Aggies try for first 10-win season since 1998

Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin doesn’t have to say much this

week to motivate his team.

The ninth-ranked Aggies (9-2, 5-2 SEC) know what’s at stake as

they aim for their first 10-win season since 1998, and try to break

a three-game losing streak to Missouri.

”We’re playing a team that no one on this football team has

ever beaten,” Sumlin said. ”It’s senior day. That’ll be enough to

get our attention right there.”

Sumlin also knows that his team can’t take Missouri (5-6, 2-5)

lightly with the Tigers needing a win to become bowl eligible.

”Both sides have a lot to play for,” Sumlin said. ”Last time

I checked, they haven’t lost here in a while. I don’t think they’ll

be lacking any confidence at all walking into this place.”

Because of a scheduling quirk, Missouri is playing against the

Aggies in College Station for the third straight season. The Tigers

got a 30-9 win in 2010 and escaped with a 38-31 win in overtime

last season in the Big 12 before both teams moved to the

Southeastern Conference for this season.

”This has to be a world record, third time going down there,”

Missouri coach Gary Pinkel joked. ”All teams are different. Our

players have great respect for A&M and it is a great place to

play a football game. That being said, the reason we won those

games was because we played well and made plays at the end to

win.”

The Tigers’ big task on Saturday will be trying to contain Texas

A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel. The redshirt freshman is second

in the nation in total offense with more than 378 yards a game, and

the 20.73 points a game he’s responsible for are tied for third in

the country.

He’s the fifth player and first freshman in FBS history to pass

for at least 3,000 yards with at least 1,000 yards rushing in a

season, and his 4,161 yards are a school record for total offense

in a season.

”He’s a very, very impressive player,” Pinkel said. ”He’s

athletic, he throws the ball well and he’s accurate. He can throw

off balance, he’s creative. When you watch film you wonder how he

pulls stuff off but he does. He plays with a lot of

confidence.”

Pinkel is certainly impressed with Manziel’s work, but noted

that it has been helped by playing behind a talented and

experienced offensive line. The group is led by senior center

Patrick Lewis, who has started 46 straight games, and has junior

tackles Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews, who have started 37 and 31

straight games, respectively.

Manziel accounted for five touchdowns in just more than a half

of Texas A&M’s 47-28 win over Sam Houston State on Saturday. He

needs another strong game to impress Heisman Trophy voters one more

time before they make their decision.

Sumlin wouldn’t directly answer the question when asked if he

thought Manziel should become the first freshman to win the award.

But he did rave about his quarterback.

”If you look at his numbers and what he’s done compared to

everyone else, they speak for themselves,” he said. ”I’ll take it

a step further, if you look at his numbers compared to anyone else

who has ever played the game, they speak for themselves.”

Texas A&M offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury has enjoyed

watching Manziel develop this season.

”To be a freshman and do what he’s done in that conference is

hard to believe unless you’re a part of it and have watched it

every day and how much he’s improved from Day 1 until now,”

Kingsbury said. ”It’s really been fun to watch.”

The Tigers quarterback situation is up in the air entering

Saturday’s game. Starter James Franklin had a concussion last week

against Syracuse and will be a game-time decision.

If he can’t go, Missouri will use redshirt freshman Corbin

Berkstresser. He is 2-1 as a starter this season, and has thrown

for 783 yards with three touchdowns and six interceptions.

Whoever is at quarterback, he’ll be helped by the presence of

senior running back Kendial Lawrence. Lawrence has scored 11

touchdowns and needs 62 yards to reach 1,000 yards for the first

time in his career.

”I’m sure he’ll have opportunities at the professional level,”

Pinkel said. ”He’s having a great year. Even with all our

challenges on the offensive line it’s amazing that he almost has

1,000 yards. He’s very talented and a tough runner.”