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Aggie defense is the only bright spot in a 16-13 win over Baylor
By Stephen Sills The Battalion
College Station, TX (U-WIRE) -- The game was ugly, admittedly, but in the end there was one thing that proved to be a ray of light for A&M: the Aggie defense.
Although many fans hoped the Aggie offense would come out and annihilate Baylor as payback for last year's debacle, its performance Saturday was, to say the least, sub-par. Quarterback Reggie McNeal threw two interceptions in the game and ran for only 83 yards, after coming into the game averaging more than 400 yards of total offense alone.
The team was averaging 250/250 passing/rushing yards, but on Saturday the offense totaled only 132/155 passing/rushing yards. These totals will not win ball games in the Big 12.
Let's get back to the defense, though. Although it may not have looked exciting from the stands, the defense did some things right. They combined to sack the Baylor quarterback five times for a total loss of 40 yards, kept Baylor to 125 yards of total rushing and broke up five key passes. The stop on the A&M 3-yard line when Baylor attempted to go for it on fourth and one early in the game also proved a lot, as the A&M defense kept the Aggies in the game for 60 minutes.
Even with these positives, I have to bring up what the Aggies did wrong. Baylor running back Paul Mosley posted a 100-yard rushing game, only the third of his career, including a 57-yard scamper on the third play of the game, giving Baylor a first down on the 14-yard line. The Aggie cornerbacks are playing the players and not the ball, something that will have flags flying in every game; the defensive line is not getting enough pressure on quarterbacks, and the defense is still missing tackles that lead to first downs in key situations.
Both teams had two turnovers, but for the first time in the last 14 games that the Aggies were even in or lost in the turnover battle, A&M came out with the win.
The Aggies got lucky, though, especially when Baylor intercepted McNeal's pass on the A&M 18-yard line, and the ensuing play resulted in a first down for Baylor on the 4-yard line.
The other big play came on an Aggie punt that was fumbled by Baylor defensive back Willie Andrews after a hard hit from Aggie defensive back Ronald Jones. Aggie tight end Boone Stutz recovered the ball on the A&M 49-yard line, keeping Baylor from good field position, but McNeal's second interception came five plays later, wasting the opportunity.
When Baylor coach Guy Morriss was asked about the key to the game, he said, "I thought we had opportunities that we didn't take advantage of." This was definitely the case for both teams Saturday.
Looking back for a second, how did the Aggies win Saturday against the Bears?
The offense didn't click until the end of the game, when McNeal led the team on an 86-yard drive to tie the game before the end of regulation. It was the defense that kept the Aggies alive, showing up when it meant the most, especially in overtime when Aggie defensive back Jaxson Appel prevented a probable touchdown on a 19-yard run by Baylor wide receiver Shaun Rochon. The defense held and allowed the motivated offense to come in and score the winning touchdown in the second straight overtime between the two teams.
Everything did not go as planned, and as much as it pains me to say this after beating Baylor by only three points Saturday - you take a win however you can get it, no matter how sloppy the outcome of the game is.
(C) 2004 The Battalion via U-WIRE
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