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Small Guys Run for Texas A&M

December 30, 1998

NEW ORLEANS (AP) _ Running the ball against Ohio State is a tall order. That won’t stop Texas A&M from asking two of its smallest players to take on the challenge in the Sugar Bowl.

Dante Hall, who struggles to make 190 pounds, and Sirr Parker, who claims to be 195 pounds, are 5-foot-8 and 5-7, respectively, but they are big men on the football field.

The pair have combined for 1,648 all-purpose yards and 11 touchdowns this season, including Parker’s great grab for a double-overtime victory over Kansas State that sent the Aggies on to the Sugar Bowl.

``We always want to run the football,″ said Hall, who has had more than 20 carries in six games this season. ``It’s even more important in this game because their secondary is the best in the nation, and we have to give them something else to worry about.″

Stopping the run has been No. 3 Ohio State’s strong suit this year. The Buckeyes have the best defense in the nation against the run, allowing just 67.4 yards per game. But facing No. 8 A&M will be a different challenge.

``We’re kind of used to seeing more burly-type guys,″ Buckeyes linebacker Na’il Diggs said. ``They’re more the quick, scatty guys. Maybe a little more talent than we’ve seen. For sure as much speed as we’ve seen.″

Parker, who was clocked at 4:24 in the 40-yard dash last spring, is the fastest Aggies player ever. He’s shaken off injuries that plagued him earlier in the season and, as he showed when he caught a 32-yard touchdown pass to propel A&M past Kansas State in the Big 12 championship game, he can do more than run.

``If I would have done this over again at the start of his career, I would have put him at wide receiver,″ Aggies coach R.C. Slocum said. ``He has the best hands of anybody on our team. I have told the NFL guys to look at him as a receiver. He can catch and then can run after he makes the catch. We can create mismatches with him when he lines up at tailback.″

Against Ohio State, the Aggies would like to see Parker matched up against a safety or linebacker.

``I think I’m more of a threat than a regular receiver,″ Parker said. ``Because when I catch the ball I’m a receiver, but after I catch it, I’m a running back again with a running back’s moves and mentality.″

Hall has been the Aggies’ workhorse, averaging 5.6 yards every time he put his hand on the football this season and rushing for 1,024 yards.

``We can’t let him have the tiniest crease,″ Ohio State cornerback Antoine Winfield said. ``You give him one and you’re looking at him in the backfield.″

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