Commentary

A&M, OSU ready to move on, play ball

Updated: October 19, 2009, 11:25 AM ET
By Richard Durrett | ESPNDallas.com

Coaches are sometimes just as curious as fans to see how their teams respond in big games or difficult circumstances.

That makes Saturday's matchup at Kyle Field between Texas A&M and Oklahoma State so interesting.

OSU coach Mike Gundy will find out whether his team can put the distraction of wide receiver Dez Bryant's ineligibility behind them and win a Big 12 game on the road. Texas A&M's Mike Sherman wants to see whether his squad can eliminate the big mistakes that allowed Arkansas to roar back from a 10-0 deficit to win 47-19 last week at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington.

Oklahoma State was rocked Wednesday with the news that Bryant was ruled ineligible. ESPN's Joe Schad reported that Bryant lied when asked by the NCAA whether he had visited Deion Sanders' home or worked out with him.

"We are certainly disappointed, but we are moving forward as we would with any challenge during the season," Gundy said in a news release.

Bryant apologized in a statement issued by the university. According to various reports, Bryant admitted on his Facebook page that he had lied to the NCAA and that he had apologized for it. OSU is appealing for reinstatement on his behalf.

The loss of a huge playmaker like Bryant means receivers Josh Cooper, DeMarcus Conner and Hubert Anyiam must carry more of the load. The trio has just 21 career receptions. The Cowboys also are without running back Kendall Hunter and punt returner (and cornerback) Perrish Cox.

So Gundy will get to find out how quickly his team can deal with adversity as it begins Big 12 play.

[+] EnlargeJerrod Johnson
Wesley Hitt/Getty ImagesTexas A&M quarterback Jerrod Johnson coughed up a fumble against Arkansas that was returned 85 yards for a touchdown. "I think one thing I learned is to try to protect the ball a little better," Johnson said.

For Texas A&M, Saturday's game is about applying the lessons learned from a 47-19 loss to Arkansas under the bright lights and expansive -- not to mention expensive -- video board at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington.

The main thing the Aggies discovered: Mistakes are magnified in big games.

"In the three previous games we made some mistakes and were able to recover, but not against the likes of Arkansas or Oklahoma State," Sherman said.

Big plays hurt the Aggies on Saturday, including a fumble by quarterback Jerrod Johnson that was returned 85 yards for a touchdown midway through the second quarter. The Aggies were driving for a possible go-ahead score when the fumble occurred, giving Arkansas a 21-10 lead.

"I think one thing I learned is to try to protect the ball a little better," Johnson said. "I think we performed pretty well, but at times our timing was awful. We learned a lot from it. I can't really pick one thing that I learned, but the overall game definitely helped our team as a whole, and me as a quarterback."

Sherman said Saturday wasn't Johnson's best game. Still, the coach was pleased with how Johnson -- who Sherman said has made more progress in a shorter time than any quarterback he's coached in high school, college or the NFL -- reacted during the game when things weren't going well.

"He's worked extremely hard," Sherman said. "He showed great leadership last week in practice and great composure in the game despite the fact we were struggling. He never lost his zeal to go out and do it again and try to win the game."

That's Johnson's mission again Saturday as the Aggies try to shake off last week's loss. It's also the goal for Oklahoma State, which must deal with the absence of an electrifying, game-changing player.

Both coaches are eager to see how it all plays out.

Richard Durrett covers colleges for ESPNDallas.com. E-mail him at richard.durrett@espn3.com.

Richard Durrett joined ESPNDallas.com in September 2009. He writes about colleges, the Dallas Stars and the Texas Rangers. Richard spent nine years at The Dallas Morning News covering the Rangers, Stars, colleges, motorsports and high schools.

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