COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) -- Texas A&M told its fans to stay
home, and most of them listened.
Reggie McNeal throw for 317 yards and two touchdowns, leading
Texas A&M past Texas State 44-31 in a stadium rendered unusually
bare and an area choked with evacuating traffic as Hurricane Rita
crept closer on Thursday night.
Jason Carter caught eight passes for 219 yards and a touchdown
for Texas A&M (2-1), which had asked fans outside the rural college
town to stay home so more room was available for the thousands
fleeing nearby Houston and the Gulf Coast.
The specter of Rita spurred both schools to hastily reschedule
the game from Saturday, when the Category 4 storm packing 140-mph
wind was expected to make landfall.
McNeal, who threw for 349 yards last week, became the first
quarterback at Texas A&M with consecutive 300-yard games. He said
his thoughts of driving home to Lufkin in East Texas before the
storm were tempered by the bumper-to-bumper cars crawling along the
highways outside campus.
"I'm scared about going home because there's too much traffic
and I might not make it back home on time," said McNeal, who was
13-of-24 with no interceptions.
Barrick Nealy threw for 378 yards and three touchdowns for Texas
State (2-1), which lost its hopes of an upset when the Bobcats
couldn't score after starting a drive at the Aggies 7 midway
through the fourth quarter.
Texas A&M President Robert Gates encouraged fans not living in
the College Station area to skip the game because hotels were
booked with evacuees. The announced paid attendance was 72,741, but
about half that turned out.
Students packed most of the three-tiered stands on the east side
of Kyle Field, but large clumps of empty bleachers pockmarked the
rest of the stadium. The "Aggie War Hymn," which usually causes
the stadium to physically wobble as fans sway back-and-forth,
couldn't move the west stands Thursday because there were too few
"I appreciate the people that were here," Texas A&M coach
Dennis Franchione said. "We're certainly concerned about people's
safety, but the student body was awesome."
The university canceled classes Friday but welcomed Gulf Coast
residents fleeing the storm. Just blocks from the stadium, a campus
animal clinic operated as a makeshift hospital for evacuated burn
victims from Galveston, and the school's basketball arena housed
more than 330 evacuees by late Thursday.
Evacuees at Reed Arena were given free tickets to the game.
Those who attended watched McNeal rush for 86 yards and finish with
403 total yards.
In a 66-8 rout of SMU on Saturday, McNeal finished with a
school-record 449 total yards.
Courtney Lewis ran for 136 yards and scored two touchdowns. It
marked the first time Texas A&M had a 300-yard passer, 200-yard
receiver and 100-yard rusher in the same game.
Texas A&M built a 20-0 lead before Nealy's touchdown passes to
Markee White and Blake Burton in the second quarter helped close
the gap to 27-17 at halftime. White had six catches for 146 yards
to lead Texas State.
"We weren't really frustrated," Texas A&M defensive back
Marquis Carpenter said of his team's coverage. "We couldn't find
out rhythm. We got a victory though."
Lewis widened the lead with two touchdowns runs to start the
third quarter, but the Bobcats bounced back again.
Nealy's 38-yard touchdown run closed Texas State within 13
points in the fourth quarter, but Texas State couldn't reach the
end zone after recovering a fumble deep in Texas A&M territory and
starting a drive on the 7-yard line. The Bobcats turned the ball
over on downs.
"We were hoping we would be in the ballgame in the fourth
quarter," said Nealy, who also threw two interceptions. "We were,
but we just made some mistakes down the stretch. That's how it is
Carter's catches included a 71-yard touchdown haul in which he
cut back across the field, slithered between two would-be tacklers
and dove across the goal line.
Texas A&M's Chad Schroeder caught a 44-yard touchdown pass and
ran for another, taking the snap on a fake field goal and darting
toward the pylon for a 13-yard score.
Franchione, who coached at Texas State from 1990-91, was adamant
about playing the game so that his team would not have two weeks
off in a three-week span. The Aggies were off following their
season opener at Clemson on Sept. 3.
"It's definitely going to be a game that I will remember, just
because of the events and the shortened week," Schroeder said.