Thoughts From the Colorado Game

Not sure where to start with my thoughts from Denver.  A couple things that haven’t really been discussed are the clouds and the location of the game.  For those that weren’t there you don’t have any idea how hot Denver was.  Coming from Houston it was worse.  At the beginning of the game the sun was intense.  The clouds came in the second quarter and the heat really wasn’t an issue.  The clouds hung around for most of the rest of the game as the sun didn’t really make an appearance until sometime in the 4th quarter.  Even in the 4th it was off and on.

We wound up winning time of possession by 1:26 but that’s thanks mainly to the 4th quarter as we started moving the ball and stringing first downs together.  I don’t know how our defense would have held up if they had to deal with the blaring sun for the entire game.  I really think the cloud cover help keep the defense fresh.  They weren’t gassed at all in the 4th quarter when they did their best work. Fatigue tends to lead to mistakes and we didn’t have that issue at all in the 4th quarter.

The other thing that hasn’t really been discussed from a win standpoint is the location of the game.  That was a decision by the Colorado Athletic Department.  They controlled all the ticket sales so this was a true home game for the Buffs.  At least from a technical standpoint.

It was referenced by the television crew but it really was a 50/50 crowd with the Aggies concentrated all together.  Folsom Field in Boulder only holds 50,000 people.  I have no idea how their normal ticket sales are but I would guess there’s no way a game in Boulder looks like 50/50 and the visitors concentrated in the same sections.  Certainly not near the field.  At best you’ve got 8,000 to 10,000 Aggies in the same section away from the field.

As things turned out at Mile High Stadium you had roughly 15,000 Aggies strong right behind the Aggie bench near the field.  That’s a guess on my part but I don’t think it’s far off.  As referenced on TV you didn’t know the Aggies were at an away game late in the 4th quarter.  The 12th Man came alive and it was electric as the Aggie Defense put the clamps on the Buffalo’s offense.

If you’re a long time Aggie fan you know how the Aggies have fared in Boulder.  It’s got that same Lubbock feel where the luck doesn’t tend to go our way.  I’m not sure the Aggies pull out the win in Boulder. 

I’ve never been to Boulder for a game.  I was a little disappointed the game was moved but I’ll take the Aggie win in Denver over watching the Aggies lose in Boulder.  Hopefully Ross Bjork sent a “Thanks for the Neutral Site Game” bouquet to the Colorado Athletic Director.  I really think the 12th Man had a big impact late in the game when it mattered most.

As for the game itself there lots to discuss.

Overall/Coaching:

I’ll start with some general thoughts. 

First off, lets start with the defense.  Their performance saved the day.  They had their struggles in the first half but they absolutely put the clamps on the Buffs offense in the second half and especially the 4th quarter.  They only allowed one first down in the second half.  They forced a 3 and out and 4and out on the Buffs final two drives.  They stepped up all game long but they put their foot down when it mattered most.

I’ve seen his name mentioned a few times but the work that Nik Constantinou did can’t get lauded enough.  I mean this guy channeled his inner Braden Mann and just hammered some balls when it was needed most.  He kept Colorado deep in their territory most of the game when our offense was struggling.  He even completely flipped the field from the end zone once.  What he did was remarkable.

His leg coupled with the defense’s effort allowed us to walk out of a Denver with a win.  At the end of the day an ugly win beats a good loss, moral victory, or whatever you want to call feeling good about loding.  Give me the damn win all day long.  That’s what this Aggie team did.

Offensively it was a mess and it’s due to one word – INCONSISTENCY.  The only two people that get a pass from this are Isiah Spiller and Devon Achane.  I’ll talk about them later.

Jimbo’s play calling was widely inconsistent.  It seemed like he was picking plays rather than his normal sequencing where he’s stringing 4-5 plays together for consistent gains.  I think a lot of this had to do with Calzada and playing from behind.  Colorado was hell bent on stopping the run which they did and Calzada was wildly inconsistent passing the ball.  I think Jimbo was desperately trying to figure out a way to get ahead so he could pound on the Colorado defense with a margin of error.  I think he was also calling plays that Colorado was trying to dictate because they didn’t want the Aggies to establish the run.  Jimbo was calling more pass plays because that’s what Colorado wanted.  They wanted Calzada to beat them through the air.  It almost worked.

