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November 23, 2011

Ultimate preview - UT vs. A&M

The Opponent
Who: Texas A&M Aggies
Location: College Station, Texas
Colors: Maroon, White
Series Record: Texas leads 75-37-5

Record: 6-5 (4-4 Big 12)
National Ranking: AP - N/R; Coaches Poll - N/R

Head Coach: Mike Sherman
Record at Texas A&M: 24-22-1
Total Record: 75-37-5

The Game
When: Nov. 24, 2011, 7 p.m. CDT
Where: College Station, Tx
Venue: Kyle Field

Radio: Longhorn Sports Network Radio (affiliates)

Vegas Line: Texas A&M -8

The Numbers

4: Saturday was the fourth time an opponent has been held to over 100 yards below the rushing average with the others against UCLA (-111), Kansas (-190) and Texas Tech (-118.5).

36: Blaine Irby's 36-yard touchdown catch was his third career touchdown and longest career reception. It was his first touchdown since the second game of the 2008 season against UTEP.

80: Case McCoy now has 80 career pass attempts without an interception. The streak ranks as the seventh longest in school history and is the second longest to open a career behind the 106 passes without a pick by Chance Mock.

The Quote

"I think down the road I'll appreciate it in a different sense. But you know, especially after the Aggie supper we had (Sunday) night with all the former lettermen coming back and really telling us what they thought of this rivalry and what they thought of this place and sacrifice at this place, a few guys telling us what they thought of the Aggies specifically, then I feel like I have a pretty good understanding of what this rivalry is about."

Blake Gideon.

It doesn't get any easier for the Longhorns following back-to-back losses to Missouri and Kansas State. Instead, Mack Brown and his Texas squad get the final installment (for now) of a rivalry game on a short week.

Texas A&M started the latest round of the conference carousel moving when it decided to bolt the Big 12 for the SEC, and because of a combination of scheduling concerns and snippiness, Texas has said this move means the end of the series. Generations of Longhorn fans who have been taught to hate the Aggies from birth, and their Aggies compatriots who can't speak of the Longhorns without spitting out the words, will have to find different schools to hate.

In the meantime, the schools meet again on Thanksgiving. That doesn't give the Longhorns a lot of time to recover from a grueling 17-13 loss to Kansas State in which Texas dominated most of the game on defense but failed to generate the offense it needed to win.

But the fact that this game is against the Aggies means that getting everyone motivated won't be a problem.

"The thing I told our players is you'll be part of history because this may be the last one that's played, so you can tell your kids and your grandkids, and you want to make it a good one," Brown said.

The players have gotten the message, looking forward to a chance to make some headlines in what promises to be a game that folks will remember for a long time.

"Well, I wouldn't have it any other way. It's my senior year, to go out this way," safety Blake Gideon said. "Want to make sure we send those guys off right. So it's definitely been a discussion that this game will be remembered. The score will be remembered, just because it is the last one in a long series. We have talked about that, and we want to make sure that we do everything we can this week to make sure we do send those guys off right."

Added linebacker Emmanuel Acho: "You know it's going to be fun. It's going to be just crazy. I know the atmosphere is already hectic, but with this being the last regular season one for a while, it's going to be extremely loud, extremely rowdy, and just for me personally, just trying to make a good memory. We have no regrets. Leave nothing out there on the field and just try to make sure we go out with a 'W.'"


The Longhorns defense played very well against Kansas State, but there was one note of concern. Against the Wildcats, as in the week before against Missouri, it failed to record a turnover.

"As we said, we tried. We're trying to strip it. We're trying to knock it loose. But right now our offense needs our defense to force some turnovers," Mack Brown said.

RBs Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron were back in the lineup last week, but were still bothered by their respective injuries (turf toe for Brown, and an injured hamstring for Bergeron). Coach Mack Brown said that both will likely be fighting these ailments for the rest of the season.

Coach Mack Brown didn't explicitly say so Monday, but expect Case McCoy to get the start at quarterback this week. He's come in to relieve David Ash in each of the last two games, and Brown noted that the freshman Ash seemed to be pressing in the loss to Kansas State.

"I think down the road I'll appreciate it in a different sense. But you know, especially after the Aggie supper we had (Sunday) night with all the former lettermen coming back and really telling us what they thought of this rivalry and what they thought of this place and sacrifice at this place, a few guys telling us what they thought of the Aggies specifically, then I feel like I have a pretty good understanding of what this rivalry is about.

"I don't want to let those guys down. There's a lot of tradition that goes into this rivalry and this series, and we want to make sure that we end it the right way."-Texas senior safety Blake Gideon, on whether he will appreciate the game against A&M more as he gets older.

-- Sports Xchange


LB Damontre Moore - Manning one of the outside spots in the Aggies' 3-4 alignment, Moore was everywhere against Kansas. He was in on eight tackles, including two sacks. He also forced a fumble and recovered a fumble as the Aggies allowed just 197 yards.

