Texas A&M 26, Arkansas St. 11

Updated: August 31, 2003, 5:28 PM ET

COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- The home team advantage has a new meaning for Texas A&M coach Dennis Franchione.

Terrence Murphy returned kickoffs 58 and 77 yards and Courtney Lewis scored two touchdowns to help Franchione win his first game as Texas A&M's coach, 26-11 over Arkansas State on Saturday night.

"I've heard a lot about the 12th man and it's a big deal," Franchione said. "I see how hard they make it for opponents with the noise level. They were everything I thought they would be."

Terrence Murphy set up a 4-yard touchdown by Lewis with a 77-yard kickoff return in the third quarter, after earlier setting up a field goal by Todd Pegram with a 58-yard kickoff return.

Pegram kicked field goals of 42, 32 and 35 yards in the second quarter as the Aggies took a 9-3 halftime lead. He added a 30-yarder in the third quarter that gave Texas A&M a 19-3 lead.

"The first one we had the wind at our back pretty good but the clock ran out (on the first quarter)," Pegram said. "I was trying to tell coach we needed to kick it in, it's 40 yards and that's not a chip shot.

"I just tried to hit it straight. I knew it would go in because we've been working on going into the wind all week."

The Indians tried to get back into the game when Texas A&M's Terrence Thomas fumbled after catching a pass and Arkansas State's Steven Tookes picked it up and ran 35 yards for a touchdown. Clinton Roy ran in the 2-point conversion to make it 19-11 with 5:53 left.

Lewis sealed the game with a 42-yard touchdown run with 3:06 remaining.

Murphy took away attention from the anticipated battle between Reggie McNeal and Dustin Long for the starting quarterback job before a record opening game Kyle Field crowd of 75,804.

McNeal, who came off the bench to lead A&M over No. 1 ranked Oklahoma last year, got the nod for the opening series and played the first quarter and third quarters. Long, the starter much of last season, played in the second and part of the fourth periods.

McNeal completed 7 of 13 passes for 82 yards and Long finished 5-for-7 for 44 yards. Each threw an interception. Lewis, a redshirt freshman, had 74 yards rushing on 13 carries.

"I thought they made some plays and we had some turnovers, some unfortunate turnovers you cant blame on them too much," Franchione said. "It's kind of a situation where we need to sleep on it tonight, give it a great deal of thought and go out and get to work tomorrow."

The Aggies punted on their first two possessions before Pegram kicked his 42-yarder into the wind on the first play of the second quarter.

The Indians then got their only sustained drive of the first half with Elliot Jacobs throwing passes of 11 and 13 yards to Mike Cox and 24 yards to Jerome Stegall to set up Eric Niehouse's 22-yard field goal.

Elliot Jacobs completed 11 of 20 passes for 94 yards and one interception for Arkansas State.

"We were real close to breaking some plays but we weren't able to and A&M had a lot to do with that," Arkansas State coach Steve Roberts said.

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index