I’m certainly not defending Jimbo because he called a bad game.  However, I do think we would have seen a different game from a play calling standpoint had we been able to establish a lead much sooner.  Jimbo kept looking for some knock out punches early in the game but couldn’t find them.  Luckily they found them in the 4th quarter.

Beyond Jimbo the entire offense other than Spiller and Achane were EXTREMLY inconsistent.  The offensive line couldn’t establish the run and did just okay on pass blocking.  We all know about Calzada’s inconsistency as a passer.  The wide receivers were wildly inconsistent at getting open and even catching the ball.

It was almost like the perfect storm of mistakes from an offensive standpoint.  Play calling, blocking, passing, and catching.  Credit to the whole team though.  They never quit punching and when it mattered, they got the knockout they needed.

Defense:

This is going to be short because you saw the effort on Saturday.  It was every bit worthy of the moniker Wrecking Crew.  I know it won’t happen but if I’m Ross Bjork I ask Jimbo if he’s okay with us giving Mike Elko a 4-year contract for $20 million.  I’m not kidding.  Mike Elko is a defensive mastermind.  I know he’s got a good staff but his play calling and adjustments are outstanding.  Elko’s defense has been the heart and soul of Jimbo’s tenure here.  If Elko ever leaves it better never be over money unless it’s Top 20 head coach money.  He’s easily worth $5 million a year.  I don’t care what the market says.  I care what my eyes see and he’s arguably the best defensive coordinator in college football right now.

Defensive Line:

I don’t know how to describe what these guys did.  They tore it up.  Just flat out dominated the Colorado offense from start to finish.  Demarvin Leal lead the way but Jayden Peevy probably had the game of his career.  He was all over the place from his defensive tackle position.  Michael Clemons took on double teams freeing up linebackers even when he wasn’t applying pressure himself.  Tyree Johnson had an outstanding day.

They’re doing all of this without McKinnley Jackson who is an All SEC caliber talent at defensive tackle.  Couple that with the youngsters getting more experience and this defensive line is just going to get better as the season goes on.

Nothing more to say on these guys.  Just sit back and enjoy their greatness.

Linebackers:

These guys aren’t as good as the defensive line and secondary but they’re proving to be pretty serviceable.  They had a bad first half as they often found themselves out of position quite a bit.  They cleaned it up in the second half in a big way though finally staying home and in their lanes.

Aaron Hansford led the way with Edgerrin Cooper and Andre White behind him.

These guys aren’t going to be All SEC players at the end of the season but we don’t need them to be.  We just need them to execute their assignments.  That’s it.  Let the defensive line do their work and don’t make the secondary work any harder.

Secondary:

I must start with Antonio Johnson in this group.  He’s playing in his 12th college game and looked like a man among boys out there.  Two years ago he was in high school at this time.  He plays the nickel position so he’s a hybrid linebacker/safety but the dude was all over the field on Saturday making plays.  He led the team with 9 solo tackles.  This is a guy from St. Louis that was the top player in the state.  Jimbo somehow convinced to come to A&M over Mizzou.  He’s one of those players that really gives me confidence Jimbo and his staff know how to identify real football talent.  He’s looking like an All SEC type safety and that’s what you need to compete against the likes of Alabama and LSU who routinely have those guys starting for them.

Beyond Antonio Johnson, Demani Richardson and Leon O’Neal do what they do.  They just play damn good football. 

Jaylon Jones might be the most underrated corner in college football.  Nobody throws his way for him to get on the stat sheet or make plays.  They don’t throw his way because he has his guy blanketed.  I saw Colorado throw at him once and he just batted it away without much effort.

Beyond Jaylon we have Brian George and Tyreek Chappell who are serviceable.  We’re still missing Myles Jones so like adding McKinnley Jackson this defense could get better.

