Texas Aggie Football

We. Beat. Bama.

We beat Bama.

Say it again – We.  Beat.  Bama.

One more time – WE.  BEAT.  BAMA!!!

Damn that feels good.  Before I go any further let me say this – That was an AWESOME win but it wasn’t a program defining win.  Not even close.  That was a win over the best team in the country and one step closer to getting on their level.  We still have two losses and don’t even control our own destiny in our division.  Program defining wins are the kind that launch you to a level of success you’ve never experienced before.  We did this 9 years ago.  This was not a program defining win.

Right now, this team is still behind the 2020 team.  Scary to think but it’s true.

Enjoy the win but let’s not get carried away on what it means for Aggie football.  As Jimbo said – We ain’t done yet.  Not even close.  We still need to get to a point where we control our own destiny for a national title.

I knew this win was possible.  However, I didn’t think it would happen after what I saw the last two weeks.  I’ve been consistent in saying this team is more talented than last season but lacking on experience.  I believed the lack of experience would continue to show against Bama. 

I’ve never been happier to be wrong.  The talent on this team showed up and showed out.  This team went toe to toe with the best team country simply because it had the talent.  It wasn’t even mistake free football.  They simply just executed for most of the night and had the talent to go toe to toe.  We swung first, they swung back, and when it mattered most we delivered the divisive blow.

The most impressive part of this game was we gave up 21 unanswered points late in the game to go down by a touchdown.  Bama was starting to exert their will and it sure felt like they were going to get the victory.  However, this Aggie team didn’t quit.  They kept swinging back.  We put together a solid drive to tie the game and then the Aggie defense made an amazing stand.  Even with that I thought we were headed to overtime.

The Aggie team had a few more punches and drove down into field goal range where Seth Small delivered the final blow as time expired.  The fans and stands exploded.

It’s one thing to go up on Alabama and hold a lead.  It’s something completely different to blow a lead only to claw back and take the lead at the last possible moment.  That takes grit and determination.  For 60 minutes against the best team in the country the Aggies not only never gave up but had enough confidence they could win.  We executed late like we did because of confidence.  It was an outstanding effort.

I’ve been to a lot of games at Kyle Field and that was an outstanding environment.  It’s going to sway some recruits without a doubt.  It showcased what Kyle can be and what this program is capable of.  While I’m not going to call this a program defining win it certainly was a program building boost.

After the last two games it sure seemed like something we’ve seen before.  We’ve routinely experienced a disappointing season after a good season and struggle to hold recruits.  2021 will likely turn out be a level of disappointment but we still might be able to salvage a good portion of this season.  While we don’t control our own destiny in the SEC West we can still be the third best team in the SEC and finish in the Top 10.  That’s a damn good season by most standards.

We beat Bama.

Let’s get to the game itself.

Offense:

Coaching:

I’ve been hard on Jimbo for not trying to win games we weren’t quite ready to win.  That’s how I felt about this game.  I knew we had the talent to win but I didn’t think we had the experience.  I thought Jimbo would lay up yet again.  Jimbo decided he wasn’t going to let experience get in the way of trying to win.

His play calling was tremendous.  It felt like we went a little stale in the second half but I feel that was a little more on execution than play calling.  Bama decided to sell out on the run and Calzada went cold for a little bit.  He missed on some passes and we just couldn’t get any momentum going.  Meanwhile when it mattered most we didn’t back down and went back on the attack.

I’m totally okay with the play calling as it’s hard to call a complete game.  Great staffs make adjustments and you have to adjust back.  When it mattered most we had the play calls and execution.

Statistically Bama won this game.  They won time of possession and outgained us by 150 yards.  What mattered most though was the score and we got that.  Jimbo and his staff deserve some MAJOR credit.  They called a game for a team short on experience but with enough talent to beat the best team in the country.  Just win, baby.  That’s exactly what we did.  Kudos to the coaching staff.

Quarterback:

Is it okay if I eat my crow with BBQ sauce?  I think BBQ sauce makes everything better.

Zach Calzada showed everyone why he was a four-star recruit and a ton of schools wanted him.  He showed why Jimbo Fisher said over the summer he’s got an NFL career ahead of him.  He proved every doubter wrong and I couldn’t be happier for him.

4th quarter Colorado game Zach Calzada showed up for three quarters.  The dude came out throwing perfect passes.  The line certainly gave him time but he was confident the whole game.  He knew the game plan and executed it wonderfully.

He made one mistake on the interception in the first half and was a little off in the third quarter.  When it mattered most in the 4th quarter he hit the passes he needed to.  It also helped that his receivers didn’t have any crucial drops.

I don’t know what the future holds for Zach Calzada but you sure hope this is the game that he can build on.  He certainly appears to have taken a major step.  I’m really hoping this is a Kellen Mond moment over Florida in 2020.  The other is a Trevor Knight leading OU over Bama in the 2014 Sugar Bowl and he ends up playing somewhere else.  That path is up to him because he’s got the keys to the kingdom right now.

For one night he showed everyone what he’s capable of.  I hope there’s more where that came from.

Running Backs:

I assumed coming into this game Bama would focus on shutting down our run.  They did.  Even despite that we had enough success on the ground.  Spiller had a pretty pedestrian 16 carries for 46 yards but his running helped set the tone early on and forced Bama into defending us a certain way.  His touchdown run was outstanding.  Because of Spiller’s efforts the Bama defense couldn’t quit focusing on the run which I think helped our middle receivers get open against their safeties.  Their safeties had to defend the run and the pass.

What these guys do through the air is outstanding.  Spiller and Achane are outstanding receivers either running a flare out or down the sidelines.  Achane and Spiller were a perfect 7 for 7 on targets for 87 yards.  These guys have a real knack for moving the chains and keeping the defense honest because there’s another element that must be defended.

In addition they’re also outstanding blockers when the blitz is coming.

Can’t say enough about these guys.

Offensive Line:

If I’m not mistaken this was the sixth combination of players we’ve used on the offensive line this season.  This was game six.  Six games and six different combinations.  Usually that’s not good.  It didn’t matter as this unit showed up in a big way.  These guys were outstanding.  Just flipping outstanding.

They created holes for the running backs in the first half and kept Calzada clean all night long.  They went up against NFL caliber defensive linemen and linebackers and imposed their will at times.  They seemed to get a bit stalemated in the second half but Bama was selling out for to the run.  They held their own all night long against one of the best defenses in the country.

They did an excellent job picking up the blitz which they’ve struggled with this season.  They seem to be figuring out playing with one another.

Just in case you don’t know their names and positions here they are:

Kenyon Green – Left Tackle
Blake Trainor – Left Guard
Bryce Foster – Center
Layden Robinson – Right Guard
Reuben Fatheree, Jr. – Right Tackle

What a game for those five guys.

I don’t now what combination we go back to once Jhamir Johnson is back from his suspension.  At this point I’d roll with these guys.  The five of these guys earned it so let’s just keep rolling with them.  You’re not supposed to lose your job over an injury but I have no problem losing your job to a suspension.  Blake Trainor deserves to stay in the starting lineup.

I would make one switch in moving Fatheree to left tackle and Kenyon Green back to right tackle.  I think Fatheree is a better pass blocker at left tackle and Green the better blocking tackle.  Having Green and Layden Robinson on the same side seems like a great way to open holes for the running backs.  I get paid zero dollars for this blog and Jimbo gets $9 million so I suppose we can defer to him.

Either way, kudos to the five guys on the offensive line on Saturday night.  They went toe to toe against Bama and imposed their will at times.  It was an impressive effort and I hope they can keep it up.

Wide Receivers:

I thought the receivers were outstanding on Saturday night.  Not dominant by any stretch but they were solid.  Ainias Smith lead the way followed by Jalen Wydermyer.  Smith caught 6 balls for 85 yards and two scores.  Wydermyer caught 3 balls for 73 yards and one score.  Calzada actually missed each of these guys for what could have been another touchdown.

On our first possession of the fourth quarter Calzada was forced out of the pocket.  As he was rolling right he spotted Smith who had burned the secondary.  Calzada let a bomb fly and missed Smith by a foot or two.  It was an unbelievably tough pass but had they connected it might have put the game away.  We wound up punting on that possession.

