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August 31, 2008

Aggies fall to Arkansas State in Sherman's debut

COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Reggie Arnold ran for 145 yards and Arkansas State ruined Mike Sherman's debut as Texas A&M's coach with a stunning 18-14 win over the Aggies at Kyle Field on Saturday night.

The Red Wolves won for the first time in 15 games against Big 12 opponents and snapped A&M's 20-game winning streak in home openers. The Aggies hadn't dropped a home opener since a 17-3 loss to LSU in 1987, and this one likely will go down as one of the most embarrassing losses in school history.

A&M hired Sherman last November, less than a week after Dennis Franchione resigned following the season finale against Texas. Exactly five years ago Saturday, Franchione defeated Arkansas State 26-11 in his A&M debut.

This time, the Aggies built a 14-3 lead at halftime, then self-destructed with four turnovers, a missed field goal and several blown defensive plays.

Josh Arauco kicked four field goals, including a 37-yarder with 1:12 left, forcing the Aggies to go for a winning touchdown.

A&M drove inside the Arkansas State 35 in the final minute, but linebacker Ben Owens intercepted a tipped pass by Stephen McGee with 7 seconds remaining and the Wolves ran out the clock.

Arkansas State quarterback Corey Leonard threw for 160 yards and a touchdown and the Red Wolves earned their biggest victory since moving to Division I-A in 1992.

Mike Goodson ran for 124 yards and two touchdowns, but coughed up a costly fumble in the fourth quarter.

Early in the third quarter, Arkansas State safety M.D. Jennings intercepted a McGee pass at the Wolves' 41. Arauco kicked a field goal with 5:28 left in the third to cut the lead to 14-6.

Three minutes later, A&M receiver Howard Morrow caught a pass and fumbled at the Aggies' 47. Leonard scrambled up the middle for 32 yards on the next play, but the Red Wolves had to settle for another field goal from Arauco to cut A&M's lead to 14-9.

The Aggies got the ball near midfield after an Arkansas State punt early in the fourth quarter. McGee threw a 36-yard pass to Jerrod Johnson, but Richie Bean missed a 25-yard field goal attempt with 9:30 left.

Arnold broke a 32-yard run to the Aggies' 33 early in the Red Wolves' next possession. On fourth-and-4, Arkansas State was called for an illegal block after Leonard scrambled for six yards. Leonard then hit Jahbari McLennan for 15 yards to keep the possession alive.

Two plays later, Leonard found Kevin Jones wide open in the end zone with 4:39 left in the game, silencing the maroon-clad crowd of 78,691, the second-largest for an A&M home opener.

Leonard threw an incomplete pass on a 2-point conversion try and the Wolves led 15-14.

Goodson ran for 10 yards on A&M's next play from scrimmage, but then fumbled a third-down carry at the Aggies' 41-yard line with 2:47 remaining. Referees reviewed the play and upheld the call.

After Arauco tacked on his second 37-yard field goal, Jennings tipped McGee's pass that Owens caught to secure the upset.


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