Most of the people that watched the game really missed out how great this defense played.  People are talking about how A&M is screwed due to the loss of Haynes King.  We’ll get to that part in a bit but let me tell you something – Texas A&M is not screwed.  This defense is going to get better thanks to two key guys coming back and talented youth gaining experience.  There’s certainly an offensive challenge that Jimbo needs to figure out but Texas A&M is not screwed.  They aren’t screwed at all thanks to Mike Elko and his charges.

Offense:

Like most football fans all anyone wants to talk about is the first three quarters of this game when it comes to the offense.  The negative gets precedent over the positive.  The starting quarterback gets hurt and points don’t come so everyone naturally assumes the offense is screwed.  We’re not.

Maybe I’m more bullish than most but what I saw in the 4th quarter was an offense that was finally starting to click.  The offense essentially scored on the last two drives.  How are you feeling if we walked out of there 17-7 as opposed to 10-7?  It’s not much score wise but it’s a huge mental difference knowing we scored on the last two drives.  Replay correctly overturned the call but we basically scored two touchdowns on our last two drives.  The offense that struggled so much finally clicked when it mattered.

While the offense was wildly inconsistent they never stopped trying.  The offensive line kept blocking, Calzada got more accurate, and receivers made more plays in the fourth quarter.  Look at the difference between the Aggie offense and the Colorado offense in the 4th quarter.  They were playing different caliber defenses but the Colorado offense was physically and mentally beaten.  They had no confidence in the 4th quarter.  The Aggie offense kept plugging away and finally started moving the ball in the 4th quarter.  They weren’t mentally or physically beaten and were trying to figure out.

There is LOTS of work to do with this group but there is a strong glimmer of promise if you shield some of the negatives.

Running Backs:

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I wouldn’t trade Spiller and Achane for any running back duo in the country.  I would not.  All everyone is talking about is how we couldn’t run the ball.  That’s true.

Spiller only got 22 yards on the ground.  Achane only got 50.  Calzada was our second leading rusher for the game.

What no one is talking about is Spiller’s receiving ability.  We all know he got the winning touchdown but he caught 6 balls for 56 yards.  When he couldn’t move it on the ground he took to the air.  He and Calzada were also inches away from probably another 15-20 yard gain.  Spiller was a lot closer to 100 total yards than people realize.

The other thing nobody is talking about with Spiller is his ability to block.  If he’s not going out for a pass or taking a handoff he’s picking up blitzes and doing it remarkably well.  He’s helping the passing game by giving the quarterback more time.  He’s also an outstanding run blocker which not many people realize.  Although he didn’t post some gaudy rushing stats it doesn’t mean he wasn’t an integral part of the win.  He absolutely was.  That’s a complete back.

Achane did what Achane does coming in and giving the defense that jab they’re not quite ready for.  The Colorado defense was so focused on shutting down Spiller between the tackles they weren’t quite ready for Achane to stretch the corners.  Achane carried 9 times for 50 yards with most of that coming in the second half.  It doesn’t seem like much but having Colorado worry about him hitting the knockout punch kept their linebackers playing the whole field and not just dropping into passing lanes or focused between the tackles for runs.  They had to worry about defending the edge on the run.

Achane also had a beautiful 25-yard reception on the winning drive that set us up in Colorado territory.  He found the open spot in zone coverage and Calzada threw a perfect pass.  It was wonderful execution.

These guys compliment each other so well.  We’re going to try and run Spiller between the tackles.  If that’s not working then we’re going to see if you can defend Achane on the edge while we flare Spiller out.

Jimbo has been a little reluctant to run the two-back set with Spiller and Achane.  It’s pretty much all we ran in the second half.  I think we’re going to see a lot more of it going forward because it’s just so tough to defend.  Spiller and even Achane to a degree are showing they can do it all.  That’s tough for a defense to defend when you have two talented running backs.  That’s what Texas A&M has.

Offensive Line:

I don’t think these guys were as terrible as a lot of people made them out to be.  They certainly didn’t consistently bust open holes or give Calzada all day to throw.  What they did do is create some gaps to run through at times and did give Calzada some time to throw.

