Texas A&M Football: Grading the Aggies vs. Iowa State

Michael Taglienti@@miketag98Featured ColumnistOctober 24, 2011

Texas A&M Football: Grading the Aggies vs. Iowa State

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    The Texas A&M Football Team defeated the Iowa State Cyclones 33-16 in Ames, Iowa, on Saturday.

    It was an ugly win for the Aggies, who turned in their worst performance on the field to date.

    The Ags came out flat in the first quarter and were not sharp for the entire game.

    After two emotional games in a row against Texas Tech and Baylor, a flat performance is somewhat understandable.

    The problem is that with the Aggies' defensive issues, they cannot afford to take any team lightly.

    An ugly win is better than a pretty loss, and I am sure most Aggie fans will tell you they felt better after the game on Saturday than they did after the Arkansas game.

    This is a breakdown of how each position graded out in the game vs. ISU.

Quarterback: C+

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    Ryan Tannehill was 23-for-43 for 262 yards and two touchdowns against ISU. He was sacked three times.

    Two of the sacks were Tannehill's fault as he stepped up into the pocket into a defensive lineman on one, and held the ball way too long on the other.

    Tannehill was off in the first quarter but found his accuracy after that.

    Eight of his incompletions were drops by the wide receivers on balls that hit them in the hands.

    Tannehill did do a good job of finding the tight ends in the passing game. He also protected the ball well.

    If the wide receivers caught the balls that hit them in the hands, then Tannehill would have had another 400-yard passing game and at least one more touchdown pass in the game.

    You have to grade Tannehill down for the sacks that he contributed to and for not being ready to lead the offense in the first quarter.

Running Back: A

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    By far the most positive aspect of the game was the running backs. Cyrus Gray and Christine Michael both topped 100 yards rushing against the Cyclones.

    Gray carried the ball 21 times for 125 yards. Michael had 18 carries for 142 yards and one touchdown.

    The only thing that kept this grade from being an A+ was that Michael missed a block in pass protection.

    Gray and Michael carried the offense while Tannehill and the wide receivers got on the same page.

    The two form the best running back duo in the nation. It is a great luxury to have two NFL-quality running backs in the backfield at the same time.

    They were both great against ISU. Gray and Michael are right on schedule for both of them to top 1,000 yards rushing for the year.

Wide Receivers: C-

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    Drops, drops and more drops were the theme of the day at this position.

    By my count, the Aggies' top three wide receivers combined for eight drops.

    Jeff Fuller had three drops but came on later in the game to help the Ags move the chains.

    Uzoma Nwachukwu had three drops, including a sure touchdown on a deep pass that Tannehill laid right into his hands while in stride.

    Ryan Swope had inexplicable drops for the third time in the last four games.

    Fuller led the team with seven receptions for 75 yards and one touchdown.

    Nwachukwu caught four for 58 and Swope had four for 40.

    Just an off day for the wide receivers. They need to simply catch the passes that hit them in the hands.

Tight Ends: A

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    The highlight of the offense other than the running backs was the play of the tight ends.

    They gave their typical performance when blocking. The tight ends were a pleasant surprise in the passing game.

    The ISU coaches had the Aggies' offense schemed as well as any team they have played this year. It was nice to see the coaches make an adjustment and get the ball to the tight ends in the passing game.

    The Aggies have three very talented tight ends. Ideally, you would see at least five throws to the tight ends in every game.

    Michael Lamothe had two receptions for 26 yards and a touchdown.

    Hutson Prioleau had two catches for 17 yards.

    Nehemiah Hicks had one catch for 6 yards.

    The Aggies need to look to their tight ends more in the red zone, particularly in third- and fourth-and-short situations.

Offensive Line: C

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    The Aggies gave up three sacks on the day. That is unacceptable, even if Tannehill contributed to two of the sacks.

    The Aggies had only 23 yards of offense in the first quarter.

    In the first six games of the year, the OL has come out and set the pace early. That was not the case yesterday.

    While the A&M offense did go for over 480 yards in the next three quarters, it is still an unacceptable performance.

    One bright note was the continued development of LG Jarvis Harrison. He had a couple of blocks yesterday where it was noticeable how far had the defensive lineman down the field.

Defensive Line: C

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    The Aggies allowed 3.8 yards per carry against the running game. James White is a quality Big 12 running back, but that is no excuse for the defensive line not getting their usual push.

