I-A College Football News
Aggies and Bobcats clash in College Station
Aug 29, 2007, 15:29 GMT
College Station, TX - The 25th-ranked Texas A&M Aggies kick off their 2007 campaign this Saturday, as they host the Montana State Bobcats from Kyle Field in College Station.
The Aggies enter the '07 season with high expectations, as they welcome back numerous players and several key starters from last year's club which posted a 9-4 ledger. While last year's season was deemed a success, it could have been better if not for a couple of narrow losses. Of the team's four setbacks, three came by four points or less, with the lone exception being a 45-10 beating at the hands of California in the Holiday Bowl. Now in his fifth year as head coach of the Aggies, Dennis Franchione may not only have his most talented team, but also one that is experienced and hungry for even more success. Getting off to a good start shouldn't be a problem for Texas A&M, as it has won 20 straight home openers dating back to a 17-3 loss to LSU in 1987.
For the Bobcats, the Rob Ash era is set to get underway this Saturday and he has a tall task ahead of him. The 55-year-old Ash, who spent the last 18 seasons as the head coach of Drake, took over MSU this spring and he inherited a solid group of returning players. Last season, the Bobcats posted an 8-5 mark in the Football Championship Subdivision and they also earned an at-large bid to the playoffs. It didn't stop their either, as MSU defeated Furman in the first round, marking the program's first playoff victory since winning the national championship in 1984.
This is the first-ever meeting between MSU and Texas A&M, but it is the third straight year the Bobcats have faced a Big 12 opponent. The Bobcats have more than held their own the past two seasons, losing 15-10 at Oklahoma State in 2005 before upsetting Colorado, 19-10, last season.
After a tightly contested battle for the starting quarterback spot this summer, the Bobcats dubbed Jack Rolovich as their guy. The senior gunslinger started the final seven games of the '06 season, leading MSU to a 5-2 record and a playoff appearance during that stretch. Rolovich threw for 1,674 yards and 10 touchdowns in 11 appearances last season, but he needs to improve on his accuracy, completing just 49.6 percent of his tosses. Unfortunately for Rolovich, the Bobcats lost their top two wide receivers from last year, although Josh Lewis has a good deal of potential. The 5-11 senior has good speed and he should have no trouble improving on his 26 catches from last season as the team's top target. In the backfield, Aaron Mason returns after a solid rookie campaign in which he rushed for team-highs of 645 yards and nine scores. Mason can also be a threat in the passing game, catching 16 passes a year ago.
On the defensive side of the ball it all starts with linebacker Bobby Daly, who played a big part in the Bobcats' ability to limit opposing teams to just 306.8 total ypg in '06. Daly, a junior, was a beast last season, leading the Big Sky with 121 tackles and 12.5 TFLs. He also tied for the team lead in sacks with six. Another player worth noting on this defense, which welcomes back six starters from a year ago, is tackle Aaron Papich. The 6-2, 272-pound senior is not only solid against the run, but he is also a threat to get into the backfield, recording 14 TFLs over the last two seasons. Last year, Papich registered 40 tackles, eight TFLs and three sacks in 11 games.
The Aggies punished their opponents on the ground (206.9 ypg) last season and with eight starters back in the fold, this unit could be among the best in the nation once again. Leading the charge for the Aggies will be quarterback Stephen McGee, who set a school record by completing 62 percent of his tosses in '06. The junior signal-caller however, is at his best when he tucks the ball away, rushing for 666 yards and four touchdowns. McGee is just one of several weapons in this potent ground attack which is paced by the thunder and lighting tandem of junior Jorvorskie Lane and sophomore Mike Goodson. At 275 pounds, Lane is a beast and nearly unstoppable in short-yardage situations. He led the team with 19 touchdowns last year, while ranking second in rushing yards with 725. As for Goodson, he burst onto the scene and earned Big 12 Freshman of the Year honors after leading the Aggies with 847 rushing yards. Goodson can flat out fly and that is no more evident than in the impressive 6.7 yards per carry he averaged in '06.
The Aggies improved dramatically on the defensive side of the ball last year and with six starters back in the fold from that unit, which ranked 46th in total yards (322.6 ypg), this group could be even better in '07. Up front is where the strength of this defense resides thanks to the return of Chris Harrington. The senior end put forth a remarkable '07 campaign, leading the Aggies in sacks (7.5) and TFLs (11.5) to go along with 59 stops. He is joined by senior tackle Red Bryant, a 324-pound mammoth who clogs up holes. The linebacking corps should also be strong following the return of seniors Misi Tupu and Mark Dodge. Both players came on strong last season and they combined for over 100 tackles. In the secondary is where Texas A&M improved dramatically, as it went from the 117th ranked pass defense in '05 to the 44th ranked unit last season. Cornerbacks Danny Gorrer (52 tackles) and Jordan Peterson (two interceptions) and free safety Devin Gregg (64 stops) all return to their starting spots and they are expected to produce at an even higher level this time around.
© 2007 The Sports Network