Saturday, Sept. 5, 2009 | 11:45 p.m.
The Texas A&M football program finally seems to be moving in the right direction.
Jerrod Johnson threw for 349 yards and two touchdowns and ran for a score to lead the Aggies to a 41-6 win over New Mexico on Saturday.
Johnson completed 31 of 41 passes, and Cyrus Gray and Christine Michael added touchdown runs for the Aggies (1-0), who piled up 606 yards. The A&M defense showed dramatic improvement from last season, holding New Mexico to 21 rushing yards and sacking Donovan Porterie five times.
A total of 18 freshmen played for A&M and the Aggies produced their most complete victory since Mike Sherman became the head coach in November 2007. Sherman said the veterans deserve credit for embracing the newcomers in August camp and developing strong team chemistry.
"It could easily be an environment of hierarchy around here, where the kids have to wait to feel accepted," Sherman said. "We have an unselfish group and they really help the freshmen along."
The Aggies' defense ranked among the nation's worst in 2008, but Sherman was pleasantly surprised how well the unit played in the opener.
"I was really impressed with the way they tackled," Sherman said. "In the first ballgame, you always worry if you're going to be able to tackle. They did a good job of wrapping up people. The defense showed up to play."
Porterie completed 29 of 40 passes for New Mexico (0-1) in his first start since tearing ligaments in his right knee in the fourth game last season and undergoing surgery.
The Lobos played poorly in Mike Locksley's head coaching debut and failed to score a touchdown in their opener for the fourth straight season. The loss also marked New Mexico's 10th straight defeat in Texas.
"I thought we would come out and play a little better," Locksley said. "I don't think the score is indicative of the kind of team we have. We have to go watch some tape and get some things corrected."
The Aggies dominated from the start and built a 20-3 halftime lead.
Johnson threw a 42-yard pass to freshman Uzoma Nwachukwu on A&M's first possession and Johnson scrambled for a 16-yard touchdown with 9:52 left in the opening quarter.
Johnson completed passes to 10 receivers in the game, an indication of the depth A&M now has at the position.
"It's going to help us in the future, because things happen, a guy may go down, but I don't think we lose much with anybody," Johnson said. "That's one of the biggest things different from last year. That's exciting for me, as a quarterback."
Jeff Fuller caught an 18-yard pass from Johnson early in the second quarter, setting up Randy Bullock's 22-yard field goal. Fuller led A&M with 10 catches for 111 yards in the game.
Michael, one of 12 freshmen to play for A&M in the first half, broke two runs over 20 yards on the Aggies' next possession. Michael went out for a rest and Cyrus Gray's 13-yard touchdown run put A&M up 17-0 with 4:44 left in the half.
Demond Dennis fumbled on the Lobos' next play from scrimmage. A&M safety Jordan Pugh recovered and Bullock kicked a field goal for a 20-0 lead.
James Aho kicked a field goal with 13 seconds left in the first half to complete New Mexico's best drive of the game. The Aggies held the Lobos to two rushing yards and nine first downs in the first half.
A&M marched 86 yards in 12 plays to start the second half. Johnson went 6-for-6 on the drive and Michael finished it with a 2-yard touchdown run.
Aho matched his career best with a 48-yard field goal later in the third quarter. A&M answered with a 17-play drive, capped by Johnson's 7-yard touchdown pass to Fuller.
Johnson threw a 44-yard touchdown pass to freshman Kenric McNeal with 9:14 left. Tommy Dorman finished the game at quarterback for the Aggies.
Texas A&M has won 24 of its last 26 home openers, though it lost to Arkansas State in Sherman's debut in 2008.