Aggie Football Moves On From Loss Amid Negativity

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COLLEGE STATION -- Texas A&M's players aren't as lucky as Coach Dennis Franchione, who says he's oblivious to criticism of the team because he's usually secluded in his office.

The Aggies are the ones who have to walk around campus and hear it from students and fans.

"It's in tough times when everybody doubts you, everybody hates
you and curses your name," said quarterback Stephen McGee. "Your
character gets revealed in tough times. Hopefully, we'll be able to
respond to that in a good manner."

The Aggies (3-1) open the Big 12 season against Baylor (3-1) on
Saturday. They took two days off after last week's nightmarish loss
in Miami, then worked on simple fundamentals at practice on Sunday.

The preparation for the Bears started on Monday as the players
tried to tune out the negativity on radio shows and message boards
that seems to have the program surrounded.

"That's the way life is and if you choose to come to a school
like A&M, you know you're going to have to deal with that," McGee
said. "You can let it eat you up or you can go out there and face
these tough times and realize, 'I've got to be a man. I've got
responsibilities to do,' and go out there and lead and encourage
your team like you always have been."

While Franchione is taking most of the heat, McGee has gotten
some of the blame for the Aggies' still-sputtering pass offense.
A&M ranks 110th in the nation in the category, averaging only 147
pass yards per game.

McGee says he still believes in Franchione and offensive
coordinator Les Koenning - and says taking to heart recommendations
from fans won't do him or the team any good.

"The minute we start listening to that stuff and believing what
they have to say, we're going to be in a lot of trouble," he said.
"That's not going to help us beat Baylor at all, listening to what
some negative guy that sits up in Section 81 has to say about our
team. And if it's not going to help us beat the Bears, what's the
point of listening to it?"

BYRNE RESPONDS: The 34-17 loss to Miami restarted cries for
Franchione's firing, but athletics director Bill Byrne is standing
by his man - for now.
"I've heard a plenty about how our coaches are evaluated,"
Byrne said on his weekly posting on the A&M Web site. "In fact,
some want me to fire everyone right now. That's not the best way to
conduct business. My process remains the same - we never discuss a
coach's evaluation until the season is over, regardless of the
sport.
"That's how it's been in the five football seasons that we have
been here, and throughout my career. It won't change now."
Byrne said he's heard grumbling fans vow that they'll never
attend another home game. He pleaded for them to keep the faith.
"I hope that was just the frustration speaking, because we have
eight more tough conference games left," he said. "Baylor is
coming to town this Saturday, and they'd like nothing more than to
come to Kyle Field and outscore the Aggies. They don't very often,
but they think we are vulnerable - and without you, we are."
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MINCING WORDS: On top of the team's poor performance,
Franchione bothered the A&M fan base by referring to the Miami game
as the end of the Aggies' "exhibition season."
He clarified what he meant this week, saying he only was
emphasizing how much more important he considers Big 12 games.
"That was a joking remark about nonconference, conference. That
was all," he said. "I've done that for about five years, I
think."
The Aggies are 14-7 in nonconference games under Franchione and
only 14-17 in the Big 12. Franchione said nonconference games must
serve to prepare teams for the Big 12 season, since college teams
don't get to play true "exhibition" games, like NFL teams do.
"Well, all games are important," he said. "But, I mean, I
don't think there are any games more important than Big 12 games.
You don't have a chance to win the Big 12 in nonconference play.
You know, we don't have the benefit of an exhibition game or
scrimmages at this level."
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QUOTABLE: "My problem with it is, I thought Aggies take care of
other Aggies. Now that I just said that, I'm going to have a car
bomb attached to my truck when I leave here." - Senior offensive
guard Kirk Elder, on dealing with criticism of the team on campus.