Gray is the difference in gritty A&M win

COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Cyrus Gray said earlier this week he was playing for two people.

He was way off. Like, 90,077 off -- and then some.

Gray was referencing himself and his teammate, friend and fellow running back Christine Michael, who is expected to miss the rest of the season with a broken leg after leading the Aggies in rushing in their first eight games.

On Saturday night, the 12th Man showed up in force, and Gray didn't disappoint the 90,079 in attendance, giving Texas A&M a 9-6 win over No. 8 Nebraska -- the Aggies' second signature win this season.

"I thought he had an extraordinary night, with his catches, his runs, picking his holes," said coach Mike Sherman, whose team also beat then-No. 8 Oklahoma earlier this year. "If he didn't play the game he did, we wouldn't be able to do what we did."

No player in Saturday's slugfest came close to Gray's 202 yards of total offense. Texas A&M's entire team amassed only 310 yards against a stingy Nebraska defense.

Gray carried the ball 26 times for 137 yards. He caught nine passes -- quarterback Ryan Tannehill only completed 19 -- for 65 yards. On all three of Texas A&M's scoring drives, the Aggies leaned on Gray. He carried them.

"The defense we played was tough, they weren't giving much up," Tannehill said. "We knew we needed to run the ball, and Cyrus carried that load. He got so many tough yards today. It seemed like he was going to get a 3-yard gain, and he took it 15. Those are huge plays for us on offense, especially when times are tough and yards are tough. He fought for every yard."

Gray's longest run went for just 18 yards. Rare were his opportunities to reach the deeper levels of Nebraska's defense. But he punished Nebraska's linebackers with powerful runs, all while Michael coached him up on the sideline in street clothes.

"He was my eyes for the night," Gray said. "It was great to have him on the sidelines tonight. He was just telling me to be patient."

Without Gray's efforts, his teammates never could have posed for those postgame photo ops with fans who rushed the field. The well-deserved chants of "Wrecking Crew" as the defense left the field once again would have been non-existent.

"My face will hurt tomorrow from smiling so much," said defensive tackle Lucas Patterson.

The 12th Man would have gone home with its head in his chest after a legendary, relentless, towel-waving performance.

"The 12th Man was three-quarters of the victory," said safety Trent Hunter, who picked off two passes after snagging three in practice on Thursday. Sherman called the practice "an omen."

If the 12th Man was three-quarters of the win, Gray certainly accounted for most of the remaining 25 percent. Gray has racked up five consecutive games of at least 100 yards rushing since Michael went down, becoming the first Aggie to do so since 1990.

Gray woke up at 10 a.m. on Saturday morning with a text from the defense's leader, Von Miller, that told him to "Play all out. Ball out and let's get this win." Gray, a junior, wanted nothing more than to send out Texas A&M's group of 12 seniors with a win.

"We knew going into the game that it would be a battle throwing the football. They're a heck of a defense," Sherman said. "We wanted to stay true to the run."

They did, thanks to Gray. After the game, the team huddled in the locker room and yelled "Family!" after a short count. Gray found Michael, and told him he loved him.

"There's nothing else to be said," Gray said.

After a performance that will be forever logged in Aggie lore, the feeling from the 12th Man is mutual.