Thoughts From the LSU Game

Figuring out where to start on the LSU game is a little tough.  We got our asses kicked from the start.  I mean we just got destroyed from the opening drive and were never competitive.  I knew that was possible but hoped it wouldn’t happen.  What Coach O and LSU did was identify the Aggies’ two biggest weaknesses and simply went after them.

Before I get to anything football related I have to say the trip to Tiger Stadium was enjoyable.  This is my second trip to Tiger Stadium having gone in 2013.  I’ve never had any issues.  In fact, I’ve always been welcomed by LSU folks at tailgates.  I suppose it helps during the game when you’re getting your ass kicked.  Fans feel sorry for you so they leave you alone but even leading up to the game LSU fans were nothing but friendly and hospitable.

I think there’s a huge element of weariness for Aggies still left over from the Big 12 where everybody hates everyone.  Especially the Texas schools.  Traveling to away games at Texas venues is for some reason the worst.  There’s more trash talk and lack of friendliness by our own citizens.  The SEC is really like a family.  There’s some competition but at the end of the day we all seems to like each other save a few schools with real rivalries and hatred.  For the most part though I can’t complain one bit about being in the SEC including LSU.  I’m sure LSU has some bad fans but I have yet to experience them.  I hope it stays that way as I really like the folks from Louisiana.

I’ll get to a few things later about the experiences of going to Clemson, Georgia, and LSU this season.  Kyle Field can be a special place but it needs some help.  Visiting other schools really make you realize this.

As for the LSU game I’ve been saying since Jimbo got here that our secondary and offensive line are major issues.  Because of that, I put this beatdown at 50/50 between coaching and talent issues from a responsibility standpoint.  We were probably never winning this game now realizing how bad LSU really wanted it.  Eddie O talked the talk leading up to the game and then absolutely walked the walk.  He told Jimbo he was going to beat his ass and Jimbo either didn’t believe him or had no clue how to fend off the beating.

There was basically one wrinkle from a defensive standpoint that failed miserably.  I’ll get to that later.  Other than that it was the same thing we’ve run out there all season.  The game plan and team attitude was doomed for failure from the start.

The Georgia game might have been a really bad thing for us.  I think Jimbo thought he could use the same game plan against LSU that he did against Georgia and be competitive.  He convinced his team of it.  What Jimbo didn’t realize is that LSU wanted to whip our ass way more than Georgia did.  The Aggies weren’t prepared for a street fight and that’s partially on Jimbo.  It’s also on the leadership of this team or lack of leadership.  We weren’t prepared for a street fight and completely folded when the street fight broke out.  I’ll get to it later but it wasn’t because of the environment in Tiger Stadium.  The events that unfolded on the field had way more of an impact than anything in the stands.  Simply put the Aggie coaching staff and it’s players got their ass whipped by a more talented team that wanted it more.

Let’s get to some specifics of the game:

Offense:

Offensive Line:

I’ll start with one of the two biggest culprits of the game.  I knew this line was a major issue all season but somehow they played decently at times.  They established the run against South Carolina and Mississippi State.  They got destroyed in the running game against Georgia but somehow held up in pass protection against the Bulldogs.  This unit has struggled to pass block all season so what they did in the Georgia game gave me some hope for the LSU game.  Because LSU has struggled against the run this season the optimistic side of me hoped they could establish the run like they did against South Carolina and pass block like they did against Georgia.  It seemed reasonable.

Optimistic me couldn’t have been more wrong.  Our offensive line got DESTROYED.  Thanks to the failure of our secondary we got the ball playing from behind and the LSU defense just pinned their ears back and came after us.  LSU got us into passing situations and proceeded to destroy our offensive line.  They were twisting, stunting, blitzing, and just bringing pressure from everywhere.  Our offensive line had no clue how to handle it and Kellen Mond was left to run for his life.  Kellen had some nice scrambles but it wasn’t enough.

This offensive line needed to stand up to the LSU defense in the first half and didn’t even put up any kind of fight.  They completely got destroyed.  I mean they did nothing in the first half.  We only had three runs in the first half for a total of seven yards.  Kellen Mond was like the frog in Frogger wondering where he was about to get run over and just going to whatever small space he could see.