    Spencer Nealy got his second consecutive start and responded with five total tackles with three tackles for loss. He was definitely the highlight of the DL against ISU.

    Tony Jerod-Eddie and Eddie Brown did not play much, particularly in the second half.

    Gavin Stansbury played a lot in the second half and had a tackle for loss and a forced fumble.

    Freshman Ben Compton continues to get a good push at NG. He will compete for the starting NG spot next year when the Ags move to the SEC.

Linebackers: F

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    The Aggies simply have major issues at inside linebacker. While the Aggie ILBs are decent against the run, they are terrible against the pass.

    The hole in the middle of the Aggies' zone defense is huge and every team is taking advantage of it. The ILBs simply are not getting the job done in coverage.

    Donnie Baggs saw his first extensive action at ILB this season, which is a positive sign for the freshman.

    Steve Jenkins continues to get more comfortable in the Aggies' scheme. He had an outstanding hit that the officials called a personal foul on in an embarrassing display of incompetence.

    Damontre Moore was invisible.

    Sean Porter continues to play at an All-American level. He led the Aggies with eight total tackles and a tackle for loss.

Secondary: D-

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    A Trent Hunter interception in the first quarter kept this grade from being an F.

    I saw Jared Barnett play extensively in high school. There is no way he should be a Division 1 quarterback but the Ags made him look viable at times in this game.

    Lionel Smith is not a good cornerback but the coaches want to go with him instead of playing one of the freshmen. He broke up three passes but really struggled in coverage. A decent QB would have lit him up.

    The Aggies really missed Coryell Judie.

    Steven Campbell was very quiet in this game.

    The Aggies continue to drop interceptions that hit them in the hands. They struggle to create turnovers because they do not take advantage of the opportunities that are there.

    The Aggies will need a much better effort if they want to beat Missouri this week.

Special Teams: B

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    Randy Bullock is playing like a Lou Groza candidate. He was 4-for-4 on the day including making two 47-yard attempts. Bullock also had three touchbacks on kickoffs.

    The Aggies' inability to get anything out of their kick return team is frustrating. Nate Askew is 6'4" and runs a 10.5 in the 100. He should be more of a weapon on kick returns. He continues to appear tentative when he is returning kicks.

    Ryan Epperson actually had a decent game while averaging 46.6 yards per punt.

Coaching: C-

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    The Aggies got a conference win on the road, which is all you can ask from the coaches.

    However, the team came out flat, and it was obvious that the ISU coaches had schemed to the Aggies' tendencies.

    ISU was the first team to take Tannehill on the zone read.

    The Aggies ran on early downs and then passed on third down, and the ISU coaches were ready for that.

    Mike Sherman needs to realize that he does not have to run up the middle on every fourth-and-short.

    For some unknown reason, defensive coordinator Tim Deruyter decided to play almost exclusively base defense against ISU and to not pressure their freshman quarterback. I have no idea why you choose to allow a young quarterback more time in the pocket.

    Even with the Aggies' issues in the secondary, you should still force the issue against an inexperienced quarterback.

    The team was not ready to play to start the game. You have to give Sherman credit for gathering the team together after the first quarter and motivating them to play.

    Missouri will come to Kyle Field on Saturday with a much more talented team than ISU. The Aggies will need a much greater effort on and off the field to find a way to beat the Tigers.

Officiating: F

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    The officiating in the past few conference games deserves its own slide.

    The Big 12 officials this season have been atrocious.

    Three games in a row, Sean Porter has literally been held from behind by his jersey by an offensive lineman and the refs have not called anything.

    The clean hit by Steve Jenkins was just the cherry on top. When a player hits another player shoulder to shoulder, it is a legal hit. The fact that the ref called the hit unnecessary roughness after the play was over, when the flag was thrown during the play only makes it more disgusting.

    That makes it appear as the officials definitely had an agenda.

    I can understand blowing a face-mask penalty when the defensive player grabs the top of the helmet. That is a close call and it is easy to see how human error can enter the equation.

    It is harder to justify not calling pass interference when Jeff Fuller gets mugged in the end zone.

    Nebraska fans complained that the officials were biased against them during the 2010 season since they were leaving the conference.

    Anyone who has watched A&M play in conference games this season cannot ignore the fact that have been particularly horrible in calls against A&M.

    The officiating is an embarrassment to the conference. It is just another example of why A&M is better off leaving the Big 12 for the Southeastern Conference.  

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