7:00 PM ET, September 19, 2009
Kyle Field, College Station, TX
COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- True to his nickname, Uzoma Nwachukwu made it look easy against Utah State on Saturday.
The freshman receiver, called Easy by his coaches and teammates, caught three touchdown passes from Jerrod Johnson and also ran for a score, helping Texas A&M overcome injuries to two of its top playmakers in a 38-30 win.
"He's really impressed us all and he's really athletic, he goes up and gets the ball," said Johnson, who completed 21 of 41 passes for 322 yards. "The ball sort of bounced his way today."
Nwachukwu will have to become a primary target for Texas A&M (2-0) because sophomore receiver Jeff Fuller is out indefinitely with a cracked fibula in his right leg. Fuller suffered the injury in the first half after catching a 15-yard pass from Johnson in the open field.
But sophomore safety Trent Hunter says Nwachukwu is Texas A&M's best receiver when it comes to catching high passes at their highest points. Nwachukwu made two leaping TD catches in the first half to help A&M build a 24-14 lead at halftime.
"Leaping is one of my favorite things to do," Nwachukwu said. "I use my vertical a lot and Jerrod puts the ball up where the defender can't get it, and only I can get it. I appreciate him doing that."
Nwachukwu's teammate, freshman running back Christine Michael also left the game with a strained left calf, but A&M coach Mike Sherman said that injury wasn't serious.
Diondre Borel threw for 334 yards with a touchdown and also ran for two scores for Utah State (0-2), which has lost eight straight road games and its last 10 games against Big 12 opponents.
The visiting Aggies piled up 521 yards, but Borel was lamenting his team's missed opportunities. Utah State went 5-for-18 on third down and lost two fumbles.
"We fought hard the whole game," Borel said. "I missed two big throws that could've possibly been two touchdowns. Overall, we played well. We could've played a lot better."
Texas A&M's defense played better in the second half after struggling in the first.
On Utah State's initial drive, Robert Turbin burst through a hole and outran A&M cornerback Dustin Harris for a touchdown. Turbin rushed for 121 yards in the game.
Utah State started its second possession near midfield, but Michael Smith fumbled and A&M recovered.
Five plays later, Johnson threw a 35-yard pass to Nwachukwu in the corner of the end zone. Officials reviewed the play and confirmed that Nwachukwu's foot landed inside the orange pylon.
Turbin caught a 20-yard pass from Borel on Utah State's next possession and Borel finished the drive with a 1-yard TD run to give the visitors a 14-7 lead.
Nwachukwu tied it again with a 39-yard touchdown sprint, taking a pitch from Johnson and outrunning the defense down the sideline.
"The beauty of this offense is that on any given day, it could be your day to shine," Johnson said. "He capitalized on his opportunities and played really well."
Fuller twisted his legs making a 15-yard reception in the open field early in the second quarter. Two trainers helped Fuller to the sideline and he rode a golf cart to the locker room.
Randy Bullock kicked a 31-yard field goal at the end of the drive to put A&M ahead 17-14.
Harris returned a punt across midfield late in the second quarter. He was hit out of bounds by a Utah State defender and the penalty gave A&M a first down at the 16-yard line.
Nwachukwu then made a diving catch in the end zone near the sideline and one referee ruled that he was out of bounds. But officials looked at the replay and decided that Nwachukwu's feet touched inside the line.
Chris Ulinski kicked a 42-yard field goal 90 seconds into the second half to cut A&M's lead to 24-17.
Texas A&M quickly moved to midfield and Johnson found Nwachukwu wide open behind the defense for a 50-yard touchdown with 12:20 left in the third quarter. Nwachukwu tied the school record for TD catches in a game.
"Those are probably the hardest balls to catch, because there's nobody around you," Nwachukwu said. "You're like, 'How did I get this open?'"
Michael was injured late in the third quarter when he tumbled forward on a run to the Utah State 18. Trainers helped him off the field, and he spent the rest of the game sitting on a sideline bench.
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||5-18||4-13|
|4th Down Conversions||3-4||1-2|
|TD||10:31||Robert Turbin 50 Yd Run (Chris Ulinski Kick)||7||0|
|TD||07:49||Uzoma Nwachukwu 35 Yd Pass From Jerrod Johnson (Randy Bullock Kick)||7||7|
|TD||05:12||Diondre Borel 1 Yd Run (Chris Ulinski Kick)||14||7|
|TD||03:38||Uzoma Nwachukwu 39 Yd Run (Randy Bullock Kick)||14||14|
|FG||06:24||Randy Bullock 31 Yd||14||17|
|TD||01:26||Uzoma Nwachukwu 16 Yd Pass From Jerrod Johnson (Randy Bullock Kick)||14||24|
|FG||13:36||Chris Ulinski 42 Yd||17||24|
|TD||12:20||Uzoma Nwachukwu 50 Yd Pass From Jerrod Johnson (Randy Bullock Kick)||17||31|
|TD||14:51||Ryan Tannehill 10 Yd Pass From Jerrod Johnson (Randy Bullock Kick)||17||38|
|TD||05:30||Omar Sawyer 19 Yd Pass From Diondre Borel (Two-Point Conversion Failed)||23||38|
|TD||00:25||Diondre Borel 2 Yd Run (Chris Ulinski Kick)||30||38|