Spiller started ripping off some nice runs in the second half but it was too little and too late.  We were already down by 34 points when the Aggies scored their first touchdown on a run.

Not much else to say about this group as it was the worst offensive line performance in the Jimbo era.

Erik McCoy was on the sideline watching the game and I could only imagine what he was thinking.  I said hello to him briefly but didn’t ask what he thought since he played with most of those guys.  I really do believe he was the biggest loss from our team last season.  He’s now starting in New Orleans which tells you how good he really is.  Nobody on the 2019 offensive line comes close to where he was last season.  Major loss.

I hope to get some time in the next week or two to do a more in-depth analysis of the offensive line and if there’s any hope for the future.  This really is our biggest issue going forward.  After the game I spoke with the parent of one of our offensive lineman who’s injured right now.  They don’t have any issues with Josh Henson and don’t see a big a difference between Turner and Henson.  I believe the problem is not coaching and completely a talent problem.

Wide Receivers:

How this wide receiving corps got built up so much before and during the season boggles my mind.

Here’s the final tally for yards and scores for this unit in 2019:

Jhamon Ausbon – 862 yards – 4 TDs
Quartney Davis – 568 – 4
Jalen Wydermeyer – 419 – 6
Kendrick Rogers – 351 – 2
Ainias Smith – 235 – 3
Camron Buckley – 121 – 0

I’m sorry but that’s trash other than Ausbon and the true freshmen who had limited playing time to start the season.  Davis and Rogers have been rumored to leave early for the draft.  I hope when their draft evaluation comes back Jimbo alters it so it reads they go in the first round.  If they go we won’t be missing much production and could use their scholarship.

As you saw in the LSU game these guys don’t get separation, don’t anticipate the defender, and don’t go after the ball other than Ausbon.  Davis, Rogers, and Buckley have had two years to develop into quality receivers and they haven’t.  At some point you must realize what you see is who they are.  They have talent but being better than average isn’t who they are.

I get Jimbo’s offense isn’t a wide-open offense but only Jalen Wydermeyer has a touchdown catch over 50 yards in SEC play this season.  Last year it was Sternberger who had the only touchdown catch over 50 yards in SEC play.  In two seasons Ausbon, Davis, Rogers, and Buckley have failed to score a long touchdown catch.  Kellen has certainly missed some deep balls but these guys don’t do much after the catch.  They’re also not running wide open down the field separating themselves from the defenders.  When they do catch the ball they basically get tackled because they’re not running wide open or have no real wiggle to make defenders miss.

Against LSU Kendrick Rogers had a ball hit him in his hands that he dropped and then asked for a flag.  Seriously.  Cam Buckley didn’t even go for a ball that wound up as an interception.  Ausbon will fight for a ball but other than Kendrick Rogers in the end zone these guys just don’t fight for balls.  Every week in college football you see quarterbacks put the ball up in single coverage and their receiver will adjust and fight for the ball.  Not these guys.

This unit doesn’t need the full infusion of talent the offensive line needs.  However, there’s some guys in this group I don’t think will be missed when they’re gone.  Don’t let their flashes of promise fool you.  They’re just not that good.  The season stats bear that out.

Running Back:

The lone “bright” spot for the game.  He only carried three times in the first half but was able to amass 59 yards on 9 carries in the second half.  Sure, the game was well out of reach and LSU didn’t have their ears pinned back but it’s good to see Spiller average a little over 6 yards per carry for some point in the game.

Believe it or not Spiller also lead all the receivers with a 45-yard reception in the second half.  It’s good to know someone can make defenders miss after catching the ball.

On the Aggies lone touchdown drive Spiller touched the ball 5 times accounting for 69 yards and the touchdown.  For one series Spiller was basically a one man show.

He wasn’t without his growing pains but Spiller certainly got better as the season went on.  I’m not sure he’ll be an elite SEC back but he should be a very serviceable back during his time in Aggieland.  There’s your bright spot from the game.  One of our true freshman didn’t appear intimidated by LSU.

