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'Raggedy' win good enough as Aggies give Sherman a victory

11:24 PM CDT on Saturday, September 6, 2008

By KATE HAIROPOULOS / The Dallas Morning News
khairopoulos@dallasnews.com

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Turn down the burner in College Station.

At least a tad.

Saturday's game was certainly "raggedy" as first-year coach Mike Sherman termed it repeatedly, but Texas A&M did enough to outlast New Mexico, 28-22, for Sherman's first victory as Aggies head coach in front of a crowd of 28,007 at University Stadium.

Considering the wooly state of things after the previous week's surprise home loss to Arkansas State, A&M (1-1) will take the road win, blemished or not.

The defense scored one touchdown on Jordan Peterson's 48-yard interception return in the first quarter and recovered turnovers deep in New Mexico territory to set up two more TDs.

Sophomore backup quarterback Jerrod Johnson filled in sufficiently after starter Stephen McGee suffered a sprained right shoulder after sustaining several hits on the first drive, turning him into a sideline yell-leader for the rest of the game.

"We had a slew of different things we had to deal with there, with injuries and juggling personnel," Sherman said. "We need to get a lot better. I'm happy we won the game."

The Aggies avoided their first 0-2 start since 1996 and won their first nonconference road game since a 14-12 victory over Pittsburgh in 2002 under coach R.C. Slocum.

Johnson, playing his first non-mop-up minutes, was 10-of-19 passing for 124 yards and three touchdowns, including two scores to Jeff Fuller, a 6-4 freshman out of McKinney Boyd.

A&M took what turned out to be a just-big-enough 28-10 lead with 13:20 left on Johnson's third touchdown pass, a 9-yard completion to tight end Jamie McCoy.

The score was set up by defensive end Mike Bennett's fumble recovery and 37-yard return to the New Mexico 21.

Bennett might have scored on the return, but he stepped out of bounds "waddling down the sidelines," as Sherman teased.

It's a good thing A&M finished off the drive because New Mexico, led by Rodney Ferguson's 135 rushing yards and two touchdowns, scored twice in the final 5:55 to make things tense until A&M's Jordan Pugh wrapped up the onside kick in the final seconds.

McCoy's grab was the only time A&M – which mustered one first down in the third quarter – scored in the second half.

And it only added importance to the Aggie defense's ability to hold the Lobos (0-2) to a field goal early in the third quarter after Pugh muffed a punt and gave New Mexico the ball on the A&M 14.

"The defense played great – they came in and slammed the door," Johnson said. "They gave us a boost on offense to go in and do what we had to do."

Johnson also made some crucial plays. He first stepped in with a short field – after A&M picked off New Mexico quarterback Donovan Porterie for the second straight drive – and connected with Fuller on a 21-yard score.

The dealmaker was a 14-play, 93-yard drive near the end of the first half. Johnson was almost picked off on a pass early in the drive, but at the end, he found Fuller, who reached over a cornerback to win the ball, putting the Aggies up, 21-7, at halftime.

"I feel fortunate we were able to come away with a win, and I don't take them lightly," Sherman said. "It being the first win, I'm sure I'll remember it a little more. Hopefully, they'll be a lot more to remember it with."

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