Aggies and Longhorns pit strength vs. strength on the run

Tuesday, November 21st 2006, 2:17 pm
By: News On 6

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) Texas A&M likes to run, whether it's 280-pound wrecking ball tailback Jorvorskie Lane smashing into defenses or speedy Mike Goodson dashing around them.

Texas stops the run. The Longhorns rank #1 in country in rush defense and give up a paltry 42 yards per game.

Something's got to give when they meet Friday in the 113th edition of their rivalry.

The #11 Longhorns (9-2, 6-1 Big 12) got a steady dose of Lane last season when he rumbled for 104 yards on 17 carries in a 40-29 Texas win.

The Aggies (8-3, 4-3) average 208 yards rushing per game. Goodson leads the team with 699 yards, but Lane is the punisher who wears down defenses and has scored 19 touchdowns.

``Lane's almost big as me,'' said Texas' 320-pound defensive tackle Frank Okam. ``You try to tackle somebody that big, and he's probably way faster than me, and I mean that's a lot to handle. You take physical science, force times mass and you get acceleration, and that means gang tackling.''

Lane can do more than smash skulls.

He showed a little razzle-dazzle in that bulky body when he tossed a halfback pass for a touchdown against the Longhorns last season. That play sticks in Texas' memory because the Longhorns have given up three halfback or wide receiver passes for TDs this season.

``We've stopped the run so well, we're seeing every trick play known to man,'' Texas coach Mack Brown said.

``We're pretty much expecting them to use it again,'' said senior safety Michael Griffin.

As good as Texas is against the run, the Longhorns would probably prefer the Aggies keep things moving, just a little bit, on the ground.

That's because when teams start throwing, Texas can seldom find a way to stop it.

Standout cornerback Aaron Ross aside, and even he had a bad game in 45-42 loss to Kansas State, Texas has struggled in the secondary.

The Longhorns rank 111th nationally against the pass. The 2,739 yards surrendered through the air has already set a school record.

The secondary has been hobbled by various injuries all season and having a weekend off to rest should help, Brown said.

``We've been so hard on our defense ... (but) they've hung in there in some tough situations, he said. ``We'll probably be healthier as a team than we have been for the past eight weeks.''

Texas' rush defense has been so good in part because safeties Michael and Marcus Griffin, two of the team's top three tacklers, are quick to offer run support at the line of scrimmage.

Such aggressive play has set up the Longhorns to get burned on play-action passes, and the halfback and wide receiver throws.

But it hasn't been all trick plays that have ripped the Texas defense for more than 300 yards passing four of the last five games. Coverage problems have contributed to 13 touchdown passes in that span covering an average of 30.5 yards.

Still, Brown says the old-school side of him says he'd rather force the Aggies to throw than let them run.

``You have to do a good job stopping the run and getting the quarterback off balance,'' Brown said.

Aggie sophomore quarterback Stephen McGee, who got his first start against Texas last year, has completed 62 percent of his passes for 2,060 yards and 11 touchdowns.

McGee was one of the top passers in Texas high school history. He's an option QB now for coach Dennis Franchione and he's rushed for 540 yards this season.

``For a guy that has 4.4 speed, he can throw a rocket,'' Okam said. ``And you have that option attack they can hit you anywhere.''