PK Randy Bullock - Named a finalist for the Groza Award, Bullock tied the A&M record for field goals in a season, connecting on his 21st against Kansas. By scoring 11 points to boost his season total to 114, Bullock is within reach of the school record of 128 points set 84 years ago by Jeff Hunt.

WR Ryan Swope - With nine receptions for 137 yards against Kansas, Swope set A&M season records for receptions (78) and receiving yards (1,069). The mark for catches was 72, which Swope and teammate Jeff Fuller set last season.


1. Force turnovers - The Texas defense has been playing great of late, but Manny Diaz really needs his guys to pick it up in the turnover department. If Texas can force a couple fumbles and/or interceptions and win the turnover battle, the Horns have a solid chance of winning.

2. Pound the rock - Texas is getting healthier at the running back spot (despite the loss of Fozzy Whittaker). If Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron are able to keep Texas from getting behind the chains, it will really help the QBs.

3. Hit your marks - The Texas passing game has really gone into a funk of late. There have been chances for big plays, but the passes have been off target. Be it Case McCoy or David Ash, Texas needs its QBs to settle down and connect on some throws, both short and long.


Texas A&M

Ryan Tannehill throws for just under 300 yards per game and when he gets hot, he's among the best in the conference. Tannehill is good both in the pocket and on sprint-out throws to the sidelines. Ryan Swope is almost impossible to shut down for an entire game and Jeff Fuller and Uzoma Nwachukwu are very good as well.

The Texas secondary has been terrific this year and it's getting help lately from a dominant pass rush. Carrington Byndom has been the best of the bunch all year but he had an off game last week. This group will have its hands full this week.



This one's tough to predict without knowing the availability of Cyrus Gray. If Gray's available, he's arguably the top back in the Big 12 now that Christine Michael and Henry Josey are out. Gray can run tough between the tackles, he has the speed to take it outside and he's a home run threat, as Texas knows all to well. If he's out, A&M's run game with Ben Malena and Will Randolph[/db] is nowhere near the same.

The Longhorn run defense is ranked eighth nationally, first in the Big 12 and it's getting better each week. Texas has put the clamps on some pretty good run teams the past few weeks and it should be able to have some success on Thursday night. If Gray's in and near 100 percent, this one's close to a push. If he's out, Texas gets the big edge.


Texas A&M

A&M's offensive line is young and very talented. The Aggies are averaging 5.4 yards per rush attempt and have allowed only 7 sacks the entire season. Luke Joeckel is terrific at left tackle and the right side of the line, held down by RG Brian Thomas and RT Jake Matthews has been very good as well.

It's been an incredible turnaround for the Texas defensive line the past few weeks. After starting the season very slowly, the UT defensive front is on fire of late. Defensive ends Jackson Jeffcoat and Alex Okafor have been dominating opponents in the last month. Texas will need another strong effort, as well as disruptive play from the defensive tackles, led by Kheeston Randall.


Texas A&M

A&M's run defense ranks second in the Big 12 behind only Texas, but the Aggies' yardage totals have been bolstered by a ton of sacks. Running a base 3-4, the A&M defensive line isn't quite as active as its linebackers but this is a good front seven that will give Texas a tough challenge.

Which Texas ground game is going to show up? Will it be the one that was dominating opponents in the middle of the season or the one that's been banged up and struggled to produce the past couple weeks? Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron should be in better health, but there's still no replacing Fozzy Whittaker.



This match-up is basically a lesser of two evils. A&M's pass defense is atrocious, ranking 118th out of 120 teams in college football with opponents averaging just under 300 yards passing per game. The Aggies have given up 17 TD passes against just 6 interceptions. CB Terrence Frederick S Trent Hunter lead the way.

Texas' struggles to move the ball through the air have been well-documented. David Ash has been benched in consecutive weeks and Case McCoy is expected to start on Thursday night. Neither QB has been able to play even consistently average, much less good. The return of Jaxon Shipley should help.



The A&M defensive line doesn't get a ton of hype because people are so busy praising the play of the LBs (or ripping the DBs), but this is a very good group. Defensive tackle Eddie Brown is athletic and very active for a 3-4 NG, and defensive end Tony Jerod-Eddie has played well in picking up 4 sacks. The name to watch on the Aggie defense is LB Sean Porter, who is terrific coming off the edge.

The Texas offensive line has dominated opponents at times this year, but the last two weeks it has been pretty average against Kansas State and Missouri. This week will provide an interesting test because A&M plays a different style of defense than Texas has seen, so Stacy Searels' guys will have to be on top of their game. David Snow has really been playing well of late.



Statistically, Texas and Texas A&M match up pretty well in the area of special teams, although punt returner Dustin Harris has been terrific for the Aggies. Kicker Randy Bullock is very good, having hit on 21-of-25 attempts.

Texas continues to play well in the special teams despite the loss of KR Fozzy Whittaker and PR Jaxon Shipley. Quandre Diggs has been very close to breaking a big return and Justin Tucker is one of the country's best kickers.

-- Suchomel

Ketchum Brown Suchomel Howell Adams McComas Gaspar Quarter


Texas A&M
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