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September 20, 2007
Texas A&M at Miami Preview
Texas A&M is undefeated thanks in part to one of the nation's top offenses. The Aggies, though, might need a better defensive effort when they visit Miami on Thursday night.
Texas A&M (3-0) entered the season in the Top 25 for the second time in three years, but was outgained in each of its first two wins. The 20th-ranked Aggies gave up 403 yards in a 38-7 victory over Montana State in the season opener Sept. 1, and 399 yards in a 47-45 double-overtime win against Fresno State on Sept. 8.
They didn't have much more success stopping Louisiana-Monroe on Saturday, yielding 348 yards to the winless Warhawks. But the Aggies also compiled 547 yards of total offense - their most since they had 694 in a win over Oklahoma State on Oct. 15, 2005 - to secure a 54-14 win.
The Aggies are tied for the 11th-most points scored in the nation, but Saturday's win was the first convincing victory of the year for an A&M team with high expectations.
"It doesn't matter to me how many yards I throw for or how many yards we rush for," said quarterback Stephen McGee, who completed 19 of 33 passes for 237 yards and a touchdown Saturday. "Our goal is to be where we are today - 3-0. I'm happy for our guys, that we just continue to push on."
McGee, who had averaged only 95.5 passing yards per game before Saturday, improved to 6-1 in his career when he throws for at least 200 yards. The Aggies are 8-8 when McGee is held to fewer than 200.
"Now, more than ever, we're beginning offensively to get a flow going," McGee said. "That's very important. The coaches talk about getting better each week and we were able to do that."
Defensively, getting better this week could be a challenge as Texas A&M faces its first BCS conference opponent of the year.
"The main focus this week was just to get to the ball, break on the ball and get as many turnovers as we can," said linebacker Misi Tupe, who had one of the Aggies' two interceptions Saturday. "We did a pretty good job. I think we can do a lot better by next week."
The A&M defense will likely have to step up against Miami, which totaled 428 yards in a 23-9 win over Florida International on Saturday. Kyle Wright was 10-of-19 for 224 yards and a touchdown, Darnell Jenkins had a career-high 108 yards receiving and Javarris James ran for 92 yards.
Despite an awful performance against then-No. 5 Oklahoma on Sept. 8, Miami (2-1) is second in the ACC with 172.0 rushing yards per game.
"We've got athletes on this team," coach Randy Shannon said. "Everybody says, 'Well, you don't have the receivers to make plays.' Now it's an opportunity for us to sit down and use our strengths. ... Our strength right now is the offensive line and the running game."
The Hurricanes have also defended well against the rush, holding 13 of 16 opponents under 100 yards since the beginning of last season and allowing 75.5 rushing yards per game in that stretch - sixth-fewest in the FBS. Each of Miami's last two opponents, however, have reached the century mark.
Miami had won four straight games against the Big 12 before suffering the 51-13 loss to Oklahoma on Sept. 8. The Hurricanes are 31-20 all-time against teams currently in the Big 12, but lost their only meeting with the Aggies when Texas A&M cruised to a 70-14 victory in 1944.
The Hurricanes are trying to avoid back-to-back 2-2 starts after winning at least three of their first four games in every season from 2000-2005.
Meanwhile, the Aggies - who won their first four games last season en route to a 9-4 finish, their best since 1998 - haven't been undefeated after four games in consecutive seasons since 1956-57 under coach Bear Bryant.