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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 15, 3:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Gerald J. Ford Stadium (32,000) -- Dallas, Texas. Television: Fox Sports. Home Record: A&M 0-1, SMU 1-0. Away Record: A&M 0-0, SMU 0-1. Neutral Record: A&M 0-0, SMU 0-0. Conference Record: A&M 0-1, SMU 0-0. Series Record: Texas A&M leads, 42-29-7.
GAME NOTES: The Texas A&M Aggies attempt to earn their first win of the Kevin Sumlin era on Saturday when they invade Gerald J. Ford Stadium to take on the SMU Mustangs in a Lone Star State battle.
Kevin Sumlin's debut as the Aggies' head coach was first delayed by Hurricane Isaac before it was spoiled by Will Muschamp and the 18th-ranked Florida Gators last week. Texas A&M is now 0-1 in school history as a member of the SEC, but it showed that it could compete with a top level team as it let a fourth-quarter lead slip away in its 20-17 loss to the Gators. Sumlin is no stranger to SMU or Gerald J. Ford Stadium, as he coached Conference USA's Houston, the previous four seasons. Sumlin went 4-0 versus SMU during that time.
SMU enters the contest with a 1-1 record after it shutout Stephen F. Austin in a 52-0 victory in its home opener. The Mustangs allowed SFA to gain 466 yards, but they forced 10 turnovers in the contest. The convincing win over SFA came a week after a 59-24 road loss to Baylor. Coach June Jones led the program to its third straight bowl appearance last season. Now in his fifth season at the school, Jones is 25-29 with SMU and has a 101-70 career head coaching record.
A&M and SMU squared off annually as Southwest Conference foes before the league ended in 1995. Since then, the teams have met only twice. The Aggies have not lost to SMU since 1984 and hold a 42-29-7 lead in the all-time series. A&M had no trouble in last season's encounter and went on to defeat the Mustangs, 46-14.
The Aggies' offense looked great at the start with 17 points and 269 yards in the first half versus Florida. However, Texas A&M was shutout and held to just 65 total yards after the intermission.
Sumlin helped turn Chase Keenum into a superstar while at Houston. He may be coaching another Heisman candidate in the near future. Johnny Manziel was impressive in his debut with 173 yards on 23-of-30 passing while another 60 yards and a touchdown on the ground. The freshman quarterback displayed great instincts and playmaking ability in his first collegiate game, but experience and Sumlin's coaching could make him into a superstar.
Manziel had a noticeable chemistry with wideout Mike Evans, who is also a freshman. Evans led the team with 60 yards on seven catches against Florida. Christine Michael was limited in the season opener by the Gators' defense, but he pushed for 85 yards and a pair of touchdowns versus SMU last season.
The Aggie defenders were swarming all over the field while limiting the Gators to 307 total yards and 20 points. A&M managed to sack Florida QB Jeff Driskel eight times and held the Gators to less than three yards per carry. The intense pass rush came in the team's first contest in a 4-3 alignment.
One player who has clearly benefited from the new defensive system is Damontre Moore. The junior defensive end was a big part of the Aggies' pass rush, finishing with 10 tackles and three sacks in his first game on the line after spending the past two seasons as a linebacker. Spencer Nealy also made a big impact with two sacks.
While Moore and Nealy cause havoc up front, senior linebacker Jonathan Stewart recorded an impressive 17 total tackles (11 solo, six assisted).
The A&M defenders will now focus on terrorizing SMU's Garrett Gilbert. The junior quarterback was once one of the most highly sought after high school recruits in the country and originally played for Texas. However, after a 5-7 record as a freshman and a shoulder injury tainted his Longhorns' career, Gilbert transferred into Jones' high-powered passing offense, where he has completed 53-of-95 attempts for 491 yards with three touchdowns thus far.
Gilbert has done an impressive job spreading the ball around to keep his receiving corps happy. Four different SMU wideouts have eclipsed the 100-yard mark in two games with Jeremy Johnson leading the way with 122 yards on 13 receptions.
Zach Line is responsible for 195 of the Mustangs' 217 rushing yards this season. The senior fullback rushed for 128 yards and a touchdown against the Aggies in 2011.
The Mustangs should be able to be much more competitive with A&M this season versus a freshman quarterback. Senior defensive end Margus Hunt has emerged as one of the premier pass rushers in the entire nation. His imposing size and freakish athleticism have been enough to help him excel on the field despite the fact that he never played football before 2009. Hunt set an NCAA career record last week when he blocked a field goal attempt for the ninth time in his career. He has 15 total blocks (third in NCAA history), including six PATs.
Ryan Smith and Kenneth Acker took full advantage of miscues by recording two interceptions each. Acker also managed to return one of the picks for a score. Overall, the SMU defense was ravenous, recording seven interceptions and three fumble recoveries, while scoring three defensive touchdowns against SFA.
Jay Scott leads the team through its first two games with 17 total tackles.
Both quarterbacks are sure to be tested by strong pass rushing. Gilbert has more experience and more weapons at his disposal, but Manziel displayed confidence and leadership in his debut. A&M should be able to find more success on the ground than in its opener. The Mustangs are a talented team, but they will need to limit their turnovers to make an upset a possibility.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Texas A&M 42, SMU 34
09/12 11:00:19 ET
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