There is so much to digest after Texas A&M's 52-31 victory over Rice to open the 2013 football season at Kyle Field. That's why we have reaction from both Stringer and Ranger after today's game.
Thoughts from Stringer --
Whew. To start, we underestimated Rice. They were a sound, talented team, who at times out muscled us, but more than anything, they played smarter than we did.
That being said, our lack of depth combined with the suspensions kicked us square in the ass. Our young players might be talented, but we struggle with playing sound assignment football on both offense and defense (why did LaQuivionte Gonzalez take that ball out of the endzone to the 7?).
I thought Joeckel performed admirably, and ran the offense well. That being said, the offense just looks different under Manziel, and not necessarily always in a good way. It seems that when Joeckel is in there, we are more patient with our running backs. When Johnny is in there (at least at the start) we rely on Johnny to do everything and almost forget about our stable of backs (but that changed late in the game). There's a happy medium that, I think, it will take us a couple of games to find.
I'm still not sure whether Clay Honeycutt gives us the best chance at that safety position. On multiple occasions he was out of position.
Same with Donnie Baggs. I think the long standing mentality is that experience makes you better. That wasn't the case with Donnie this game. He had a rough one.
I will say one thing. Regardless of who's in there, we run the same offense and defense for better or for worse. Even with our lack of depth/starting true freshmen, Mark Snyder was taking chances.
Finally I'll say this... I don't give a single shit about Johnny Manziel talking trash. That's who Johnny is. I know it's part of the larger narrative to come down on Johnny for being a cocky guy, but rather than attempting to change him, or hoping that he changes, we should all accept the fact that 1) that's who he is, and 2) his cockiness is what makes him who he is. So play on Johnny. Play on.
Thoughts from Ranger --
AIN'T NO INSTANT, CRAPPY RICE -- First, hats off to Rice. They are a damn good ball club. They gave us all they had in the first half of this ball game. Their offensive line blew our young front seven off the ball for most of the game. Their skill position players gave us everything we could handle, especially 6'5 Jordan Taylor who made great catches all game long. Rice had 28 first downs, and finished with more total yards than Texas A&M (509-486). A&M is going to hate these rushing numbers -- 51 rushes for 306 yards, an even 6.0 yards per rush attempt. Nick Saban is drooling over those numbers. Without two second half interceptions, the game could have been a lot more interesting.
WHO, WHO ARE YOU? (get it? no? whatever. they don't pay me to do this) -- As many as 20 newcomers, if not more, saw their first action for Texas A&M in the maroon uniform. That includes a lot of freshman, especially on defense. We will get to see who exactly burned their redshirt after the participation report comes out later in the day, but if you played defense you probably saw action. Making larger contributions on the day was wide receiver Ricky Seals-Jones, linebackers Darian Claiborne and Jordan Mastrogiovanni, and defensive lineman Hardreck Walker, Isaiah Golden, and Jay Arnold.
THE DEFENSE, TORBUSH WOW -- Guys, there are going to be a lot of things to correct this upcoming week. Frankly, we just weren't very sound. We missed some assignments early (which we will go over later in the week) that led to big gains and touchdowns. We didn't get much of a push up front as the Rice OL handled our defensive line, and I'm pretty sure we forgot how to tackle. Lots of arm tackles, trying to grasp at feet, and trying to throw a shoulder at someone to either get them to the ground on push them out of bounds. Just not a good look at all. Mark Snyder tried to help by going with a three man front for most of the game, bringing a 4th defender from different places all game long as to confuse Rice and get them out of their regular play calls. The absolute worst thing was poor play from older guys we thought would be solid coming in. I'm not going to name names, but the young linebackers like Jordan Mastrogiovanni better be ready to play the rest of the way. Some guys should be walking around on egg shells this week with their job up in the air. However, there were some encouraging things. Our best defensive tackle combo might be Jay Arnold and Isaiah Golden (until Kirby Ennis comes back of course). The defense did very well with them in the game. Tramain Jacobs may just take De'Vante Harris' job after missing the first two games due to suspension. Jacobs was rock solid in the second half and caught a contested interception. Also can't forget to mention Shaan Washington who was the only defender on the day who wrapped up and actually tackled.
JUST PUT FLAGS ON THEM -- Deshazor Everett's ejection was just ridiculous. He hit him in his chest. It was the reaction from the fans that did him in. Bad news for Everett is he will now be suspended for the first half of Sam Houston State after already missing the first half today. If you're an Aggie defender, do you hit anyone next week in fear of missing the first half of the Alabama game?
ROLL TRA ROLL -- Tra Carson. He just might be the offense's player of the game. Carson had 76 net yards on 14 carries and two scores. He looked really good as a one cut back, reading the offensive line's blocks and lowering his pads. He made the most of his touches with both Brandon Williams out and Trey Williams limited for most of the game after a kickoff return and apparent ankle injury (although he did play for a series after). When we get inside the 20, we should automatically put Carson into the game. He also had some key blocks for Ben Malena when they were both in the backfield.
CLOSE YOUR EYES ITS BERTOLET -- Open them. He made every extra point today (7-7) and even converted on a 44 yard field goal. It's great to finally have confidence in the kicking game.
JOHNNY GIFS --