I’ve seen a lot worse offensive lines over the past couple of decades. 

This unit is starting four new guys in their second game.  One of those is a true freshman who wasn’t on the team until this summer.  This was their first against real competition. 

Shout out to Layden Robinson who appeared to be playing with a pretty nagging injury.  The dude gutted it out.

I need to see more from this unit before I pass judgement.  I do see some promise with these guys so I’m hoping time, competition, and coaching get them to a similar point as last year’s unit.

Wide Receivers:

Calzada certainly didn’t help this group but they certainly didn’t help themselves either.  I’m still not sold on this group at all outside of Ainias Smith and Jalen Wydermyer.  Ainias didn’t have a big game at all but he was the receiver that appeared to get open the most.  Calzada just didn’t see him for some reason.  Calzada hits Ainias and this game gets busted open a lot earlier.

Wydermyer appears to be trying to be more Kyle Pitts this season going deeper down the field.  Pitts was the tight end at Florida last year.  I’m good with that but it needs to develop better.  More than anything we need Wydermyer to develop the same rapport he had with Kellen Mond.  If we can get that going I think you’re going to see the passing game really open up.

As for the rest of the group I have no clue.  For whatever reason Calzada seemed to focus on Chase Lane even though he wasn’t getting open and had some drops.  Credit to Chase though as he had a key 12-yard reception on 3rd and 7 during the phantom touchdown drive deep in A&M territory.  He caught that ball while he was blanketed and kept the drive alive.  I think Lane is fine as a 4th receiver.

We really shouldn’t be talking about Lane though as the balls should mostly be going to Smith, Wydermyer, and whoever our deep threat can be.

I don’t know what to make of Caleb Chapman.  For all the bitching about Calzada late in the 2nd quarter he laid a perfect ball into Chapman’s hands and he dropped it.  Chapman was covered to an extent but Calzada laid the perfect ball in his hands.  Chapman needs to figure out how to get more open or catch perfect passes when he’s covered.  He also had a bad holding call on 26 yard reception by Achane.  That penalty took us out of field goal range.

Chapman is what I like to call a strider.  His advantage is going down the field because he’s not good at working intermediate routes.  He needs time to get his legs going.  He needs to watch film of Josh Reynolds and see how that guy got open.  They’re similar receivers in my mind.

If I were Jimbo I’d take a page out of the Art Briles’ playbook.  I’d rotate Chapman and Demas on the Aggie side of the field and make them run straight fly routes wearing the cornerback out.  When it looks like the corner is tired start running 15 yard stop routes.  I’m not kidding.  Briles used to do this with the sole purpose of making a corner tired.  Chapman and Demas don’t look good for much else right now so let’s start using their long legs on deep routes every play.

If the safety doesn’t respect their speed downfield then have Calzada take some shots to see if they can connect.  He’s got the arm.  Just have Chapman and Demas turn into a track meet and see what happens.  We’re not getting much out of them so we have nothing to lose.

Either way, this receiving corps is still holding this offense back.

Quarterback:

Yep.  I saved the thing everyone wants to talk about the most for last.

What if I told you two things:

  • You’d miss Kellen Mond
  • Zach Calzada might be better than Haynes King

The first statement is 100% accurate as 2020 Kellen Mond is infinitely better than what we’ve seen at quarterback so far this season.  You’re lying or a fool if you don’t agree.  I hope things change but that’s the reality two games in.

The second point we have no idea on.  We’ve basically seen King play 4 quarters against a lesser opponent then get hurt when he wasn’t exactly lighting the world on fire.

In this game King piloted a 3 and out where he missed Chase Lane on 3rd and 6 and then another 3 and out where he couldn’t convert a 3rd and 4 running the ball where he wound up getting hurt.  This isn’t a knock on King.  It’s a reality check.  He appears to be an outstanding quarterback based on practice reports but we haven’t actually seen it on the field yet.  I’m not blaming King for getting hurt but we won’t know how good King is until he’s healthy again.

