Through the first 30 minutes of Saturday night’s loss to Arkansas State, the A&M offense seemed to be able to move the ball at will against the Red Wolves. Quarterback Stephen McGee had completed 5-of-10 pass attempts for 60 yards on just three offensive possessions while running backs Mike Goodson, Cyrus Gray and Bradley Stephens combined for 118 yards on the ground.
But because of turnovers and missed field goals, the Aggies managed just 14 points.
The second half started with a 17-yard loss on a sack of McGee, leaving the Aggies with wide eyes.
“We got in a hole and never found our way out of it (in the second half),” McGee said. “Whether it was that play or any other number of plays, we’ve got to have the mental toughness. That’s so big in football.”
McGee said the way the offense struggled in the second half was the biggest surprise of the night for him.
“The second half really surprised me. The way we started out the game, it felt like we could do whatever we wanted,” McGee said. “Give Arkansas State some credit, they made some really good adjustments and we really couldn’t get anything going in the second half. We had our opportunities and just didn’t convert.”
What made it even more surprising to McGee is the fact that he and and offense seemed to have such good rhythm throughout the fall camp.
“I’m very comfortable in this offense. I had a great fall camp, and up until the game, offensively we’ve been doing really well. I think a lot of you guys (in the media) that came out and watched practice were able to see those things,” said McGee, who also acknowledged that it was not a good outing for him either. “I made some mistakes out there. I threw a pick, had pressure, scrambled to the right and I threw it a little flatter than I wanted. There were some plays I wish that I didn’t have, but you’re going to have those.”
But McGee wasn’t the only one who made mistakes. True freshman wide receiver Jeff Fuller may have been a little star struck as he laced it up for the first time in front of 80,000 fans at Kyle Field. And quarterbacks turned wide receivers Ryan Tannehill and Jerrod Johnson ended up playing a lot more snaps in the place of Pierre Brown and Jamie McCoy, which led to other mistakes on routes.
“We made a lot of silly mistakes, MA’s is what we call them—missed alignments,” said McGee, who acknowledged that there is a lot for the wide receivers to absorb right now. “There’s a lot on their table. (Fuller) is really young and (Johnson and Tannehill) are trying to do two things at once, but they’re both very capable of that. All three of them are intelligent guys and can handle it.”
While Johnson and Tannehill may have run the wrong route at times on Saturday night, McGee believes that their experience at quarterback will help them bounce back quickly.
“We have a lot of routes in our offense where they have to adjust to different coverages and sometimes that’s more difficult than it would seem,” McGee said. “From a quarterback’s perspective, we see the coverages a lot better, so for Ryan and Jerrod, that may come a little more naturally than most receivers.”
Now McGee knows that the Aggies have to forget about Saturday’s disappointment and move on to this week’s contest against New Mexico, which suddenly has a lot more riding on it as first year head coach Mike Sherman looks to relieve some of the pressure on him and his players with a big win on the road.
“Games like that are so hard, it’s so tough, especially as a fifth year senior,” McGee said. “You work your tail off and then you start your season with a game like that. We still have a lot of games in front of us and we have to grow from it and not let it deter us from where we want to be.”