On our last offensive possession Bama sold out for the blitz to try and get us out of field goal range.  Jimbo smartly knew it was coming and sent Wydermyer down the field.  Wydermyer slipped by the defender but Calzada couldn’t get enough on the ball in the face of the blitz for Wydermyer to go get it and score.  We got a pass interference so the result was fine but if Calzada could have connected on that pass it could have been a 7-point win rather than a last second field goal.

I’m not blaming Calzada for that.  I’m just pointing out Smith and Wydermyer had two possible touchdowns we just couldn’t quite connect on due to pressure in the backfield from Bama.  We were close to blowing that game open.

I’ve talked about the running backs as key receivers as well.  They are key contributors to this receiving unit.

As for the rest of the receivers Demas, Preston, and Lane caught five balls.  I’m fine with them not doing more.  Bama has an outstanding secondary.  Jimbo decided to attack it with his two best guys just running down the field.  It was a smart move.  Let the guys that have produced in the past carry the receiving load.  Let other guys essentially be decoys that Bama had to cover.

One thing I’ve also noticed with Calzada as it relates to the receivers is he’s much better throwing balls down the field.  It forces him to put touch on the ball rather than gunning fastballs on a crossing or stop route.  I’ll be curious to see if Jimbo and the receivers figure out a way to run more routes down the field since that’s what Calzada seems to do best.

Great job by this whole unit.

Defense:

Coaching:

Just when I was totally down on Mike Elko for his decisions against Mississippi State he totally went and redeemed himself against the best team in the country.  I’m still a little frustrated though.  If he calls the game he did against Bama against Mississippi State we have one loss and control our destiny to the national championship.  We’re that close.

Maybe he needed the Mississippi State game to wake himself up.  Whatever it was it worked.

I know lots of people still think of Bama as a dominant defense with an evolved offense.  It’s actually the other way around.  Bama is now a dominant offense with an evolved defense.  Don’t get me wrong as they’re still loaded with NFL guys on defense but this whole team has evolved.  For the last few years Bama has had one of the best offenses in the country.

This current version of the Bama offense is loaded with elite receiver speed and an outstanding quarterback.  Of course they still have an outstanding offensive and running game.  I really feel this Bama offense is the best in the country.  I do think they’re still feeling their way a bit and I think we got them at a great time.  This offense is going to torch a lot of teams the rest of this season.

The receivers were turning passes at the line of scrimmage into 4-8 yard gains because they’re so fast.  It’s basically a long hand off.  They are excellent at blocking, catching, and running.  They don’t have the names at receiver they had last season but these guys are still damn good.  It’s probably the best wide receiver unit in the country.  Saban’s just re-loading at receiver these days.

What Mike Elko did to Bryce Young (Bama QB) was the difference in the game.  We got to Young early and that changed the complexion of the game.  He was never truly settled and ready to let the ball fly.  Because of that he forced some passes he couldn’t quite connect on. 

The Bama offense finally synced up and came charging back scoring 21 unanswered points.  As part of that the Aggie defense did an outstanding job converting two 1st and goals to field goals.  That was part of the difference in the game.  That’s a potential 8-point swing if those two possessions result in touchdowns over field goals.

There’s some armchair quarterbacking over if Bama should have run more in those situations but the Aggie defense has been good at stopping short yardage plays.  We did it against Colorado, Arkansas, and even Mississippi State.  I know they’re Bama but I agree with what Bama was trying to do.  They had superior matchups outside but the players just didn’t execute.  It worked on their last touchdown where we didn’t get lined up correctly.  We were clearly focused on the inside.

It’s fun and easy to make fun of Bill O’Brien who’s the former Texans head coach and now Bama offensive coordinator.  I don’t have an issue with his play calling in those situations.  I think he learned in the Florida game to keep his foot down on the gas and it almost worked.

Either way I thought Mike Elko had an amazing game plan despite the points we gave up.  In the end we made the stop we had to and our offense did enough to get the win as time expired.  I have no idea what happens if that game goes to overtime but I’m glad we didn’t find out.  Take the win and storm the field with the $100,000 fine.

By the way – I’m back on paying Mike Elko $5 million a season to stay and coach our defense.  We all make mistakes from time to time…

Defensive Line:

As expected, these guys were the heart and soul of the defense.  Tyree Johnson had a breakout game recording two sacks and being in the backfield pretty much all night long.  Michael Clemons was his usual self on the outside tying up the Bama tackles and getting a sack.  Demarvin Leal spent most of his night lined up inside just wreaking havoc.  Jayden Peevy was solid lined up next to Leal most of the night.  McKinnley Jackson and Isaiah Raikes did a good job rotating in an out.

I know we gave up 38 points but this unit set the tone for the whole night letting Bryce Young know he couldn’t get comfortable.  They also dictated to Bill O’Brien Bama was going to battle for running yards and weren’t going to have time to go deep.

Alabama won’t face a better defensive line until they play Georgia.  This unit is elite SEC caliber.  Jimbo and his assistants have just done an outstanding job recruiting and developing SEC caliber defensive linemen.

Without these guys we’re not knocking on the door of being able to challenge Alabama every season.  Elite SEC teams win in the trenches.  These guys are a major reason why we’re able to do so.

Linebackers:

Our linebackers are still the weakest link of this defense but they’re not bad.  They’re simply out of position from time to time.  I wouldn’t say we truly miss Buddy Johnson but I do think this defense would be much improved with him in the middle.

The good thing about our linebackers is they’re physically talented.  They’re not getting beat physically.  They’re just not in the correct position at times due to not diagnosing the play properly.

They did fine on Saturday night considering who they are.  They missed a few assignments here and there which really allowed Bama to roll up some yards on the ground.

However, they were REALLY solid on pass pressure and helped change the complexion of the game in that regard.  This is their strength because our defensive line is so good at consuming the offensive line.  These guys get to benefit from one of the best defensive lines in the SEC getting turned loose to chase the quarterback.

I hold out hope they continue to develop overall but I think Elko learned a valuable lesson in the Mississippi State game.  These guys are best when they’re allowed to be disruptive.  They’re going to make mistakes from time to time but it’s also best if Elko puts them in a position to be disruptive.  Even just the threat of being disruptive helps this unit in a big way.

Hopefully we continue to see these guys inched up on the line of scrimmage as it’s their best element.

Secondary:

These guys are the second-best unit on the defense and it showed on Saturday night.  They gave up 369 yards of receiving but they didn’t break.  Bama had two completions over 30 yards on Saturday night.  If you remember Bama games in the past couple of years they’d have a couple long touchdown passes over 50 yards.  That didn’t happen on Saturday night.  Most of that was thanks to the guys up front but this secondary played bend but don’t break defense remarkably well.

They did a really solid job of harassing the Bama receivers all night long which lead to some timely incompletions.  You’re not going to shut down the Bama receivers so at minimum they need to know they’re going to work for completions and there’s going to be contact when they catch the ball.

Individually I thought Jaylon Jones looked good.  He’s by far our best cover corner.  He’s physical enough though to make receivers work for completions.

Antonio Johnson looked great.  Demani Richardson had one of the plays of the game with his interception in the end zone.  That interception was all him.  He was in great position to defend the receiver but most importantly he recognized the route and was able to cut underneath to make a play on the ball.  That’s being prepared.

I don’t know if Leon O’Neal played the best game of his life but it was up there.  I don’t recall him making any major mistakes.  He did an outstanding job tackling all night and blitzed beautifully sacking Bryce Young once.  He was also in a great spot to pick up the ball on a 3rd and 1 when Bama’s running back didn’t get the hand off.  He seemed to have himself in the right spot all night long and executed well.  This guy has really matured and I’m very proud of him.

This unit is going to make mistakes from time to time and give up plays.  They’re also a unit that’s going to make big plays.  I think Elko also learned from the Mississippi State game this unit is better off attempting to make some plays here and there.  These guys can play football.  It’s okay to take some chances rather than sit on our heels.

