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Aggies put trust in second-week turnaround

A&M; eager to move beyond embarrassing opening loss


AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF
Tuesday, September 02, 2008

COLLEGE STATION — Trust us.

That, essentially, is the sermon Mike Sherman has preached to his Texas A&M; football team since he became the Aggies' coach in November and implored them, over and over, "to get in the boat" with him and his staff.

It became obvious to Sherman after Saturday night's stunning, 18-14 loss to Arkansas State that the process is ongoing. Just how long it will remain that way isn't quite so obvious.

"I don't have a date on that," Sherman said Monday at his weekly press conference, drawing probably the first loud laugh heard at Kyle Field since what might have been the most shocking season-opening home defeat for A&M; in decades.

"I'm sure Bill Byrne would be very interested in that," Sherman said, referring to A&M;'s athletic director. "But it better be sooner rather than later, I know that much."

The pratfall against the projected fourth-place team in the Sun Belt Conference underscored many of the concerns of Sherman and his staff. With a raw line and unproven receivers, A&M;'s offense managed only 103 yards, four first downs and zero points in the second half after forging a 14-3 lead by intermission.

The defense, meanwhile, surrendered 415 yards to the Red Wolves. Of that, 255 came on the ground, with tailback Reggie Arnold accounting for 145.

It was a depressing debut for Sherman and the second-largest season-opening crowd in Kyle Field history (78,691). But as bad as the fans felt, Sherman felt worse.

"Walking out of this field Saturday night was obviously not a great feeling," he said. "I feel like I let people down."

The Aggies appeared to have things under control with an 11-point halftime lead. But on the first play of the second half quarterback Stephen McGee was sacked for a 17-yard loss, which seemed to take the air out of the stands and, more importantly, the A&M; players.

"After that, we had that look in our eyes, and it wasn't the type of look you need," Sherman said. "I wasn't expecting us to have the big eyes right there."

Added McGee of the sack: "You want to be able to say as an offensive unit that you're mature enough to overcome it, but obviously we didn't. We got in a hole and we never just found our way out of it."

The sack to open the second half, one of two against McGee, seemed to typify Sherman's "trust us" message. The coach said McGee "made some very good throws and very good decisions" but still needs to work on "trusting the call."

"At times he can go off a guy a little too quickly," Sherman said. "At times he might not have trusted the initial read enough to give a guy a chance."

The Aggies get a chance to start making amends for the embarrassing loss when they visit New Mexico on Saturday. The Lobos also are 0-1 after losing 26-3 to Texas Christian at home.

The Lobos' offense struggled against TCU, gaining only 186 total yards. But linebacker Matt Featherston, who led the Aggies with 16 tackles on Saturday, said A&M; might see something different, yet familiar, this week.

"I wouldn't be surprised if they run some of the same plays Arkansas State did," he said, "just to see if they get the same results."

For their part, the Aggies hope to see a lot of different results out west on Saturday.

"(Sherman) took responsibility like a leader does, and he wants us to be men about it, too, and understand we're all disappointed and that it hurts to lose a game like that," McGee said.

"You have to learn to deal with adversity. It shapes people and you really find a lot about your character. We can go one way or the other after a loss like that. Hopefully we'll be able to handle it in the right way."

rriggs@statesman.com; 445-3957

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