COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) — Texas A&M took note of the times this season when Football Championship Subdivision teams have pulled off upsets over BCS teams. When the Aggies meet South Carolina State for the first time on Saturday, they know better than to overlook the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference team, despite its 56-0 loss last week at Arizona.
COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) — Texas A&M took note of the times this season when Football Championship Subdivision teams have pulled off upsets over BCS teams.
When the Aggies meet South Carolina State for the first time on Saturday, they know better than to overlook the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference team, despite its 56-0 loss last week at Arizona.
Texas A&M actually believes that difficult defeat could make the Bulldogs even more dangerous.
"They're a team on the rebound," Texas A&M linebacker Jonathan Stewart said. "We have to prepare for every single opponent as if they are a big-time opponent. We can't take them lightly at all and end up being one of the teams that everybody looks at around the nation as: 'How did you lose to that team?'"
The Aggies look to pick up their first win at Kyle Field after opening the season with a 20-17 loss to No. 14 Florida two weeks ago. They bounced back from that defeat with a 48-3 victory at SMU on Saturday and return to Southeastern Conference play next week against Arkansas.
Freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel starred against the Mustangs in his second career start, throwing for four touchdowns and running for two more in three quarters. Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin said he's improving every day, but dealing with not being able to rely solely on his talent to succeed is a process.
"For a lot of players that go through that, you have to find out what you can do with your strengths and what you can't do with your weaknesses," Sumlin said. "When you're used to having success doing certain things a certain way, as you progress you start to learn the speed of the game, what you can get away with and what you can't ... he's a very talented guy that has got to continue to work on moving from an athlete that's playing quarterback to a quarterback that's an athlete. There's a big difference."
South Carolina State also has a dual-threat quarterback in Richard Cue. Cue leads the team in yards passing with 458 and yards rushing with 129. His best performance came in the Bulldogs season-opening win over Georgia State, when he threw for a career-high 300 yards and three touchdowns.
"I think their quarterback is a smooth athlete," Texas A&M defensive coordinator Mark Snyder said. "They've got a couple of receivers that can play a lot of places. You can see schematically that they know what they're doing. If you give them something here or there, they'll counter with something. I've been very, very impressed with them. We'll have to come to play."
Cue and the Bulldogs' offense will be challenged by a Texas A&M defense which leads the nation with six sacks a game. Stewart saw the Aggies make strides on defense from the first to second game, and expects that to continue on Saturday.
South Carolina State coach Buddy Pough is hoping his team is able to put last week's loss, where his team managed just three first downs, behind it. He added that Texas A&M's offensive and defensive lines are "imposing."
"Tough isn't the word for it. We got knocked around pretty good," he said of last week's loss. "It was one of those kind of games where it just got away from us ... we've got our work cut out for us. It will be interesting to see how our kids react."
He also isn't quite sure what to expect from the Aggies since they've played just two games after their opener against Louisiana Tech was rescheduled because of Hurricane Isaac.
The development of Manziel has been helped by the emergence of fellow freshman Mike Evans. Evans led the team with 123 yards receiving last week and has a team-leading 183 yards receiving overall.
The 6-foot-5 Evans is a former basketball star that only began playing football a few years ago.
"He's got to keep getting better," Texas A&M offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury said. "He made some good plays and had some he wished he could take back. With his size and speed, what do you tell him? 'There shouldn't be anybody covering you. If you execute the route you're supposed to and use the technique you're supposed to, you should be indefensible.'"
That should be especially true this week against a secondary that starts just one player taller than 6-feet.