Lone Star State showdown pits Aggies against Mustangs

Sep 17, 2014 - 4:05 PM Dallas, TX (SportsNetwork.com) - The sixth-ranked Texas A&M Aggies will try to keep their perfect season alive on Saturday night when they take on the winless SMU Mustangs in an intrastate clash at Gerald J. Ford Stadium.

Texas A&M has barely broken a sweat during the early going this season, as each of its three wins have come by at least 24 points. The Aggies had a statement victory in its opener on the road at nationally-ranked South Carolina (52-28), then followed that up with predictable blowouts of Lamar (73-3) and Rice (38-10) to move to 3-0 for the first time since 2010.

SMU's disappointing 0-2 start to the year, which included convincing losses at the hands of Baylor (45-0) and North Texas (43-6), led to a major program shakeup with June Jones announcing his resignation after six-plus seasons at the helm. Tom Mason, who has served as the team's defensive coordinator since 2008, will act as the interim head coach.

"I would like to thank all the people here at SMU that have supported the vision we have had here," Jones said. "I feel we have made SMU relevant again in football by going to four bowls in my six years as a Mustang. I am thankful for the opportunity I was given and wish only the best for the player, coaches and administration at SMU."

"June's decision to resign was his own," SMU Director of Athletics Tom Hart said. "And we thank him for his efforts and wish him the best."

Texas A&M holds a 44-29-7 advantage over SMU in an intrastate rivalry that dates back to 1916. In the three matchups since 2011, the Aggies have outscored the Mustangs, 136-30.

Kevin Sumlin's high-octane offensive attack has not skipped a beat in the 2014 campaign, as the Aggies are putting up 54.3 ppg and 595.7 ypg, which rank second and fourth in the nation, respectively.

Kenny Hill took the torch from Johnny Manziel in the offseason and has performed well in the early going. The gun slinger is completing greater than 69 percent of his passes for 1,094 yards with 11 touchdowns and zero interceptions.

Even with the success of the offense, Hill was not satisfied with the unit's 38-point performance against Rice, inferring that the Aggies left a lot of points on the field.

"We just weren't really clicking and we weren't executing the way that we want to," Hill said. "We are going to get that fixed and be ready to go."

Malcome Kennedy has emerged as Hill's go-to receiving option with 24 receptions for 258 yards and a touchdown, and he's one of five receivers with double-digit catches and at least 150 yards. Speedy Noil (12 receptions, 197 yards, TD) is listed as questionable with an undisclosed injury.

The effective rushing attack consists of three high-quality rushers - Trey Williams (22 carries, 142 yards, two TDs), Brandon Williams (20 carries, 119 yards) and Tra Carson (18 carries, 96 yards, four TDs).

As outstanding as Texas A&M's offense has been, it's the vast improvement of the defense that makes this squad a legitimate contender. The unit gives up just 13.7 ppg.

Myles Garrett is one of the nation's best pass-rushers with 6.5 TFL and 5.5 sacks to go with another four QB hurries. Howard Matthews has a team-best 24 tackles, and Armani Watts and Deshazor Everett each have an interception.

SMU boasts one of the nation's worst offenses in the early going this season, as it has scored just six points in two games, while amassing a mere 171.5 ypg.

To make matters worse, quarterback Neal Burcham (27-of-48, 158 yards, two INTs) will miss the rest of the season with an elbow injury. Kolney Cassel (14-of-29, 154 yards, TD) will make his first career start, with Matt Davis (4-of-8, 45 yards, TD) waiting in the wings.

Der'rikk Thompson has team highs in both receptions (eight) and yards (95), while Nate Halverson (four receptions, 65 yards) has the team's lone touchdown.

The Mustangs' rushing attack has been especially bad, as they rush for negative-7 yards per game. Kevin Pope is the lead back with 14 carries for 42 yards.

SMU's defense hasn't been good either, allowing 44.0 ppg and 463.5 ypg, although it deserves a little bit of credit for holding Baylor to its lowest point total of the year (45 points).

Jonathan Yenga leads the way with 15 tackles, Ajee Montes has 13 tackles and a fumble recovery and Hayden Greenbauer has 12 tackles and an interception. The unit has registered just one sack, courtesy of Zelt Minor.

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