Kellen Mond:

Everybody’s “favorite” Aggie player.  The offensive line did Kellen zero favors on Saturday night but Kellen didn’t help himself from a passing standpoint.  He broke off some really nice runs when under pressure but he also did a terrible job of anticipating pressure and getting a quick read to his receivers.

Kellen was moving for his life and he let that affect his performance.  Sure, every quarterback wants time to throw but good quarterbacks anticipate pressure.  The difference between Burrow and Mond on Saturday was night and day.  It wasn’t just because Burrow was throwing to wide open receivers.  Burrow’s sense of pressure on where to scramble and deliver the ball is light years ahead of Mond.

Mond can make a throw as good as anyone in the country.  The problem is everything must be perfect for him to do that.  When he has the time and the read is right he can deliver a perfect ball.  I’ve seen it several times in his two years under Jimbo.  Mond’s problem is he’s inconsistent and he can’t improvise.  That’s the difference between being good and great.

Mond has one more year in an Aggie uniform and he still has room to grow.  2019 Kellen Mond was better than 2018 Kellen Mond with a worse supporting cast.  I don’t how much more 2020 Kellen Mond can develop but it’s certainly possible.  I don’t think he’ll be great but he certainly could prove me wrong.

I’m DEFINITELY not saying Kellen Mond turns into Joe Burrow but nobody say Joe Burrow becoming the passer he was this season.  Burrow was a gritty guy last season but nobody saw a 78% passing percentage coming.  Maybe Mond flips on some switch where the light really comes on.  I doubt it though.

As for a general summary on 2019 Kellen Mond I do firmly believe 2 things:

  • No other quarterback in the country would have won more than 1 more game this season. Johnny Manziel wasn’t beating Clemson, Alabama, or LSU.  He might have beaten Auburn or Georgia but not both.  He might have lost to both teams as well.  Let’s not forget Johnny was 8-4 his second year with a much better team than Kellen had in 2019.
  • Kellen’s legs are the reason we’re 7-5 and not 5-7. Once he decided to run after the Auburn game this offense started to open up a bit.  Without his running ability we potentially lose to Arkansas and Ole Miss and don’t have convincing wins over Mississippi State and South Carolina.

You can keep blaming all the Aggies’ woes on Kellen if it makes you feel better.  The issues with this team go well beyond Kellen Mond.

If it helps you any, the Aggies won’t win the SEC West in 2020 barring some miracle and Kellen Mond is gone after 2020.  Unlike Trump, Kellen won’t have a shot at 4 more years next year.  Hope and change could be just around the corner for you.

Jimbo Fisher:

There’s a large part of me that’s frustrated with how Jimbo handled the Auburn and LSU games this year.  He didn’t anticipate his offensive line being destroyed and had no adjustments.  He just sat there calling the same plays watching his line get manhandled.

I think there’s a large part of Jimbo that realized the limitations on his team.  As you saw all season he didn’t want to get in shoot outs.  His team wasn’t equipped for those types of games.  I get why he called the games he did as he’s trying to build a solid foundation and tried to avoid the LSU type games.  We’re a couple of passes from Hunter Lawrence and Jake Fromm from having Bama/LSU type scores in those games.

Maybe Jimbo just wanted to get through the 2019 season in the least painful way possible.  If that’s the case he did a decent job.  He had a worse team than 2018 and an infinitely harder schedule.  He only lost one more game than last season.  Maybe time of possession was what mattered most to him.

We’ll find out over the next two years if Jimbo’s grand vision for 2019 pays off.  I do know there’s a real chance Fran, Sherman, or Sumlin could have had a 6-6 or 5-7 season with this team.  Jimbo’s play calling never gave us a chance against Top 10 teams but he didn’t lose the games he shouldn’t have either.

There’s a slight something that can be said for that.

As for thinking Jimbo will hire a new offensive coordinator or something forget about it.  Jimbo is the offensive coordinator and he has a plan for his time in Aggieland.  I’d actually rather see him stick to his plan at this point than try and change course.  Assistant coaching carousels rarely work out well other than Nick Saban.