Special Teams:

Fortunately and unfortunately I have to write about special teams.

The Punt Block:

This was 100% on coaching.  We completely screwed up because we gave this to Bama.  I haven’t been paying attention all season but in this game we used two “personal protectors.”  Those are the guys lined up between the line and punter.  They’re supposed to be a secondary/last line of defense for the punter.  I’ve seen most teams use three guys but we used two on Saturday night.  I don’t know if that’s how we’ve been doing it all year but Bama created an opportunity because of it.

Bama set this up in classic Nick Saban fashion.  On the previous punt they overloaded one side but didn’t send everyone.  They were just checking numbers.  On the next punt they overloaded the same side.  When A&M didn’t react like the previous punt they sent everyone and overwhelmed the “personal protectors.”  Nice job by Saban and his crew but a TERRIBLE job by Jimbo and his crew.  Someone should have noticed it on the previous punt and reacted accordingly.

That could have been in a HUGE momentum swing but it wasn’t because…

The Kickoff Return:

I personally think this was the play of the game.  Bama had just swung some momentum their way.  They were still down a touchdown but the Aggie offense was not doing much.  That punt block sure felt like one of those plays where the momentum was about to swing big time.  Some people believe a blocked punt is the most demoralizing play in football.  I don’t know if I’d say that but it’s up there.

However, Devon Achane made that play moot for the most part.  He hadn’t returned a kick all night long but the ensuing kick off fell a little short of the goal line so he decided to take it.  He caught it in stride, took a few more strides, saw a hole, hit the hole, and was gone.  It was beautiful.

The dude is so damn fast.  25 yards after the catch he still had some traffic to get out of but everyone in the stadium knew he was gone.  Nobody could catch him.  This is Alabama who’s special teams players can start at pretty much every program in the country.  They have plenty of speed.

The don’t have Devon Achane speed though.  Before he got to midfield this dude had run away from the Bama kick off team.  All he did was field the ball cleanly and head up field.  It’s not like he did a bunch of cuts and jukes to suck everyone in.  He simply ran straight and before midfield he cleared everyone coasting the last 10 yards into the end zone.  He’s so fast he let up the last 10 yards because nobody could catch him.  That’s unreal.

He’s got really great vision which helps a ton but damn the dude can fly.  He’s a true homerun threat.  Having to defend guys like Devon Achane is demoralizing because sometimes you just can’t do it.

Looking Forward:

Is this the Florida game from last season?  Do the Aggies rip off 7 straight wins and finish in the Top 10?  I have no idea but it sure feels like it.  The Aggies that played on Saturday night can beat every team left on their schedule.  That’s pretty obvious considering Bama is the best team in the country.  That doesn’t mean it’ll happen though.

We need to see if this offensive line and quarterback that showed up for 3 quarters can do the same the rest of the way.  I think they can.  I think we’re going to see a lot of what we saw after the Florida game last year.  Establish the run and hit some passes from time to time.  I think that will do wonders for Calzada or King if/when he comes back.  I’m not talking about a quarterback controversy.  Just acknowledging King may still come back this season as no one seems to really know. 

It was originally expected Kind would be out 4-6 weeks but Jimbo mentioned before the game he may not be back this season.  At this point I hope it doesn’t matter.  We can win 7 in a row no matter who’s under center.

We have two of the best running backs in the country and they need to be the focus of this offense.  I think Jimbo will go back to this without question.  Especially if we can get some consistency in who’s playing on the offensive line.

We need to get through Missouri and South Carolina first before worrying about November.  Strangely Auburn worries me more than Ole Miss or LSU right now.  That’s not to say Ole Miss or LSU will be easy games but I think we match up with those teams really well right now.

I do think we’re going to look back at the Mississippi State game and wonder what could have been.  Oh well.  Welcome to Aggie Football.  Give me 11 wins and a Top 10 finish so we can focus on next year.  There’s always next year…

We.  Beat.  Bama.

In other news I have a batch of Make Aggie Football Great Again hats in stock.  They’re $25 including shipping.  I believe this is going to be the last batch.  I truly think we’re going 7-0 with a Top 10 finish.  When that happens there we won’t be any need or hope to Make Aggie Football Great Again.  Jimbo will have us on solid footing and we’ll be where we need to be.  We’ll remember 2020 and 2021 as the early foundation of a great run in Aggie Football.

If you want one shoot me an email at chewyredding@yahoo.com.

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Thoughts from the Mississippi State Game

I’d like to congratulate Jimbo Fisher on his first “Kevin Sumlin Loss” where he completely botched a win into a loss.  There was no reason to lose to Mississippi State at Kyle Field on Saturday night.  In my last piece I analyzed Jimbo’s losses in his time at A&M.  Prior to this game I really felt the 2019 Auburn loss and the 2021 Arkansas loss were the only two losses that were solely on coaching.  I am okay with those losses to a degree because Gus Malzahn is a gambler and Sam Pittman and Arkansas simply wanted that game more than the Aggies and staff.  Jimbo has done a really good job winning the games he should have.

Mississippi State was COMPLETELY different.  Mike Leach has Mississippi State in a decent place but they’re still a long way behind where Texas A&M is right now.  Jimbo wasn’t prepared for what Mississippi State could do.  We trailed pretty much the whole game.  Jimbo and his staff couldn’t figure out how to get the lead so we basically played from behind the whole game.  That hasn’t been a good recipe so far this season.

Jimbo thought he could come out and grind Mississippi State into the ground and sneak out with a win.  There was a point I thought it was going to happen.  Kyle Field was ABSOLUTELY rocking and the team couldn’t take advantage.  The atmosphere was electric so you certainly can’t blame it on the fans.

In the end Jimbo couldn’t pull off another one of his patented wins where we sneak it out by the smallest of margins.  In this business all that matters is wins and losses.  We’ve lost some games we could have won.  That hurts.

I think the biggest issue is A&M can’t build a lead and do what Jimbo wants to do.  Jimbo isn’t doing well playing from behind.  Sure, he’s got a quarterback who has deer in the headlights but great coaches figure out a way to get these wins.  Jimbo keeps hoping his offense will break a big score and his defense will hold.  It did almost happen on Saturday night but almost doesn’t count.  We lost.  We didn’t run out of time.  We lost.

In my mind we lost the worst game of Jimbo’s career.  A very winnable game at Kyle Field we figured out how to lose.  That’s what Kevin Sumlin did here.  I’m not saying Jimbo is Kevin Sumlin but every good coach figures out a way to win the winnable games at Kyle Field.  Those should be gimme games in a very tough SEC West.  You must have those wins.  Kyle Field against less talented opponents has to mean something.  You can’t give those games away.  That’s what Jimbo did on Saturday night and he’s put a disappointing season further down the rails.

I have no idea if this is a trend we need to be worried about or Jimbo and his crew are going to get it corrected.  It’s all certainly fixable.  We just have to wait and see.

Let’s get to a quick analysis for the play on the field.

Offense:

Quarterback:

I’ll start with the most obvious issue.  I hate to bag on a college kid but the fact is Calzada is in his 3rd season at A&M.  I get he’s the backup but even capable backups progress when they finally get snaps.  They may have a little rust but that gets knocked off quickly and they start progressing.

That’s not happening with Calzada at all.  I had some hope coming out of the Colorado game that 4th quarter Calzada would be what we’d get going forward.  8 quarters into SEC play and 4th quarter Colorado Calzada is nowhere to be found.  Nowhere at all.

The moment looks to big for him and he’s wildly erratic.  Something that struck me in this game were his slides.  On a couple scrambles he slid WAY before any contact and basically gave up getting any yards.  He was clearly shying away from contact.

There’s a theory Jimbo told him to do that to make sure he didn’t get hurt.  We don’t have a backup.  If true Jimbo should be fired.  I get being cautious but if Jimbo told him to make sure he doesn’t get hurt it’s the stupidest thing ever.  You have a quarterback who is obviously unsure of himself and you just introduced another element to his brain in avoiding injury.

