Three years ago, when millionaire coach Sherrill struggled through a 5-6 season at Texas A&M;, the critics were legion. Said former SMU coach Ron Meyer, then with the New England Patriots: “You have to run the option today to win in the Southwest Conference.”
Nobody’s saying that this year, now that the pass-oriented Aggies are in the Cotton Bowl, playing Auburn. Evidently the option offense, the favored transportation in the SWC, is not the only way to fly.
In going 9-2 and winning the conference title, the Aggies unleashed an impressive aerial attack. They actually passed for nearly as much yardage, 207 yards a game, as they’ve rushed, 211.
“It is quarterback heaven,” said sophomore quarterback Kevin Murray, already the school’s second-leading passer with 322 completions in his career.
Credit for winning with something besides the option offense goes to offensive coordinator Lynn Amedee, a Cotton Bowl quarterback and MVP in 1963, who has schooled such quarterbacks as Archie Manning and David Woodley in his various stops.
Amedee, one of the best-paid assistants in football with a salary reported at $100,000, appears to be earning every penny of it with a drop-back passing scheme that calls for receivers to read their coverages and adjust their routes at the line of scrimmage.
For Texas A&M;, this has meant becoming the first Division I-A team in NCAA history to average more than 200 yards in both running and passing. Last year, with the same players, but before Amedee, the Aggies were eighth in their conference in total offense.
And what is the new offense called?
“The one I liked,” the assistant coach said, “was the Amedeeville Horror.”
R.J. Slocum, Texas A&M; defensive coordinator and a former USC assistant, couldn’t say enough about Bo Jackson, Auburn’s Heisman Trophy winner. Meanwhile, Jackson couldn’t say anything.
“Some guys are speed guys, looking for that crack, looking for that long one,” Slocum said. “Some just hammer you, five yards a whack, but can’t break the long one. Bo is the best combination of those qualities I’ve ever seen.”
As if Jackson needed another endorsement.
Meanwhile, Jackson, who on Saturday had said, “I try not to complicate the media’s life so I make a point of appearing at all the press conferences that I possibly can,” missed a scheduled press conference Monday.
The reason was strep throat, which kept him out of practice Sunday. Fullback Tom Agee also stayed indoors with strep throat, and Bo’s backup Brent Fullwood was sidelined with bronchitis.
All are expected to play Wednesday, but what if Jackson is still sick?
“The last time he was sick was against Florida, and he had 200 and something yards,” Auburn assistant coach Jack Crowe said. “Sometimes when he’s sick, he plays his best.”
Sherrill asked Auburn Coach Pat Dye how he had ended up at Auburn after growing up in Georgia, playing there and then coaching at Alabama.
Said Dye: “Well, you got to end up in heaven someday.”
Auburn’s offensive tackle, Steve Wallace, came up with a strange angle on the inevitable matchup at his position.
“I just found out (Texas A&M; defensive tackle Jay) Muller is a Christian,” he said. “That scares me because that has been one of the advantages that I have had on everybody else this season. I’m going to have to find something else now.”