Defense:

Coaching:

Before the game I spoke to several LSU fans that talked about how solid our defense was.  I agreed with them.  Our defense played REALLY well all season.  Save two plays against Auburn and parts of the game against Bama our defense was really damn good all year.

I completely forgot about the possibility Eddie O and his staff would realize our secondary was still pretty weak and he had a Heisman winning quarterback and receivers that are as good as anyone in the country except for Alabama.  Eddie O knew if his team went downfield early and often he could completely hammer the Aggies.  He wasn’t wrong.

To compound matters, Mike Elko thought it would be a good idea to start the game with a 3-3-5 defense.  That was a decision like Cousin Eddie going to kidnap Clark Griswold’s boss.  The intention was good but not well thought out.

We don’t have a strong pass rush so it gave Joe Burrow more time in the pocket to pick apart our secondary.  When our secondary was covering decent (which wasn’t often) it gave Burrow easy lanes to scramble in because we only had three guys bringing pressure.

We did get 3 sacks on Burrow but that wasn’t until they were already up 28-0.  I believe we switched back to our standard 4-man defensive line at that point.  I’d have to watch the tape to verify but things changed after they were up 28-0.

It wasn’t just LSU pulled off the throttle hence why the points slowed down. We were playing better defense.  The 3-man front was a complete failure.

I’m not sure why Elko and Jimbo decided to go with a 3-3-5 defense.  Our defensive linemen are far and away the strongest asset of our defense and have played well all year.  Why the decision was made to remove one of them for the early part of the game is baffling to me.

I’m not saying we win with our standard defense but I think reviewing the game in great detail would show the decision to start with only 3 defensive linemen is the reason we got our ass kicked.

I certainly wanted some wrinkles to try and beat LSU but going away from the strongest part of our team is not what I had in mind.  That was bad coaching.  I can’t put that decision on the players at all.

The Flop:

We’ve all seen the tape of Buddy Johnson falling down.  That was embarrassing.  Jimbo and Elko should be ashamed for that even being an option.  I don’t like flopping in any sport and I especially hate it when my team does it.  When you’re faking contact or an injury looking for some relief you’re already beaten.  You’re saying you’re not strong enough to beat your opponent straight up.

That was a move of desperation.  The defense and staff were at a loss on what to do at that moment.  Whoever decided that was a good idea should run gassers in front of the rest of the team.  I’m not kidding.  I can’t recall any non-NBA or soccer championship teams doing stuff like that.  Great teams don’t fake stuff like that.

It was damn embarrassing and I hope it never happens again.  It’s one thing to get your ass kicked.  It’s another thing to fake an injury while getting your ass kicked.  Take your beating like a man.

The Team:

I’m not going to spend a lot of time on the players themselves as you saw what happened.  We were just outclassed from a talent standpoint.  We got hit in the nose and never responded.

Our secondary got burned and our linebackers were non-existent when they weren’t flopping.

Our defensive line looked decent when they got four of them out there playing together.  It was too little and too late.

 

I like this defense for the most part.  There are some serious players up front and some youth in the other places that could be difference makers in the future.  It’s definitely further along than our offense.  You need a defense to win championships.

I thought Mike Elko has done an outstanding job in his time in Aggieland other than his decision to run that 3 man front against LSU.  Everyone is afforded a mistake here and there.  If anything, that three-man front might keep people from trying to poach Elko like last season.

Maybe that was a grand plan by Jimbo.  Give Elko just enough tarnish to keep people from kicking the tires on him in the offseason.  “Yeah Mike.  That three-man front seems like a brilliant idea.  Go ahead and run that.  I’ll let you know when to switch back to the four-man front.”  Jimbo’s out here chessing when everyone else is checkering.

Special Teams:

In his final regular season game Braden Mann punted 7 times with an average of 50.3 yards and a long of 62.  He even converted what I assume was a fake punt running 15 yards for a first down running through a couple of defenders.  I don’t know if it was designed or Braden just decided to do it on his own.  Either way I loved it and glad we had that moment.  Seems like the perfect way for Braden to cap off his Aggie career before the bowl game.