I have no idea why he slid like he did.  All I know is his slides are further proof this is a kid that’s really uncertain of what he needs to be doing on the field.  If he’s completing passes and doing those slides that’s fine but he’s not.  He’s all over the place on the field.  He’s got the physical talent but maybe the mental football ability is just not there.

A couple of other things as we see more of Calzada.  It’s clear there was never a quarterback competition between King and Calzada.  If there was we’re in bigger trouble than we think.  I said in my pre-season blog King was the obvious choice for the starting position based on Jimbo’s actions last season.  Think about this – In our second game of the season against the best team in the country a true freshman took the second team snaps over the guy who is supposed to be just as talented with an extra season on the team.  For the rest of the season that true freshman continued getting the second team snaps over the kid with one more season under his belt. 

At this point I think that says more about Calzada than King.  Calzada just isn’t developing to his talent.  He’s had more opportunity to grab the starting job from King but it’s clear he hasn’t.

Here’s the other thing – There’s not an Aggie fan alive that wouldn’t take Kellen Mond over Zach Calzada right now.  Ouch.

Let’s just hope he can get us two more wins before King comes back.  Make no mistake this is King’s team the second he’s able to take a live snap with contact.

Offensive Line:

We had a new combination of people on the offensive line on Saturday.  We had Jahmir Johnson at left tackle, Kenyon Green at left guard, Bryce Foster at center, Layden Robinson at right guard, and Rueben Fatheree at right tackle.  I think it’s our best collection of talent even if two guys are true freshman.  Personally, I hope this is the unit we use going forward.  If this unit can stay healthy and get some time together I think we can finally get the offensive line to gel.  The talent is definitely there.

I thought these guys did okay on Saturday night.  Maybe the best we’ve seen so far this season.  We ripped off some decent runs and Calzada had time to throw most of the night.

Mississippi State isn’t a vaunted defense but they’re not terrible.

Let’s hope these five guys stick and get some cohesion.  Beyond getting King back this will be the biggest difference maker once we get past Bama for salvaging the season.  These five guys will be the most crucial for salvaging the season.

Running Backs:

Spiller ran 16 times for 107 yards and Achane ran 8 times for 76 yards.  That’s an average per carry of 6.3 yards and 8.6 yards respectively.  That’s with the defense keying on them.  That’s damn good and highly underrated since we’re losing games.  These two guys are flat out producing with Spiller leading the way.  He’s really the best back in the country nobody is talking about.

I get you can’t run the ball every down but I really do think we need to use the run even more to set up the pass rather than just try and be balanced.  Run.  The.  Damn.  Ball.

The running backs are the only saving grace of this offense right now.

Wide Receiver:

We attempted 20 passes and completed 12 of them for 135 yards.  That’s a 60% completion rate and over 10 yards a pass.  Statistically that’s not terrible.

Eyeball wise it’s terrible.  This whole unit looks out of sorts.  These guys just aren’t a threat.  Wydermyer sure looks like he misses Mond in a major way.  Ainias can’t quite break anything open.  The other guys just kind of catch some passes here and there.  Nobody you can consistently count on.

I know we’ve got some guys hurt but I’m not sure they’d make a difference.  This unit just has some bad mojo right now and I’m not sure why.

Baylor Cupp has been suited up since Kent State but we haven’t seen him in a game.  He’s supposed to be a matchup nightmare.  He’s simply Bigfoot at his point.  A lot of talk but nobody’s seen him.

I don’t know what else to say about these guys.  I know the quarterbacking isn’t great but these guys don’t appear to be helping the quarterback at all.

Defense:

I can’t believe I have to write this but in my mind Mike Elko and his crew cost us the game on Saturday night.  Mainly more Mike Elko than the players.  I love Mike Elko but he botched the game on Saturday night.  I’m devastated.

I was okay with the 3 man defensive line if we’d brought more pressure with our linebackers and secondary via disguised blitzes.  We didn’t do that.  We simply tried to get to the QB with a 3 man front and it didn’t work.

I don’t know why Elko continued to sit back and let Mike Leach pick apart our guys in space where they busted off a few long passes here and there.  He should have been disguising pressure bringing at least one person on every play from the second level and occasionally two or even three just to keep the quarterback from getting comfortable.  We didn’t and Will Rogers got comfortable and completely picked us apart.

We got 3 sacks but we never got consistent pressure at all.  Mike Leach’s QB doesn’t need much time in the pocket and he got all the time he needed pretty much all night.

Will Rogers completed 46 of 59 passes.  That’s a 78% completion rate.  That’s basically completing 4 out of every 5 passes against our supposed elite level defense.  They threw just shy of 60 passes.  Major league starters don’t even throw that may times in some games anymore.  That’s a lot of damn passes.

Mississippi State passed for 408 yards on us.  408.  They had 5 different receivers catch passes over 20 yards on us.  You know how you catch passes over 20 yards?  One of two ways – 1) No pressure on the QB or 2) busted tackles.  Both occurred on Saturday night.

Makai Polk destroyed us all night catching 13 balls for 126 yards.  You ever heard the name Makai Polk before Saturday night?  I hadn’t.  How we couldn’t shut that guy down is beyond me.  He had twice as many receptions as any other Mississippi State receiver.  Mississippi State was either keying on him all night or we completely forgot about him.  At some point you must shut down the hot receiver.  We didn’t do that.

I’m not doing a unit analysis because the whole defense had issues thanks mainly to the scheme. The strength of this team is our defensive line.  I get we don’t have a perceived pass rushing threat like a Von Miller or Myles Garrett.  We’ve got a pretty good corps of people though that can destroy an offensive line with 4 people.

When it was apparent Will Rogers was comfortable making completion after completion changes were warranted and necessary.  Elko didn’t do that.  He’s been so good in his four seasons at A&M of making in game adjustments and he didn’t do that in this game.  I just don’t understand it.  He dominated Mississippi State last season and apparently completely forgot how he did it.  He brought pressure so their quarterback couldn’t get comfortable last season.  How did he forget how to do that?

Our weakest unit is our linebacking crew and Elko left them all alone to get picked apart.  Leach just flooded the mid-level and Rogers had time to find the open man.  That’s the Mike Leach system so you can’t let him do that.

I just don’t understand why someone with a headset didn’t ask why we weren’t trying to apply more pressure.  This wasn’t the 2019 LSU team with Joe Burrow and that receiving group.  This was Will Rogers and a host of receivers that likely never see the NFL.  Apply some damn pressure.  Elko had a complete vapor lock in his brain.

Credit to Leach and the Mississippi State team.  They took what A&M gave them and executed it flawlessly.  I just tend to think we’re a MUCH better defense than what happened on Saturday night.  Especially with the atmosphere at Kyle Field for a night game.

Maybe we’re not that good of a defense.  Maybe Mississippi State just exposed us completely for who we are on defense.  If so, oh boy…

Looking Forward:

I personally still hold out hope for this season.  I say that simply because we could be 5-0 right now.  I’m not saying should be.  We got beat by teams that wanted it more and executed it better than we did.  We got beat in these last two games plain and simple.  Tip our hat because they beat us.  I’m not denying that.

However, different decisions by the coaching staff and a little better execution by the players and we’re 5-0 ranked number 3 in the country with Bama coming to town.  We’re not nearly as far from that as it seems.  I’ll fully admit we’re also not far from 2-3 with zero wins over FBS programs.  That’s the part of football most people forget.  It’s always a few plays that swing most games.  All about coaching and execution.

Our mistakes are completely fixable.  They really are.  It’s not a team devoid of talent.  Well, not everywhere…

We’re 3-2 and no longer ranked in the Top 25 with Bama coming to town.  There is exactly ZERO chance of us beating Bama.  It’s not in Jimbo Fisher to figure out a game plan to beat Bama.  We simply don’t have the talent at quarterback, receiver, and linebacker to beat a team like Bama right now.  The offensive line is in question but I think we’re finally on the right path.

My hope is this season winds up turning out like the 2010 season where we hit a first half snag going 3-3 and then go on a tear ripping off 6 wins to get to 9-3 on the season.  I honestly believe that to be possible.  There’s enough talent on this team and every game after Bama is winnable.

