Storylines for today's game at Texas A&M
Published: Friday, September 7, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, September 8, 2012 at 1:17 a.m.
Staff writers Robbie Andreu and Adam West take a closer look at today's game at Kyle Field.
Texas tough on Gators
Florida does not have much of a history with Texas A&M. The Gators and Aggies have played only twice, with UF defeating A&M 42-6 in Gainesville in 1961 and losing to the Aggies 37-14 in the 1977 Sun Bowl. The Gators have a little bit of history playing in the state of Texas, and it is not good. UF has played in the Lone Star state 10 times and is 1-7-2 in those game. The last time the Gators ventured into Texas was for the 1982 Bluebonnet Bowl in Houston, where UF fell to Arkansas 28-24.
Manziel is the man for Aggies
Redshirt freshman Johnny Manziel is set to make history today, becoming the first freshman quarterback to start an A&M season opener since 1944. Manziel and Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel have some things in common. They both came out of high school the same year, were both highly rated prospects, both were standout dual-threat quarterbacks in high school and both enrolled in college early. In his senior year at Kerrville High School, Manziel threw for 3,609 yards and 45 touchdowns and also rushed for 1,674 yards. While Manziel redshirted last season, Driskel played in five games for the Gators as a true freshman.
Checking out the Cougars
With Texas A&M's opener against Louisiana Tech postponed due to Hurricane Isaac last week, the Gators had no tape on the Aggies to watch this week. Instead, they've been studying tape of University of Houston games from last season to get a good idea of what the Aggies will do on offense under first-year coach Kevin Sumlin, the head coach at Houston the past four seasons. Conversely, the Aggies do have a Florida game tape to study this week. But it probably doesn't reveal much. Like Sumlin said earlier this week, the Gators basically showed nothing (offensively or defensively) in their opener against Bowling Green last Saturday.
Some big-time protection
UF's defensive front was frustrated a week ago by a quick-hitting Bowling Green passing attack that left almost no opportunities for sacks. The Gators ended up with one against a team that threw the ball 52 times. UF may have an even more difficult time getting to the quarterback today, and not so much because of a quick, short passing game, but because the Aggies really know how to protect their QB. A&M gave up only nine sacks all last season, and four of the five starting offensive linemen return. And the Aggies do it right. The offensive line has not been flagged for holding since the second game last season. That's protection.
When the Aggies take the field today, almost everything will be new. A new QB in Johnny Manziel will run a new up-tempo offense brought in by new head coach Kevin Sumlin as Texas A&M begins a new season in a new conference. It might be Week 2, but an approaching Hurricane Isaac turned the Aggies' originally scheduled opener at Louisiana Tech into an SEC home opener this week.
Florida was one of the most penalized programs in college football last season as coach Will Muschamp saw 100 flags that resulted in 773 penalty yards. UF is on pace for an even higher rate after committing 14 penalties in its opener. First-week jitters may have played a role, but now Florida enters a hostile environment at Kyle Field where communication breakdowns could be frequent.
Muschamp said he wanted to establish the Gators' identity as a running team, and Florida demonstrated that commitment to the ground game featuring new starter Mike Gillislee in last week's too-close-for-comfort victory over Bowling Green. Texas A&M was second in the Big 12 last year in stopping the run, giving up only 101.8 rushing yards per game. Now that Jeff Driskel has been named UF's starting quarterback, this might be the week the Gators look to start throwing downfield more often, especially if the running game struggles early on.
If the Gators are going to have success in the passing game, it will be up to Florida's veteran offensive line to give Driskel time to find his receivers against a Texas A&M defense that led the nation with 51 sacks last season. Much of the Aggies' team might be new, but their two sack leaders from last year are back in senior strongside linebacker Sean Porter (9.5 last year) and junior defensive end Damontre Moore (8.5).