Friday, November 25, 2005

ATH: Stephen McGee on the loose

Freshman QB outplays Texas' Young
McGee gives Aggies some hope for the future in loss to No. 2 Texas
The Associated Press, Updated: 8:53 p.m. ET Nov. 25, 2005

COLLEGE STATION - Something surprising emerged for Texas A&M out of another stinging loss to Texas: Hope for the future.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Stephen McGee capably ran the Aggies’ option offense in his first career start Friday, rushing for 108 yards and two touchdowns in place of injured senior Reggie McNeal.

The Longhorns won 40-29, but McGee more than held his own against Heisman Trophy candidate Vince Young, who passed for 162 yards and ran for only 19.

McNeal sat out with a sprained left ankle. He became A&M’s all-time leader in passing yardage and total offense this season, but the Aggies still lost their last four games and finished 5-6, their second losing record in three years.

McGee completed only nine of 23 passes, threw an interception and took several hard hits, but he also guided the Aggies to 395 yards against one of the nation’s top defenses.

“Stephen played an outstanding game,” coach Dennis Franchione said. “That’s not the easiest opening start of your college career to have. ... Everybody’s got a glimpse of the future and we’re excited about it.”

Franchione told McGee on Tuesday that he would start, and his teammates showered him with votes of confidence before the game.

“Every one of those guys came up and told me, ’I’m here for you. We’re going to fight for you,”’ McGee said. “As a quarterback, when you know that’s how your team feels about you, you go out there and have fun.”

But McGee also showed he still has a lot to learn.

With the Aggies trailing 37-29, McGee led A&M inside the Texas 20 with under 10 minutes to play.

On third-and-2, he dropped back, holding the ball in one hand on a play-action fake. Texas defensive tackle Rodrique Wright swatted the ball loose and defensive end Brian Orapko recovered.

“I take responsibility for that and that’ll be something I hold dear in my memory about this game,” McGee said.

McGee got his worst pass of the day out of the way early, lofting one straight to Texas linebacker Drew Kelson seven minutes into the game. Henry Melton scored three plays later and the Longhorns led 7-0. The Aggies went three-and-out on their next possession and Texas scored quickly for a 14-0 lead.

On the Aggies’ next play, McGee zipped a 25-yard pass to Jason Carter down the right sideline. He rushed for 18 yards and hit Martellus Bennett for an 11-yard gain to set up Todd Pegram’s 31-yard field goal.

“Obviously at the beginning, I wasn’t setting me feet,” McGee said. “Later on I did, and as the game progressed I felt comfortable. I know I can play football.”

McGee had settled into his new role by halftime, giving his team a pep talk in the locker room.

“I looked them into the eyes and said, ’Hey guys, nobody gave us a chance coming into this game, but now were here with the chance to prove everyone wrong and do something nobody thought we could,”’ he said.

Young fumbled on the third play of the third quarter and McGee scored a minute later, beating a Texas defender to the corner and stretching the ball across the goal line for a 22-21 A&M lead.

He was knocked down on the play, but sprang to his feet as he had done all day. He raised both arms into the air and yelled at the player who hit him.

“That’s part of my game,” McGee said. “I love to go in there and compete. I said to him, ’Hey man, I can get up too.”’

But McGee’s late mistake proved costly.

“There’s been a lot of frustration and disappointment,” McGee said. “People can talk about the future all they want, but the point is, it starts right now. It’s our job to get this football program where it needs to be right now.”

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