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Web Posted: 09/17/2007 2:00 CDT

Passing test will be harder for A&M against Miami

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COLLEGE STATION — The coach, in prepping for a marquee matchup on Thursday night, pointed to an area of improvement that pleased him following Saturday's victory over a second-rate opponent.

“The passing game opened up this week,” he said.

Texas A&M coach Dennis Franchione knows of what Miami's Randy Shannon speaks. Shannon uttered the above after the Hurricanes' 23-9 victory over Florida International on Saturday.

“You've got to feel good about what we were able to do,” Franchione told reporters after A&M's 54-14 victory over Louisiana-Monroe the same day. “You guys sure pointed out some things we needed to work on, and certainly we got a lot of good work on them.”

Now, the Aggies will put them to the test against a better opponent. The last time A&M faced Miami, A&M's faithful was tickled maroon by the team's offensive firepower. A&M prevailed 70-14. The year was 1944.

Sixty-three years later, with another A&M-Miami showdown set for Thursday, the jury is out on the Aggies' offense.

In a crowd-pleasing move, however, A&M finally mixed up its offerings in the whipping of the Warhawks. The Aggies added a healthy dose of passing to their already powerful running game.

A&M crept from 115th to 107th nationally in passing offense (148 ypg) after throwing for 237 yards.

“I was pleased with the balance in our offense,” Franchione said.

Fans should find out at Miami if A&M's newfound passing fancy is a passing trend — or if the Aggies even need to throw the ball to earn a victory in a tough environment.

Against stiffer competition last season, A&M dished out a variety of attacks.

In early November against Oklahoma, the Aggies passed for only 63 yards while rushing for 204. A week later, A&M threw for 288 yards while rushing for 155 against Nebraska. Both were narrow losses.

A game later, in the regular-season finale at Texas, the Aggies returned to a power rushing attack, with only 58 yards through the air coupled with 244 on the ground.

It wasn't balanced. But it was a victory.

“I wish you guys knew how I think about things,” quarterback Stephen McGee said. “It doesn't matter how many yards we rush for or how many times we throw the ball 100 yards down the field. Our goal is to be where we are right now — 3-0.”

Miami (2-1) ranks 41st nationally in pass defense (194 yards per game), and allowed five touchdown passes at Oklahoma on Sept. 8 in a 51-13 loss. The Hurricanes regrouped in the victory over Florida International, setting up Thursday's clash between the proud programs.

“It's going to be a great game,” said A&M tight end Martellus Bennett, whom Miami recruited. “I'll show them what they missed out on.”

A&M fans simply hope the Aggies continue to show what they had missed out on until Saturday — an effective passing game.

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