Everybody else?  Don’t really care.  We couldn’t even attempt a field goal our offense was so inept most of the game.  LSU rarely punted so didn’t get any real punt returns.

We’ll miss you, Braden.

Bowl Game:

Based on most predictions it looks like the Aggies have one of two possibilities for the bowl game.

If the SEC gets enough teams in the NY6 games the Aggies will likely head to Tampa to play in the Outback Bowl against Minnesota.  I’m thinking it’ll be Minnesota unless Wisconsin beats Ohio State this weekend throwing some kinks in the Big 10 projections.

The other possibility is going to Houston to play Kansas State or Oklahoma State.  It looks like playing the Longhorns isn’t a possibility.  I don’t think either schools or conferences want that matchup to occur in a lowly bowl like the Texas Bowl.  I’m sure the Texas Bowl, ESPN, and ticket websites would love to see it but I don’t think they have enough influence.

I personally hope we go to Outback and play whatever Big 10 team has the slowest edge rushers.  I don’t see any benefit to playing a Big 12 team in Houston.  There’s a huge perception difference between playing in Houston in late December to playing in Florida on New Year’s Day.

I think we stand a chance against a ranked Big 10 team.  Getting a win in Florida over a ranked team would remove a lot of the sour taste from the last two games.  Getting a win over a non-ranked Big 12 team in Houston is really a big bag of “Meh.”  I don’t even want to talk about losing to K-State again in the Houston Bowl.  I don’t need revenge from that.

Let’s hope it all shakes out this weekend where the Aggies wind up in Tampa.

 

Thoughts on Kyle Field Compared To Others:

Stadiums This Season:

After visiting Clemson, Georgia, and LSU in the same season I honestly believe the difference between big time college environments isn’t that much.  I went to Clemson in 2005 and LSU in 2013 so those weren’t my first trips there.  Some people might believe Tiger Stadium was extremely intimidating this game but it really wasn’t.  What was the most intimidating was the ass kicking occurring on the field.

At all three venues I sat in the lower level near where the Aggies came out.  The beginning of each game was roughly the same as 80,000 to 100,000 people cheered for their team.  Believe it or not it’s not that much louder with 20,000 more people.  The additional people are so far away from the stadium I don’t think their sound makes it down to the field.

The Clemson game started at 2:30 and was really hot.  The game was close so the Clemson fan’s enthusiasm slowed down as the game wore on thanks to the play on the field and the heat.  To start the game it was lively though.  During the game it cranked up when needed.

The Georgia game started at 2:30 and was pouring down rain.  It was a really close game the entire time so the Georgia enthusiasm also waned due to the game and elements.  Just like Clemson, at key moments the stadium cranked up and was loud to start.

The LSU game had the perfect storm for a college game with a 6:00 pm start, perfect weather, revenge game, and then an ass kicking broke out.  Even then, other than the noise lasting the entire game it wasn’t more intimidating to start the game.  Had the Aggie team punched back the LSU fans would have settled down at times just like at Clemson and Georgia.  LSU fans had the ability to keep the party going the entire game and I don’t blame them.  I would have done the same if I was at Kyle and we were dropping an ass kicking on a major SEC opponent.

My girlfriend attended these stadiums for the first time this season.  I asked her after the LSU game if she felt Tiger Stadium was any more intimidating than Clemson and Georgia.  She said even with the elements being worse at Clemson and Georgia that Tiger Stadium wasn’t any more intimidating and they’re all kind of one in the same.  They’re all big-time college football stadiums.  They’re impressive but not any one is more unique than another.  Don’t let the talking heads tell you otherwise.

While fans can certainly have a slight impact on the game the product on the field matters way more than anything else.  If you want further proof think back to the 2014 Ole Miss game at Kyle Field.  110,000 people at 8:00 in the evening flat out roaring to start the game.  The Aggie offense sputtered while the Ole Miss offense put up quick points and the roar was gone never to be heard from again.  The largest crowd ever at the corner of Wellborn and Joe Routt with perfect conditions was completely wasted thanks to the product on the field.

