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Saturday, October 23, 2010

Texas A&M football can’t be sure of anything… even beating KU

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As unlikely as it seems, Texas A&M; will be facing a team with more troubles than its own today.

Kansas (2-4 overall, 0-2 Big 12 Conference) has been outscored by a combined 100 points in losses to Baylor and Kansas State. But at the moment, A&M; (3-3, 0-2) isn’t in a position to overlook any opponent.

The Aggies have lost three consecutive games, with everyone from athletic director Bill Byrne to coach Mike Sherman to quarterback Jerrod Johnson under scrutiny.

A season that began with hopes of a Big 12 South title or at least a climb into the AP Top 25 has unraveled quickly, with the latest example a 30-9 home loss to Missouri. A trip to Lawrence might not be a bad thing, given the mood in College Station.

“The frustration I’m sure is very intense, and that’s part of it,” Sherman said. “I want to coach at a place where people expect you to win. I wouldn’t want it any other way. …

“I feel that disappointment when I walk off that field. And our players feel that.”

In his athletic-department blog, Byrne referenced the all-but-forgotten TV show “The Life of Riley,” which was popular about the time John David Crow was hoisting the Heisman, to describe the loss to Missouri. Outside of the blog, Byrne was busy explaining the market forces behind Sherman’s seven-year contract that will have a $7.2 million buyout after the season.

Fans and media have looked for the underlying reasons.

Sherman acknowledged this week that not every Johnson pass has been exactly a tight spiral and said the senior can be “sporadic” with his play.

“I can’t disagree with you that there have been some times the ball has fluttered,” Sherman said. “Part of that I think is he’s overanalyzing things, and I think we can correct some of that stuff.”

The longer Johnson struggles, the more sentiment has grown at least to take a look at backup Ryan Tannehill. At a meeting this week, Sherman told Johnson to forget about trying to be perfect.

Best guess: Kansas may represent Johnson’s last, best chance to remove any doubts.

But the problems go far beyond Johnson.

Texas A&M; has only one senior on its offensive line two-deep, one reason the Aggies rank 116th in sacks allowed after Missouri got to the quarterback seven times.

“As far as who is responsible for all the sacks, it is an assortment of things,” Sherman said. “Sometimes it’s coverage, sometimes it’s the offensive line, sometimes it’s the running back or tight end involved in that. Sometimes a guy doesn’t run his route crisp enough, and we don’t get the ball out in time. And sometimes it’s the quarterback.”

Even the defense, which has improved under first-year coordinator Tim DeRuyter, isn’t exempt from blame. As the schedule has stiffened, the numbers have become less impressive.

Then again, the real reason behind the struggles might be super-sized expectations. Despite all the optimism, maybe it wasn’t realistic to think A&M; could be that much better from a talented but flawed 6-7 team.

The Aggies have six games remaining to prove that theory wrong.

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