COLLEGE STATION, Texas —Texas A&M lost quarterback Stephen McGee again and still managed to get a much-needed win.
Jerrod Johnson threw a touchdown pass after McGee re-injured his shoulder and the Aggies stopped Army on a late fourth down in a 21-17 win over the Black Knights on Saturday.
McGee started at quarterback and threw a touchdown pass to Jeff Fuller before leaving in the second quarter. The senior first sprained the shoulder against New Mexico on Sept. 6 and sat out last week’s 41-23 loss to Miami.
Coach Mike Sherman said McGee’s shoulder wasn’t fully healed heading into Saturday’s game. Sherman couldn’t gauge McGee’s status for next week’s Big 12 opener at Oklahoma State.
“McGee injured his shoulder exactly how he injured it the last time,” Sherman said. “He landed right on it again.”
Johnson sprained his shoulder against Miami and Sherman said he didn’t throw at all in practice this week. Sherman said he stopped calling pass plays when Johnson aggravated the injury on Saturday.
Johnson finished 6-for-10 for 53 yards, but suggested that the shoulder injury was minor.
“It shouldn’t hold me back too much,” he said.
Army’s triple-option offense flustered A&M all day, but the Aggies stopped Collin Mooney on a fourth-and-3 from the Army 47 with 3:58 left. A&M (2-2) ran out the clock from there to win for the first time in three home games this season.
“We had to take a big step today,” Sherman said. “It didn’t matter if we were playing Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, the Dallas Cowboys. We had to take a big step.”
Tony Dace and Patrick Mealy had touchdown runs for the Black Knights (0-4), who’ve lost 10 straight games and 12 in a row on the road. Quarterback Chip Bowden rushed 34 times for 128 yards. Army ran for 280 yards, converted 10 of 17 third downs and won time of possession by more than 13 minutes.
The Aggies looked sloppy and sluggish until defensive end Paul Freeney returned Bowden’s fumble 58 yards for a touchdown in the closing seconds of the first half to break a 7-7 tie.
Freshman Cyrus Gray broke a 60-yard run on A&M’s first play after halftime to set up Johnson’s 11-yard touchdown pass to Jamie McCoy.
Army chewed up more than eight minutes on its ensuing drive, but settled for Matthew Campbell’s 24-yard field goal to make it 21-10. The Black Knights then mounted a 13-play drive and Mealy leaped over A&M safety Trent Hunter for a touchdown with 8:46 left in the game.
The Black Knights got the ball back with 6:55 remaining. Army coach Stan Brock challenged the spot after the Aggies stopped Mooney on fourth down, but referees upheld the call after checking a replay.
“It’s a game of inches,” Mooney said, “and we needed that inch. We fought as hard as we could. We just came up short.”
Army was outscored 85-20 in its first three games and Brock saw progress on more than just the scoreboard Saturday.
“We had a great week of practice and we played the way we know how to play,” Brock said. “We got outscored. That’s the only negative. There are a lot of positives to come out of this.”
The Aggies rushed for minus-4 yards in the first quarter and got their initial first down on McGee’s scramble with 9:14 left in the half.
McCoy caught a 25-yard pass across the middle that got A&M into Army territory for the first time. On the next play, McGee found Fuller open behind the defense for a 42-yard touchdown.
The Black Knights were aided by three personal fouls on A&M on their answering drive. Dace took a pitch and scored on a 9-yard run with 3:09 left in the half, Army’s first touchdown in nine quarters.
“That’s inexcusable,” Sherman said. “We were playing mistake-free football to that point and we lost our poise on a couple of those situations. We can’t do that.”
McGee took a hard hit from Army defensive end Fritz Bentler on A&M’s next series. McGee’s right arm hung limp as he trotted off the field. Johnson replaced him and threw an interception to Frank Scappaticci near midfield with 1:01 left.
Three plays later, A&M linebacker Matt Featherston stripped the ball from Bowden on a run to the left. Freeney picked up the ball and ran untouched to the end zone. Army leads the nation with 11 lost fumbles.
“I didn’t really he could run that fast,” Sherman said of Freeney. “That certainly was a big plus for us going into half.”
McGee was out of uniform and wearing a sling on his right arm when he returned to the sideline for the second half.