When it comes to having an intimidating venue one thing matters way more than anything else – Just win, baby.

Improvements to Kyle Field:

Even with what I just said I do think there’s some things that can be done to Kyle Field to make it a more intimidating environment.  The thing that stands out the most at any of these stadiums is the entire stadium yelling in unison.  It hit me this year that’s gone at Kyle Field.  There’s so much going on at Kyle Field the sound is just a dull roar more than anything.

At any given time you’ve got the DJ going, the band playing through cranked up speakers, commercials on the big screen, getting loud on key third downs, and people on their phones.  It can get loud at times but I wouldn’t call it intimidating.  It’s just a lot of random noise over a wide range of decibels.  Other than the War Hymn there’s nothing really in unison for the entire stadium to make noise together.  The War Hymn is a cool visual once the swaying starts but I don’t think it’s really that intimidating when it’s all you got.

I’d start with working the yell portion of the Spirit of Aggieland back into the start of the game.  I know R.C. went away from it because the players felt it was too slow at the start.  I get that but I don’t think Kyle has been any more intimidating than when the team lined up all the way across the field and yelled along with 80,000+ fans to T-E-X-A-S  A-G-G-I-E  Fight! Fight! Fight-Fight-Fight!…you get the idea.  I remember many times when the opposing team had no idea what was going on and started walking out to mid-field thinking a fight was about to break out.  There were some Texas games where fights did break out.  I’m totally okay with that.  Let teams know there’s 100,000 fans ready to work in unison against them.

I’m fine with the current team entrance of the drums and Kanye song.  Instead of the War Hymn after that’s done we should give the Spirit of Aggieland a try as the team is running on the field.  Let the players that want to line up for the yell portion line up.  The lyric portion of the Spirit is slower than the War Hymn but the yell portion is a hell of a lot more intimidating than swaying and singing in the stands.  At least in my mind.  We should give it a chance at least to see how it works with at new Kyle and the new entrance.

Maybe it winds up being like the New Zealand All Blacks Haka dance before their rugby matches.  That’s one of the most intimidating starts by a team in sports.

As for the Yells, I know they show the Yell Leaders on the big screen at times but I don’t think the former student sections really think the Yells are for them anymore.  Only the student two decks on the West side really do yells it seems and it’s not that intimidating.  You need the whole stadium in unison to be intimidating.

I know Slovacek means “I Love You” in sausage and if I want a quality electrician then someone from the local IBEW is the person for me thanks to the commercials.  Memorial Herman tries to keep me healthy with fun quizzes but I rarely pay attention.  My cholesterol is still a mess.  HEB sponsoring the tailgater of the game ain’t intimidating anybody.  I know the money to get those messages across helps the athletic department financially but it doesn’t do anything for the environment at Kyle.  I think making a more intimidating environment should be more important.  Winning football games should be more important than a few bucks here and there.

I know we live in a new era where distractions have everyone’s attention.  They days of just Yells and the Aggie Band unamplified at Kyle Field are gone.  I know that.  I’m not opposed to some commercials and the DJ to get everyone going.

I do think Kyle has lost some of what used to make it unique which is having everyone in the stadium working together to create sound in unison.  It hit me at Clemson, Georgia, and LSU there’s nothing more impressive than 80,000 to 100,000 people yelling sounds in unison.  No, I’m not talking about yelling “First Down!” after the stadium announcer tells us, “And that’s another Fightin’ Texas Aggie…”

I’m not totally sure of the answer but I know we need more than randomly timed yells for the students and the War Hymn for everyone twice a game.  Kyle Field is better than that.  Someone with some real stroke needs to figure out a way to get every Aggie fan inside Kyle to yelling the same thing at the same time more often.   I don’t think there’s anything more impressive and intimidating than knowing 100,000 people are paying attention to the same thing and they’re not cheering for you.

That’s enough for now I think.

Jimbo needs to win more but the athletic department should look at making some changes to enhance the intimidation factor of Kyle Field so everyone can help Make Aggie Football Great Again.  It will take all of us.

Especially until our offense line improves…

#MAFGA

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