I’m not saying we win those games as it’ll be up to the coaches and players.  I don’t look at our schedule post Bama like in 2019 where you saw games we just couldn’t compete in.  We can absolutely compete and win the remaining games on our schedule after Lord Saban goes 25-0 against his assistants this coming weekend.  Hopefully there’s a run like we had in 2020 that just comes a few games later than we ever imagined it needed to.

I think what’s going to happen against Bama is Jimbo is going to try and establish the run which I’m okay with.  It’s going to be an ugly game as our offense will look anemic.  Well, it is anemic. However, if our offensive line can do some good against the Bama defense at times then every defense the rest of the way won’t old a candle to the Bama defense.  I’m hoping we can use this game as the point where our offensive line finally learned to play together even if it doesn’t exactly show up on the field.

At this point I don’t want Jimbo to even try and beat Bama.  No crazy wrinkles or anything like that.  Let’s just go out and play fundamental mistake free football our normal way.  Even if it’s against the best team in the country we should treat it like a glorified scrimmage where your single goal is to execute assignments and not worry about the score.  For once this season play a complete game of football even if it means getting beat.

Learning to play mistake free football against the best team in the country could pay major dividends the rest of the season.  It sucks this is our reality but we’re here.  Let’s not let the season slip away as there’s still a lot to salvage.

To the Fightin’ Texas Aggie football team I say this – The spread is 17.5 at some books, fellas.  Let’s go out there and show the country we can cover it!  I’ll take a damn moral victory this week!  BTHO 17.5!

Someone tell the Yell Leaders we’re making a slight modification to one of the yells on Saturday.  BTHO 17.5!

If you’re going to the game make sure you tailgate appropriately.  If you’re watching at a bar make sure you have a designated driver or an Uber account.  If you’re watching at home make sure you’re somewhere comfortable so you can just pass out and get some good rest.

Copious amounts of alcohol are going to be needed for this game.  Don’t say I didn’t warn ya’…

BTHO 17.5!

How Bad Are Jimbo’s Losses?

After 40 games Jimbo Fisher is 29-11.  That’s a 72.5% winning percentage which is pretty damn good. Especially when you consider the team he took over and the schedule he inherited.  That 2019 schedule was just brutal with Clemson, Alabama, Georgia, and LSU who were all ranked #1 at one point in the season.  All but Alabama was on the road that season.  Brutal.

I went back and looked at Jimbo’s 11 losses.  In my mind there’s only 2 losses that are completely on the coaching staff.  That was the 2019 Auburn game at Kyle and the 2021 Arkansas game.  Jimbo and his staff got completely jumped by Gus Malzahn and Sam Pittman in those games.  Both coaches had wrinkles and a game plan that identified A&M weaknesses.  They got really early leads and the Aggies could never claw back.  The Aggie coaching staff was just completely overwhelmed from the start.  Without a doubt those 2 losses were coaching failures.

Of the other 11 losses, 7 of those were against teams that won the national championship that season or was ranked at #1 at some point in the season.  I would have loved to have won those games but A&M really didn’t have the team to compete.  I’m not going to say Jimbo should be 29-4 but let’s be real no coach in America other than maybe Nick Saban is winning those games with the talent A&M had at the time.  Just completely overmatched.  Jimbo actually almost pulled off a win against Clemson in 2018 and Georgia in 2019.

The other 2 losses I’m putting on the players and coaching staff.  The 2018 Mississippi State game was on the road against a quarterback that simply had our number.  Nick Fitzgerald had A&M’s number for whatever reason. Their defense had 3 or 4 guys that went in the first few rounds of the NFL draft.  They were a good team and our guys simply didn’t make the plays they needed to. 

The 2018 Auburn game was a complete meltdown by the players.  Cullen Gilaspia botched an assignment that created a fumble by Kellen Mond early in the game.  That gave Auburn a short field where they scored a touchdown.  A&M would claw back to have a 24-14 lead with 7:00 left in the game.  Auburn would score two touchdowns their final two drives were Aggie defenders had an Auburn player stopped but simply didn’t tackle him.  It was a comedy of errors by the defensive personnel on those final two drives.  That should have easily been a win but the players didn’t execute.  This game certainly wasn’t on the coaching staff.

Jimbo has proven to be a stubborn coach in wanting to play a certain way every week but his method has worked as we could have easily lost the following games:

  • 2018 Kentucky
  • 2018 Ole Miss
  • 2018 LSU
  • 2019 Arkansas
  • 2019 @Ole Miss
  • 2019 Oklahoma State (Bowl Game)
  • 2020 Florida
  • 2020 North Carolina (Bowl Game)
  • 2021 Colorado

A bunch of 2020 games could have been lost but Jimbo somehow turned Kellen Mond and an offensive line devoid of real talent into the number 4 team in the country by season’s end.  That was a great team last season.  Maybe it was lightening in a bottle but Jimbo’s stubbornness certainly paid off in a big way last season.  That team definitely played above it’s talent level and won all but 1 game. That’s an outstanding season.

I have no idea what the rest of 2021 holds for the Aggies but Jimbo’s previous 3 seasons say we’re still going to win a lot more games than we lose.  This is still really a talented team that needs to correct some mental errors and get a couple of key players healthy. Mainly Layden Robinson and Haynes King.  It’s usually easier to correct mental errors than overcome talent. The talent is there.

I HATE the Arkansas loss.  I can’t tell you how much I hate losing games we should win simply because we weren’t prepared.  That’s not the mark of a championship program.  However, other than Alabama it happens to most programs in the country.

2021 is likely going to go down as a season of disappointment as we all wanted more in Jimbo’s 4th season.  However, if Jimbo can manage 10 wins including the bowl game this is still a pretty good season and better than most in college football.  We’ll probably still be a Top 10-15 team when it’s all said and done.

Even better if we just lose to Bama the rest of the season and I do think that’s still possible. I don’t see us beating Bama with Calzada under center. No way he goes from deer in the headlights against Arkansas to beating the #1 team in the country in two weeks. Hope I’m wrong.

We’ll just have to wait and see what happens for the rest of the season.  I personally don’t think it’s time to panic just yet. Let’s give Jimbo the benefit of the doubt because I think he’s earned it.

Here’s a spreadsheet summary of Jimbo’s 11 losses for quick reference:

Thoughts from the Arkansas Game

What you saw on Saturday was a coaching staff and team that wanted it more than the other team.  Unfortunately, that team was Arkansas and not the Aggies.  Arkansas came out ready to punch and when they punched the Aggies just staggered back rather than respond.  Jimbo certainly bears some blame here but I think I was most disappointed by the lack of responding by the players.

The defense finally settled in but it was really too little and too late.  Before that they just let Arkansas punch them for almost a half of football.  The second touchdown was the perfect example.  Multiple guys had a chance to tackle the ballcarrier but just didn’t do it.  That drive should have been a field goal attempt but instead it was a touchdown that really put the game away way too early in the game.

Coaching wise Arkansas did a masterful job on the Aggies.  The long touchdown pass was perfect.  They sucked in all the safeties and put possibly the best receiver in the SEC one on one with our injured corner back.  Jefferson threw the perfect pass which is rare for him but that’s how you win football games.  You identify matchup advantages and when you get it you take advantage.  That’s exactly what Arkansas did.

Meanwhile on the other side of the field the Aggie coaching staff had ONE wrinkle and it was a tight end screen to Max Wright.  Nothing against Max Wright as I love his heart but he’s not going to exploit a defense.  Arkansas created a matchup advantage for the top receiver in the SEC.  A&M created a tight end screen to their back up blocking tight end.  That’s the coaching difference.

11 penalties for 75 yards was also really bad.  That just reeks of a team that’s not fully prepared or focused.  The Aggie team was by far the more talented team.  That’s not a knock on Arkansas.  They played a tremendous game and deserved to win.  It’s just that when you’re the more talented team you don’t commit penalties if you’re prepared and focused.  It’s also an indication of there being minimal team leadership to get everyone focused and hold players accountable.

Coaches and players need to realize we’re playing SEC games and if you don’t have wrinkles or aren’t ready from the whistle you’re going to struggle.

