mattered. The team still had a top ten QB behind center in Ryan Tannehill. This season he has had five games with 300+ yards passing including one of over 400. With the dangerous trio of Ryan Swope, Jeff Fuller, and Uzoma Nwachukwu to throw down field to the team still appeared to be in good shape.
As much sense as it might have made to pass the ball, the Aggies seemed determined to run with a sophomore running back, Ben Malena, getting his first start in the biggest game of the year. To date, he had 19 career carries spread out over the six games he played (he did not play in five).
Rather than put the game in the hands of an experienced quarterback and his trio of solid receivers it was handed to an inexperienced running back.
But they threw 49 times and he only ran 25.
Malena was getting stuffed at the line for much of the second half, and many of the passes were thrown out in his direction (he had four of Tannehill’s 20 completions for 16 yards). That brings me to my other problem with the Aggie’s offense.
All season long they succeeded by throwing the ball down field. By doing so it forces defenses to spread the field more and not commit as many players to stopping the run. For some reason, rather than do just that—something the team was very good at—they seemed to go to more of a West Coast style game with short routes.
The more frustrating part of the offensive ineptitude was not so much the choice to run as much as they did and the style of passing game, but the fact that when they did decide to pass the ball down field—like they did in the last few minutes of the game—they moved down the field with relative ease and scored.
That is proof that they should have been doing just that all along.
That brings up the final beef-- defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter. Clinging to a one point lead with two minutes to go he decided to rush only three players and keep the Longhorns in front of the defense, making them slowly work their way down the field; which they did till they got in field goal range and won the game.
All game long the team had been contesting the line of scrimmage hard and forcing Case McCoy to rush his decision making. They had success getting to the quarterback all game long. So why on earth would you not continue to press the QB? Why on earth would you go to a prevent style D with a one point lead?
DeRuyter made his name at the Air Force Academy, but more specifically when his Air Force defense shut down the number one offense in the country in the Case Keenum led Houston Cougars in the 2009 Armed Forces Bowl.
The Aggies have struggled with the pass all season long. The decision to count on their ability to stop it at the end of the game is questionable at best. If the Aggies are going to survive in the SEC, they may need to do some serious soul searching.