OU (7-1, 3-1 Big 12) is going into the hostile environment known as Kyle Field while trying to figure out why it has struggled on the road, especially in the fourth quarter. The last time the Sooners were outside of Norman, they allowed 16 unanswered fourth-quarter points in a loss to Missouri.
“We’ve brought that to attention that we need to play better in the second half and specifically the fourth quarter,” said senior defensive back Jonathan Nelson. “Hopefully we do that the next three away games.”
The Sooners know things are not going to completely go their way, like is the case in all road games, but the key is to make sure there are more positives than negatives while playing in enemy territory, Nelson said.
“There’s going to be ups and downs, there’s going to be adversity and we’re going to have a bad play against A&M,” Nelson said. “Hopefully we will have more good than bad, but their crowd is going to be crazy. We’ve experienced that at Missouri and hopefully we can better ourselves at A&M.”
The Aggies (5-3, 2-2 Big 12) have opted to not go with senior quarterback Jerrod Johnson, who was named the preseason Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year, for the second straight game.
Instead, they will be led by junior quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
Tannehill played as a wide receiver during the team’s first seven games and caught 11 passes for 143 yards and a touchdown. When his number was called to be the starting quarterback, he had a career day by throwing for 449 yards on 50 attempts and finding the end zone four times in an 18-point victory over Texas Tech.
Despite the quarterback change, the Sooners do not see too much of a difference in Texas A&M’s offense with Tannehill under center.
“They’re both big guys,” said head coach Bob Stoops, who has a 4-1 record as head coach at Kyle Field. “They both throw the football well. They both have the ability to scramble around and run. In some ways they’re pretty similar in how they play, body structure and the offense they run with them. In that regard, they’re pretty similar in how they play.”
Not only are the Aggies not going with their usual starting quarterback, but they will also be without the services of their starting running back, sophomore Christine Michael. Michael broke his right tibia in the victory against Texas Tech and is most likely out for the rest of the season.
He accounted for 126 of the Aggies’ 340 rushing attempts and 48.2 percent of their rushing yards.
Junior running back Cyrus Gray will have to pick up the slack in Michael’s absence. Gray is third on the team in both attempts (78) and net gain (146) and leads all rushers with at least 25 attempts with 5.3 yards per carry average.
While the offense is having issues at the quarterback and running back positions, the receiving corps is the only position that is not having internal problems and should provide some problems for the Sooner defense.
The Aggies have three receivers who have caught 20 passes and two who have at least 500 yards, but it is junior wide receiver Jeff Fuller whom the secondary will have its hands most full with.
Through eight games, Fuller has brought in 55 passes for 858 yards and 11 touchdowns, good for fourth in the nation.
“They’ve got weapons; they’re a good football team, certainly offensively,” said defensive ends coach Bobby Jack Wright. “They give us a lot of problems. They run the ball well. They’ve got a really good quarterback they’re throwing and good receivers. We’ve got to go on the road and play a heck of a game down there.”