Let’s get to the game.

Offense:

Coaching:

Jimbo is THOROUGHLY confused on calling plays right now.  He has no sequencing of plays.  He has no idea what his offense is capable of.  He just calls plays willy nilly.  We had some really key injuries especially with the loss of Layden Robinson and obviously Haynes King.  However, Jimbo has to scheme and call plays on the talent that’s playing.  We didn’t do anything new on Saturday.  I know that’s how Jimbo tends to roll but when your talent is down you better figure out your strengths and weaknesses real quick.

On the Arkansas side of the ball they DARED A&M to run and we wouldn’t do it.  They had 3 defensive lineman on the line and 3 linebackers with 5 defensive backs for most of the game.  They were bringing up linebackers from time to time but for the most part those linebackers were just dropping back clogging up passing lanes.  Arkansas wasn’t worried about the run and was all about defending the pass.  Jimbo played into their hand perfectly.

They were even putting two guys on Demas running deep routes to make sure he didn’t get open.  Barry Odom, the Arkansas Defensive Coordinator, simply defended where Jimbo kept trying to go.  It was a masterful job of coaching simply because Jimbo was being stubborn.

After Spiller’s touchdown run the Aggies were back in the game.  The defense was stopping the Arkansas offense.  I really thought we should have just kept the ball on the ground but Jimbo kept trying to pass the ball.  I’m sure the Arkansas coaching staff was shocked Jimbo was playing into their hand.

I know the offensive line was struggling in a big way but we couldn’t get guys open, our quarterback had dancing feet, and our backs are the biggest asset of the team.  Spiller didn’t see one single carry after that touchdown run.  Run.  The.  Damn.  Ball.

Establish some identity as an offense because right now there isn’t one.  It’s a confusing mess of plays that make no sense and most importantly simply aren’t working.

Quarterback:

If you wondered why Kellen Mond was our quarterback for the last two season you got your answer on Saturday.  I had some hope for Calzada getting the keys.  He can still turn it around but he sure doesn’t look like the guy.

Calzada got handed the thing he’s coveted the most and hasn’t done anything with it.  In my book winners win.  Not calling Calzada a loser but he certainly hasn’t taken advantage of the opportunity he’s been given.  If he truly wants to be the Aggie starting quarterback he’s showing he’s either not capable or doesn’t really want it.

He was confused the entire game.  The other parts of the offense weren’t hitting on all cylinders but Calzada wasn’t leading at all.  He had no answer for what Arkansas was throwing at him and it wasn’t even that complicated.  He had NO confidence.

He couldn’t anticipate any pressure or guys getting open.  The line struggled to block but he had some time and all he did was dance in the pocket.  He was simply overwhelmed for the entire game.

He’s likely got 4 more starts at the most.  I hope he develops but after almost 3 full games it’s pretty clear he’s pretty lost as the starting quarterback.  I really hoped for more with the kid but he backed down against a defense that is solid but not spectacular.  That’s not good.

Offensive Line:

I think the loss of Layden Robinson is bigger than the injury to Haynes King.  Robinson might be our best lineman.  Without him we have a major hole.  Kenyon Green filled in at right guard with Rueben Fatheree at right tackle.  At some point in the second half Jhamir Johnson got hurt.  That moved Green to left tackle and Blake Trainor at right guard.

Last week Fatheree filled in at left tackle when Johnson went out.  Green was at right guard and Trainor at right tackle.  See the issue?  We’re continually moving guys around and they’re not getting comfortable at one spot.  Green’s versatility is great but he’d be better off settling in at one position.

Fourth game of the season and we can’t figure out our offensive line.

At this point I’d give the starting left tackle to Fatheree and put Green back at right tackle.  Johnson and Trainor can fight out the right guard spot until Robinson gets back.  I get trying to find the best 5 in various spots but you can’t gel as an offensive line with guys continually moving around.

When Robinson comes back we should be able to run on the right side with Green and Robinson.

Bryce Foster continues to look like a true freshman being overwhelmed at times.  He had some snap issues so those need to get cleaned up.

Let’s get Robinson back and maybe we can get this line to gel.  Until then it’s really hopeless.

Wide Receiver:

Chase Lane was out but I don’t think that really mattered.  Arkansas took notice of Demond Demas being able to get deep last week and took that away.  For much of the game when Demas went deep Arkansas dropped a safety to help the corner back.  Even with a safety dropping back we couldn’t get any of the other receivers open.

Jalen Preston took over Lane’s role which utterly confused me.  This is his fourth season in the program and he hasn’t produced anything.  Surely he wasn’t the best option behind Lane.  I was really hoping to see something out of Moose Muhammed this game but we didn’t.

Baylor Cupp was suited up but I never saw him.  I thought he was supposed to be a matchup nightmare for defenses.

I don’t know what to say on receiver.  These guys simply struggle to get open for the most part.

You saw what a dominant receiver can do for an offense with Treylon Burks for Arkansas.  Until A&M gets that this offense is going to continue to struggle through the air.

Running Backs:

Isiah Spiller was the only person on offense who produced anything of real value this game.  He did a nice job of making something out of nothing on quite a few runs.  His cutting ability is outstanding.

Achane did bust anything but he’s a great change of pace.  The fact that he’s a homerun threat out of the backfield is a huge asset.

You know how I feel about these two guys – Run.  The.  Damn.  Ball.

Defense:

Kendall Briles is a heck of a college offensive coordinator.  He landed his big punch with the Treylon Burks touchdown pass.  Then he got a gift on the second touchdown when no Aggie defender wanted to tackle the guy with the ball.  Other than that they didn’t do much on offense.  They didn’t need to.  They just kept running their Run Pass Option (RPO) getting a few yards and burning clock while not creating a turnover or big play for the Aggie defense.  Kevin Sumlin could have learned a thing or two from Sam Pittman when it comes to protecting a lead.

For whatever reason the defense had issues tackling this game.  I think that’s because they were confused and just not fired up early on.  The defense came out flat but did get going and controlled the Arkansas offense in the second half.

This unit played well enough to win but with the current state of the offense they must be perfect.  I think I’m most shocked how flat they came out.  I expected Demarvin Leal or someone to step up and fire these guys up from the start.  I don’t like the long touchdown pass but I’ll give credit to Arkansas in that it was an outstanding play call and execution.  The second touchdown pass was the result of a defense that wasn’t focused.

I’m hoping this game is a wake up call they can’t go into a game sleepwalking.  They must bring the pain from the first snap.

Defensive Line:

These guys weren’t spectacular but they were solid.  The RPO confused them at times but for the most part they did a good job defending it to limit Arkansas breaking off big runs.  Peevy had another outstanding game and I thought Michael Clemons was solid.  Leal was his usual self.

Linebacker:

These guys cost us the game from a defensive standpoint.  I thought they had turned into a pretty solid unit but I was wrong.  They were routinely out of position letting the Arkansas running backs gash them on longer runs.

On the second touchdown play we all saw the push by Hansford rather than tackle.  Edgerrin Cooper actually busted the assignment which is frustrating.  The running back was lined up as the wide receiver.  Cooper correctly moved the corner inside to the slot receiver.  The running back then motioned into the backfield and Cooper followed him which means Cooper had him in man coverage.  When the running back flared out Cooper was a step slow which left the running back open and Cooper out of position to tackle him upon the reception.  Just a completely botched play by the linebackers.

Hansford did blow up the 4th and 1 stop so he wasn’t terrible.

Opposing offenses are going to see you can get these guys out of position on running plays.  They’ve got to develop more discipline and execute their assignments.  This can be an elite level defense if these guys can improve.

Secondary:

We all know Myles Jones got burned on the long touchdown pass.  That seemed to be his only play as I don’t recall seeing him again.  Maybe he’s still hurt or maybe Elko just replaced him.  I don’t know.

Why we didn’t have Jaylon Jones on Burks the whole game I don’t know.  Jaylon played a great game as usual.  If Jaylon is on Burks on that play I bet it doesn’t happen.  Jaylon is damn good.

The safeties did fine.  They seemed out of position quite a bit early on but they got settled in as the game went on.

