Aggies prepare to face No. 20 Baylor's Griffin
Texas A&M has allowed two quarterbacks to set school records for passing against its nation's worst pass defense this season.
This week the 21st-ranked Aggies are in for another challenge when they face No. 20 Baylor and star quarterback Robert Griffin III. Griffin is the second most efficient passer in the nation and his 360 yards of total offense a game rank fifth.
The Aggies allowed Oklahoma State's Brandon Weeden and Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson to set school passing records against them and are yielding almost 348 yards passing a game.
When Texas A&M defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter was asked about the challenged Griffin presents this week, he shook his head and chuckled before answering.
''I think he's a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate,'' DeRuyter said. ''He affects the game and is as important to his team as anyone in the country. The way he can stress the defense by moving in the pocket or running the football, he's an extremely difficult person to try to defend. Our guys understand that and we'll be up for the challenge.''
Though the Aggies have certainly worried about Griffin in past meetings, they're much more concerned with him this season because of his increased passing accuracy.
''He's throwing at an 82-percent efficiency,'' Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman said. ''He has one interception and 19 touchdowns. Last year he had 22 for the whole season. He's hitting on all cylinders. His accuracy as a quarterback has been the biggest thing. They are a big downfield play-action team this year.''
But the Aggies know better than to ignore his skill as a runner after he had a 71-yard touchdown run against them last year in a 42-30 win by A&M. The 92 yards rushing he had last season against A&M were the second most he had all year.
''He's a very fast player and we're going to have to try to contain him,'' senior defensive back Terrence Frederick said.
Sherman, the former Green Bay Packers coach, compared Griffin to an NFL quarterback known for his versatility.
''Anytime the ball is in his hands he can throw it for a touchdown or run it for a touchdown,'' he said. ''So you have to respect both aspects of his play. When he starts to run he's like Michael Vick. You don't know what to expect. He's more accurate, actually.''
Griffin's speed and willingness to run the ball makes blitzing him a scary proposition. But DeRuyter said the Aggies won't change their game plan drastically because of the opponent.
''We're going to do what we do,'' he said ''You have to be judicious with someone like him. We're going to mix things up. I think you have to do something to disrupt him. When he's comfortable in the pocket he's extremely accurate. We have to do some things to get him out of his comfort zone, and that's hopefully through some disguised coverage and some pressure.''
DeRuyter has noticed an increased confidence in the Bears this season and he's hoping his defense can find that kind of confidence soon. The Aggies were struggling after two straight losses where they gave up big first half leads, but bounced back with a 45-40 win over previously undefeated Texas Tech.
DeRuyter has been trying to stress to his team the importance of forcing turnovers with the Aggies ranked 119th in the country in the category after forcing just three this season.
''We've been horrible this year,'' DeRuyter said of their inability to cause turnovers. ''The other day we were close on four different plays. We had two passes hit us in the hands. Twice we get sacks on the quarterback, the ball is out and we weren't there to get it. You can have momentum-changing plays when you get takeaways, and I think we're really close right now ... it will continue to be an emphasis for us.''
The Aggies plan to have a one player on defense in specifically in charge of keeping tabs on Griffin on each play on Saturday. So far, DeRuyter hasn't decided who that will be. He joked that he wished he could bring back a former player for the job.
''I'd probably make a call to the 303 area code and try and get No. 40 back here,'' DeRuyter said referring to former A&M linebacker/defensive end Von Miller, who was taken by Denver with the second overall pick in this year's draft. ''I don't know. We are in the middle of discussions right now. He's a guy you have to take account for. He's a game changer. We'll have a plan for it.''