We think King is good but we really have no idea.

I personally hope we have a full-blown quarterback controversy on our hands.  I want Calzada playing so well Jimbo has no choice but to keep playing Calzada when King is healthy.  That means we’re moving the ball and winning games.  Last thing I want is for Calzada to be struggling so bad there’s a loud cheer when King comes back.

That’s not a knock on King or hope for Calzada but simply the reality.  I still want this Aggie team to win a bunch of games.  I think they can.

Calzada looked like dog feces for most of the game.  He was WILDLY inconsistent.  He couldn’t hit water if he fell out of a boat throwing the ball.

However, something happened in the 4th quarter as he completed 8 of 14 passes which is a 57% passer.  That’s not dynamite but it’s solid.  He started finding the open guys and hitting them.

His pass to Achane was a tough pass he threaded perfectly.  His pass to Spiller to win the game was beautiful.  I saw Spiller break open and when I saw the ball leave Calzada’s hand I knew it was on the mark.  That’s not an easy pass but Calzada put it right on the money.  That was 3rd and 9 down by 4 and maybe one possession left.  The pressure couldn’t have been higher.  He didn’t let it get to him.  He deserves credit for that.

Jimbo didn’t look prepared to call a game with Calzada and Calzada didn’t look prepared to be the starting quarterback.  When it mattered most though they figured it out and did what needed to be done.

We all know Calzada has a big arm and at times on Saturday he threw a beautiful ball.  Calzada has prototypical NFL size and arm strength.  That’s a good place to start.  We’ve had much worse to start from under center in Aggieland.

So who is Zach Calzada?  Is he the guy that we saw for three quarters or is he the guy we saw for one quarter when the pressure was on?  I have no freaking clue.

A lot of it is going to depend on Zach Calzada.  For the next 4-8 weeks this is his opportunity to take the reins and never give them back to Haynes King.  Nothing personal against King but I’m tired of the Aggies falling short for whatever reason.  I want to win a lot of football games.  I hope Calzada realizes what could be in front of him and takes advantage.  If Calzada is a true gamer he’ll never give the starting position back to King.

Alabama won a national championship with two quarterbacks.  Clemson won a national championship with Trevor Lawrence taking over from Kelly Bryant during the season.  Sure, everyone knew Lawrence was the better quarterback but the point is there’s two recent examples of a team that won a national championship with a quarterback that didn’t start the season.  You can even go further back to the 2014 season when Ohio State won the title with their 3rd string quarterback.

Professionally Tony Romo never got the ball back from Dak Prescott.  We all know about Tom Brady.

I truly hope the best for Haynes King.  I just hope more for the Texas Aggies.  This is Calzada’s show for the next several weeks and I hope like hell 4th quarter Zach Calzada is who we see because the Aggies can win a lot of games with that guy.  They’ll struggle to win half the games Calzada starts if he’s early in the Colorado game Zach Calzada.

Right now we have no idea what we have so we’ll just have to wait. 

Looking Forward:

I said before the season started we need to get through September to really determine what the Aggie season might look like.  I obviously feel that way now more than ever.  We need to make sure our defense stays dominant against Arkansas and even Mississippi State before Bama rolls to town.

More than anything we need to figure out if this offense can develop any consistency and score points.  We have no clue right now.

If you’ll think back to last year after the second game we didn’t think much of this team.  They struggled against Vandy and got blown out against Bama.  Florida came to town and something magical happened.  The Aggies traded blows with a Top 10 team.  They didn’t back down and got the breaks at the end.  Then they went on a magical run for the rest of the season.

There’s no reason to think this Aggie team can’t do the same.  It needs to prove out but I saw enough glimmers at the Colorado game that this team can build on and get better.

I’m not saying I’m drinking the maroon Kool-Aid.  I’m just saying I’m willing to let Jimbo keep mixing that batch a little more because I’ve seen what he can do.

If we roll through Arkansas and Mississippi State I may just take me a big swig before Bama comes to town.

I just need to see how Jimbo keeps mixing it…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s