Looking Forward:

Am I worried about this Aggie team?  Not really.  Am I concerned?  I absolutely am.

Turns out we miss four senior offensive lineman and quarterback more than I thought we would.

I had big hopes for this team.  I really thought we had a shot to be a special team and make the College Football Playoff.  I don’t see that happening right now but it’s still technically possible.  This is still a football team that’s going to win a good amount of games.  I truly believe that.

We’ve just made too many mental mistakes up until this point to be a great team.  The good news is those can get cleaned up.

I said coming into this season we needed get through September and see what kind of team we have.  Well, we’re there.  The loss of Haynes King and especially Layden Robinson has been big.  We’re still 3-1 and played Arkansas tough despite making a ton of mental mistakes.

I’m going to assume King is out through the bye week.  It just makes the most sense to make sure he’s fully healthy.  We have four more games until that break.  We should beat Mississippi State and South Carolina.  We don’t stand a prayer against Bama unless Jimbo really gets creative.  I think Mizzou is a 50/50 game right now.

If we can somehow go 3-1 over those three games we’ll be 6-2 which isn’t bad.  We’d then get King back for Auburn, Ole Miss, and LSU.  I’m not worried about Prairie View.  Assuming Robinson is back and the line is finally settled in and gelling with King under center we could still go 10-2.  More than likely we’ll lose one of those games and go 9-3.  It’s disappointing but that’s still a solid season when you factor in losing your starting quarterback for a spell.

After the Bama loss last year we thought the season was over.  We assumed it would be another shitty Aggie football season.  I get that feeling.  However, that Bama loss did something to the team and everything started clicking. 

I’m really hoping this loss wakes Jimbo up as much as the players.  There’s no reason why we shouldn’t run the ball more.  I don’t really want to be one dimensional but we can go 3-1 over the next three games by running the ball.  Let’s get 3 wins over the next 4 games and get King back under center for the tougher part of our schedule outside of Bama.  Let’s go into limp mode and beat the teams we can beat.

Run.  The.  Damn.  Ball.

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…

Thoughts From the Kent State Game

Before I get going on the Aggies performance against Kent State I want to talk about the first full weekend of college football in two years.  It was glorious.  I don’t mind Texas and OU coming to the SEC.  My biggest concern with that move is it could be the first step to destroying college football as we know it.  I feel the networks might be trying to turn college football into the “NFL on Saturdays.”  It would be one super conference or even two super conferences with 30-40 teams.  I don’t think that’s good for college football.

College football is haphazard and unstructured and it works.  5 “Power” conferences and 5 “Non Power” conferences for 4 playoff spots.  Sure, recently it’s the same old teams over and over again at the end but for 100+ schools there’s some level of hope this could be the year something magical happens.

College football is a regional game that drives pride in towns many people wouldn’t visit.  Trying to convert college football to something more like the NFL is a massive mistake in my mind.  People watch college football because they have some kind of vested interest and it’s different than the NFL.

The scenes from this weekend were wonderful.  Starting in Minnesota on Thursday night, Blacksburg on Friday afternoon, all over the country on Saturday, and Tallahassee on Sunday night.  The passion of college football fans for their team is unmatched.  It’s not the NFL and that’s the way it should be.

I hope those in charge don’t get blinded by the money thrown around by the networks.  Mainly ESPN.  I really feel ESPN is trying a last-ditch effort to save it’s network in hopes it can turn college football into “NFL on Saturdays.”  It may work for a few years but I think it’s going to turn off a lot of fans as it becomes too structured.  College football needs to be haphazard and unstructured. 

College football doesn’t need a clear schedule for everyone along with a clear path to the playoffs.  Maybe a little consistency in conferences when it comes to scheduling but nobody should be guaranteed a playoff spot if they win their conference, division, or whatever.  It needs to be some level of a beauty contest.  It’s not perfect but it works.

I think the two best changes college football can implement is to go to the 12-team playoff.  That could give college football that March Madness feel and give more teams more hope.

If the 12-team playoff happens that’s going to destroy bowl season.  With that, maybe “Bowl Season” gets flipped to the beginning of the season.  Teams get assigned to a game in the following season after the end of their season.  There’s lots of logistics to work out as would teams schedule 11 or 12 games and does everyone get a bowl assignment?  Also, are games at a neutral location or someone’s home stadium?  Lots to work out in that scenario mainly when it comes to money.  However, I have a feeling the 12-team playoff is going to destroy the bowl system as we know it as it’ll be matchups no one really cares about and the best guys will continue to opt out.

Whatever it is college football needs 100+ teams and multiple conferences believing if the stars align they can be hoisting the championship trophy at the end of the season.

Texas and OU can come to the SEC but I really hope we don’t see a contraction of teams in conferences that matter.  College football doesn’t need to be a perfect structured system.  We have the NFL for that.  College football needs to be a little confusing because it drives passion like no other sport.  The NFL has theatrics.  College football has tradition no other professional league can match.  Let’s not let a network throwing around a bunch of cash fearing for their existence ruin that.  Let tradition reign over theatrics.

Don’t NFL my college football you stupid network executives.

Let’s talk about the Aggies:

Overall:

I certainly would have liked a better initial performance from the Aggies on Saturday night.  In the end it was okay but it was a little slow to get going.  I was never worried about losing the game even with a 10-3 score at halftime.  The Aggies were moving the ball but shooting themselves in the foot.  Defensively we looked fine other than a few mistakes here and there.

At the end of the game it was a dominant performance against a Kent State team that is better than most people think.  I feel better about this game than I did the last two openers against Texas State and Vanderbilt.  We all know about the slow start to the Vanderbilt game last year and that season turned out fine.

Two years ago we beat Texas State 41-7.  The score is similar to this game against Kent State but we struggled to establish the line of scrimmage in that game.  That would prove out through the rest of the season where our offensive line wasn’t very good that season.  I didn’t see any glaring issues on Saturday night other than receiver which I’ll get to in a bit.

There’s a fair amount of work for this team to do but what I saw on Saturday night is correctable.  We had a lot of guys getting their first playing time in a real game.  I’ve always said don’t tell me what guys do in practice.  I want to know what guys do when live bullets are flying.  That’s what matters.

Everyone looked pretty good logging significant playing time for the first time.  Even if the opponent wasn’t on the same level we’ll see in the SEC.  I believe in Jimbo and this staff.  I think we’ll continue to get better each week but like I said in my season preview we need to get through September to get a good feel for this team.

Things look fine after the first week.  Not great but they look fine.

Offense:

Haynes King and a host of guys on the line took their first starting snaps in this game.  The result was good but there’s some hiccups that need to get cleaned up.

We must realize we lost 4 senior starters on the offensive line and at starting quarterback.  I know a lot of people still don’t like Kellen Mond but the dude was as solid as they come in his last 9 games as an Aggie.  There was no way Haynes King was going to step in and have the same production as Kellen.  He did fine though.

Same thing on the offensive line.  No way you start four guys together for the first time and have no issues.

This offense shot itself in the foot a few times.  That stalled things out but for the most part this offense dictated the pace of the game which is what Jimbo wants.  It would be nice to have a more explosive offense but Jimbo’s just not going to take shots for the sake of taking shots.  He wants to control the ball and win the game.

That’s what this offense did on Saturday night and it worked.

Quarterback:

Haynes King’s stat line wasn’t what you hoped at the end of the night but he did fine for the most part.  He was 21 for 33 with 292 yards.  That’s a 64% completion rate.  I’m good with the completion percentage.  I want another 100 yards against a team like Kent State though.  At some point we need a quarterback that can sling it around.

King threw two touchdowns and three interceptions.  Not the ideal ratio.  Two of those were tipped but one was a complete mistake where he stared down a receiver and the defender read it perfectly.  Cut out those interceptions and his night looks completely different.  Tips or not he can’t throw three interceptions against the better SEC teams and expect to win.  Those mistakes must get eliminated.

Running wise he didn’t run nearly as much as I thought he would.  I think that’s fine as he really needed to work on his passing more than his running.  He certainly showed his athleticism on the scramble where he got a first down.  The kid has wheels and can run.  I’m sure he’ll figure out timing when to run as he gets more experience.

