Texas A&M bowl eligible with rout of Baylor

COLLEGE STATION, TX He tried to catch his breath and then finished the longest offensive play in school history.

Michael scored on a 97-yard run and the Aggies secured bowl eligibility with a 38-3 win over Baylor on Saturday. The big play followed a goal-line stand by the Aggies' defense early in the second quarter, and essentially sealed A&M's ninth straight win over the Bears at home.

"I got kind of winded," Michael said. "But I had to just keep going. I thought to myself, 'You might as well keep going. You ran this far."'

A&M (6-5, 3-4 Big 12) rushed for a season-high 375 yards against the Big 12's worst run defense. Michael ran for 116 yards and Cyrus Gray ran for 107, the second time this season both backs have topped 100 yards in a game.

Representatives from the Texas and Independence Bowls attended the game. Second-year coach Mike Sherman said earning a postseason berth is an important milestone after a 4-8 mark in 2008.

"It's huge for us," said Sherman. "The just reward for a lot of hard work. I wanted this game so much for them."

Jerrod Johnson threw for 153 yards to set a single-season school record (2,875 yards). He threw two touchdown passes and ran for another score to set an A&M record for touchdown responsibility (61).

The Aggies face archrival Texas on Thanksgiving Day, and now they can look forward to one more game in late December. "We should never not be in a bowl game here, at this school," Johnson said. "Last year was real tough for us. To know you're going to be playing someone in the postseason, it's a great feeling to have."

Nick Florence completed 21-of-31 passes for 177 yards with two interceptions for the Bears (4-7, 1-6 Big 12), guaranteed a losing record for the 14th consecutive season.

Baylor's year was probably doomed when sophomore quarterback Robert Griffin went down with a knee injury in the third game, but second-year coach Art Briles isn't making excuses.

"I don't feel like we're building a program, I feel like we're fighting our tails off to make Baylor football respectable," Briles said. "To me, that's not building, that's what you're supposed to do."

The Bears' chances in this one ended when receiver Kendall Wright threw a pass to the end zone on a trick play and was intercepted at the goal line by A&M cornerback Terrence Frederick.

On second down, Michael burst through a hole and outran Baylor safety Jeremy Williams down the sideline for a 21-3 A&M lead. The previous longest rush in school history was D'Andre Hardeman's 95-yarder against Baylor in 1996. Randy McCown's 96-yard pass to Chris Taylor against Tulsa in 1999 had been A&M's longest play from scrimmage.

"I would have to say that was certainly a dagger," Sherman said.

The Bears threatened again late in the half, but A&M linebacker Kyle Mangan intercepted a Florence pass at the two with 24 seconds left.

The Aggies rushed for 287 yards in the first half after breaking several big runs.

"Compliments to the offensive line, we had a great game," senior center Kevin Matthews said. "We had great preparation, knew what was coming, knew what to expect."

Gray had gains of 17 and 42 yards on A&M's first series, and Johnson threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Kenny Brown less than four minutes into the game.

Baylor linebacker Logan Lanier blocked a punt later in the quarter, leading to Dary Stone's 31-yard field goal that cut A&M's lead to 7-3.

On A&M's ensuing possession, Gray had another 17-yard run and freshman receiver Uzoma Nwachukwu gained 35 yards on a reverse. Johnson finished the drive with a 1-yard sneak.

Randy Bullock's 48-yard field goal early in the third quarter stretched A&M's lead to 24-3. Later in the third, Johnson passed Reggie McNeal's 2004 record for pass yards (2,791).

Michael tacked on a 2-yard touchdown run in the first minute of the fourth quarter. Johnson threw a 7-yard TD pass to Ryan Tannehill with 6:55 left.

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