COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Bad ankle or not, Texas A&M senior quarterback Reggie McNeal says Friday's regular-season finale against archrival Texas is too big for him to miss.
"It's my last game. It's going to be my last time stepping on Kyle [Field]," said McNeal, who became A&M's all-time passer
against Oklahoma on Nov. 12. "It means a whole lot."
Not long after setting the record, McNeal sprained his left
ankle after a hit by Oklahoma's Calvin Thibodeaux. Trainers helped
McNeal to the sideline and he rode to the locker room on a
motorized cart, but on Monday he wasn't limping.
"I'm feeling pretty good," he said. "I'm going to be ready."
Redshirt freshman Stephen McGee replaced McNeal against OU,
rushing for 67 yards on 10 carries and leading the Aggies (5-5, 3-4
Big 12) to a touchdown and two field goals in 1½ quarters.
Coach Dennis Franchione said he wouldn't think twice about using McGee if
McNeal struggles against the No. 2 Longhorns (10-0, 7-0) and the
nation's sixth-ranked defense.
"If he were sitting right here, I think he'd tell you without
any hesitation there's no doubt in his mind he's ready, and that I
think is a strength of a young quarterback," Franchione said of
McGee, a former standout at Burnet High School, has appeared in
six games this season, rushing for 200 yards and completing 15 of
30 passes without an interception. He's eager to be part of the
rivalry he's followed since he was a child.
"I want to go out there and have fun, compete, and be that
little kid, you know, diving around in the front yard," McGee
said. "I'm just 20 years old. I still have the same amount of fun
and that's what it's about to me."
For Texas, it doesn't matter who the Aggies start.
"They run the same offense," said Coach Mack Brown. "When
they're in the same offense, it doesn't change your plans."
The Longhorns have beaten the Aggies five straight years, the
last two with McNeal starting. Friday's game is McNeal's last shot
to add another signature victory to his topsy-turvy career.
McNeal is still best known for coming off the bench as a
freshman in 2002 and leading the Aggies to a 30-26 upset of
then-No. 1 Oklahoma.
Despite ranking in the school's top six in seven offensive
categories, McNeal has taken much of the blame for this year's
struggles, even though A&M has been ravaged by injuries and has one
of the nation's worst defenses.
McNeal has been reluctant to reflect on his A&M career in recent
weeks and prefers to look to the future, when he's confident the
Aggies will return to national prominence.
"Did I expect to win a Big 12 title? Yeah. That's why I came
here," he said. "I know this is my last game, but I'm always
going to be an Aggie football player, regardless. If next year,
they win a Big 12 title, I'll feel like I contributed to that."
If nothing else, Friday's game could serve as a changing of the
"Sooner or later the keys to the car are going to be turned
over to the new driver," Franchione said. "We'll be sitting here
in three years asking and talking about these same kind of things
with Stephen McGee that we're talking about now with Reggie. He's
going to be an outstanding quarterback."