Stinging Loss Ends Aggies' Tumultuous Season
Mike Sherman will take over the program next week, replacing Dennis Franchione
Dec. 30, 2007
SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- The stress of Texas A&M's tumultuous season finally got to junior quarterback Stephen McGee.
Minutes after the Aggies lost 24-17 to Penn State in the Alamo Bowl, the usually even-keeled McGee burst into tears.
"It's been a battle," said McGee. "I just had to say goodbye to all my best friends. It's not easy."
Mike Sherman will take over the program next week, replacing Dennis Franchione. McGee was one of Franchione's staunchest defenders and the team's main spokesman as the season unraveled amid the now-infamous newsletter that Franchione's personal assistant wrote for paying boosters. The day after Franchione resigned, minutes after the Aggies beat archrival Texas, McGee visited his coach at his home.
A&M seemed like it just might end the season on a good note as McGee guided the Aggies on a long drive late in the fourth quarter. But like everything else this season, things just didn't work out.
McGee simply slipped and fell on a fourth-down play, a fitting end to a year that seemed to have more stumbles than successes.
"All I know is you've just got to keep getting back up, you've got to keep looking ahead, keep moving forward," McGee said. "God has a plan and I wouldn't trade this season for anything in the world."
Sherman is expected to clean house and hire his own assistants. That made this game the last hurrah for interim coach Gary Darnell and the rest of Franchione's former staff.
Darnell held hands with his wife, Sandra, and his daughter, Kristin, as he trudged off the field after the loss. He didn't seem worried about his future, or any of A&M's other coaches.
"Who was it, Forrest Gump? Life is a box of chocolates," he said with an easy smile. "I'll open up that box and see which cherries and which chocolates come out. There will be a lot of options and I look at those options. I think the one option I won't lose is that I'll have an exciting life."
The Aggies finished 7-6 and lost their third consecutive bowl game. The previous two -- under Franchione -- were both lopsided routs, but A&M was in this one until the end.
Early on, Mike Goodson seemed to be at the center of everything. The speedy Texas A&M running back scored two early touchdowns to help A&M jump to a 14-0 lead.
"It was exciting. It was a great deal to get into the end zone twice," the sophomore said.
But Goodson coughed up a fumble early in the second quarter that led to a touchdown for Penn State.
"Coach always tells me to lock the ball up," he said. "I think I got a little loose there."
The Aggies gained only 58 yards after their initial 70-yard drive. But A&M mounted an 18-play drive midway through third quarter that consumed nearly nine minutes, a season high. It only produced a field goal, though, and Darnell admitted that was a costly missed opportunity.
"To go that far and only come away with three points," he said, "without a doubt, that was big."
The Nittany Lions answered with the winning touchdown drive, with Evan Royster finishing it with a 38-yard touchdown run.
The Aggies got the ball back on their own 1-yard line with 13:21 left.
"I just said, 'Let's go out and be Aggies. Be tough and play one play at a time, just like we've done all year,"' McGee said.
A&M converted three third downs on the drive and reached the Penn State 2. On fourth down, McGee took the snap, moved to his right, then slipped and fell for a 4-yard loss.
The Aggies got the ball one more time, but couldn't advance it past their own 33.
The younger players can now look ahead to the Sherman era. The seniors, meanwhile, almost seemed glad that the trying season was finally over.
"This season has been rough," said defensive end Chris Harrington. "It's kind of taken its toll on us and we've learned a lot and grown a lot.