If I have one real complaint about King it’s his apparent lack of chemistry with Wydermeyer.  Mond and Wydermeyer were outstanding together.  It did look like Jimbo was using Wydermeyer a little different trying to get him deeper down the field but it really didn’t work.  Wydermeyer has been a serious security blanket for this offense the last two seasons and I think he’ll be just as important this season.  It was just one game but hopefully it was Jimbo trying something different with Wydermeyer.

I think it’s important King to have some level of chemistry with Wydermeyer like Mond had.  That’ll be important in keeping the chains moving.  We’ll see how King develops over the next 3 games but he certainly has the athletic skill set.  I didn’t see anything on Saturday night to give me concern.

Offensive Line:

This is the group I wanted to see the most on the evening.  They certainly weren’t as good as last year’s line but last year’s line didn’t take off until the third game last season.  When you have 4 new guys it’s going to take a little time gel. 

The thing I liked most about their effort on Saturday night was their ability to impose their will at times.  That gives me a lot of hope once they get use to working together they can be as good as last year’s unit.  They might even be better as the unit is more talented.

The biggest surprise of the evening for most was Bryce Foster starting at center.  I’m not terribly surprised it wasn’t Luke Matthews but a little more surprised it was Foster.  The kid is immensely talented but he’s a true freshman that didn’t participate in spring practice.  This kid showed up this summer and he’s the starting center.  That’s remarkable.

He had a few plays where he struggled but for the most part he held his own and did pretty good.  His physical skill set looks solid and obviously the coaching staff has some level of comfort to have him take those snaps for most of the game.  I’m good with Foster at center.

A couple of bad holding calls by Green and Johnson at tackle but not a big deal.

There’s enough to clean up here but there’s also enough to be optimistic about.  Like quarterback let’s get through September before we pass any major assessments on this group.  I’m good with what I saw on Saturday night.

Running Back:

This unit makes me smile.  It really does.  The combination of Spiller and Achane is outstanding.

Spiller is just an outstanding runner.  He makes everything look easy.  He’s not flashy or bruising but the dude just churns out yards.  He’s not going to get the credit he deserves from the media or opposing fans but he’s the heart and soul of this offense.  He just takes the football and runs for positive yards repeatedly.

Achane picked up right where he left off last season.  He’s obviously much flashier than Spiller because of his raw speed.  His speed was on display on his 63-yard touchdown run.  The offensive line did a nice job of opening a hole for him.  Achane deflected the defender that had a shot at him in the backfield and then he just hit the burners and took off untouched to the end zone.  I don’t know if there’s another running back in the country that could have ripped of that run.

I think the most impressive thing about Achane is his balance.  He’s not the biggest running back but he runs tough for his size and speed.  Usually guys with his size and speed don’t handle contact well but Achane is remarkable at deflecting contact to keep moving forward.

These two guys aren’t going to get the notice of some running backs in the country but I wouldn’t trade them for any running back duo on the country.  They’re the perfect compliment to one another.

Wide Receiver:

If there’s one area of concern for this game it’s the receiving unit.  Ainias Smith did his normal thing catching 8 passes for 100 yards and two scores.  He had a big drop but I’m not going to hold that against him.  I just hope he doesn’t do it in a big game.

Caleb Chapman showed up for a big pass and caught a few others totaling 4 coaches for 91 yards.  That’s a productive evening but we need more out of him or Demas if this offense is truly going to explode.  I saw Demas take some snaps but the majority of the snaps went to Chapman.  At some point I’d like to see both of these guys on the field stretching defenses.  Maybe it’s coming but we certainly didn’t see it in the first game.

Establishing a legitimate regular down the field threat is how we’re going to beat Alabama.

As for the rest of the receiving group I thought Chase Lane looked serviceable. He caught three passes for 41 yards which is good enough for what should be the number 4 or 5 receiving option.

I’ve already talked about Wydermeyer a bit.  I’m hoping his lack of production was due to not having the chemistry with King like he had with Mond.  Wydermeyer has a big enough body of work that I’m not worried about one game.

The biggest head scratcher of the evening was the use of Max Wright over Baylor Cupp.  This isn’t a knock against Wright at all as he looks to have gotten in great shape and Jimbo clearly trusts him for the playing time he got on Saturday night.  Wright did just fine helping the running game.  He’s just not a dynamic receiver. 

Maybe Cupp is just a myth.  Maybe he’s all talent and not much more.  For as much as we’ve heard about Cupp’s athletic ability I was really surprised we didn’t see him at all on Saturday night.  Even more head scratching was that Eli Stowers got snaps at tight end.  Maybe Cupp is hurt and if so that’s not good.  The guy hasn’t taken a snap of football since his junior year of high school football.  Maybe it’s time to just move on from Bigfoot until we have an actual confirmed sighting.

As for the rest of the receiving group we didn’t see anything out of anyone else.  Jalen Preston, Devin Price, and Moose Muhammad got some snaps at the end but they seem to be buried down the depth chart.

I still hold out hope this unit takes the step forward in 2021 like the offensive line did in 2020.  I see the potential and maybe it’s just King getting more familiarity with everyone in actual games.  Until this unit takes that step we don’t really have a shot to beat a team like Bama. 

In today’s college football you need receivers that can take the top off a defense.  We’re clearly still not there with this unit.

Defense:

My biggest takeaway from this game for the defense was the amount of participation.  A LOT of people got snaps.  Some of it was due to suspensions and injuries but there were lots of names I didn’t expect to see on the field.

We were missing starters like McKinnley Jackson, Michael Clemons, and Myles Jones so that was the main reason.

Demarvin Leal, Demani Richardson, and Leon O’Neal were the only three guys that played the majority of the game.  Lots of guys rotated in and out.  We had six linebackers take snaps which I really didn’t see coming.  We had 12 defensive linemen take snaps.  We had 9 defensive backs take snaps not named O’Neal or Richardson.  It wasn’t just guys getting snaps in the last couple of series.  A lot of people were rotating throughout a good portion of the game.

This unit performed about as expected for the first game missing some key starters.  A few mistakes here and there but a solid performance for the evening.  I continue to be impressed with Jimbo’s recruiting and Elko’s coaching when it comes to our defense.

Defensive Line:

This group was missing two key starters but it didn’t miss a beat.  Sure, Kent State doesn’t have the athletes we’ll see in the SEC but this is a pretty damn good offense that struggled against our defense.

Demarvin Leal was his usual self wrecking shop up and down the line.  He reminds me of Spiller in a way.  He’s not the flashiest but when you watch him you realize how productive he is and how he’s the heart and soul of this side of the ball.

I mentioned it earlier but a lot of guys rotated in and out of the game at the defensive line.  They all seemed productive but the guy who stood out the most to me was Shemar Turner.  He had a few plays where was flat out dominant.  He’s a true freshman out of Desoto.

We know there’s plenty of depth with this unit but from what I saw on Saturday night I have hope that we can get Michael Clemons and Fadil Diggs at defensive end with Demarvin Leal and Shemar Turner at defensive tackle on obvious passing downs.  If you can apply pressure with 4 guys on passing downs it really changes what you can do defensively.  I have some hope we’ll be able to finally do that since Myles Garrett left.  This defense has been missing a legitimate pass rush for a long time.

It’ll be interesting to see what the rotation and participation looks like when Jackson and Clemons are back.  We have so much depth and talent here that I’m not worried about this unit at all.

Linebacker:

Aaron Hansford led the team in tackles.  Looks like he’s gonna be just fine leading the linebacking unit.

The surprise of the night was Edgerrin Cooper getting more action than Andre White.  That sort of makes sense as Cooper is more athletic and better at defending the pass.  He did a solid job as he was tied for fourth in tackles with Demarvin Leal.

I think this is an outstanding development as it looks like White and Cooper can rotate out based on the game situation or even opponent for pass happy teams like Ole Miss and Mississippi State.

We’re going to be playing a lot of Antonio Johnson at nickel so he’s basically the third linebacker but it looks like we have some flexibility with Hansford, Cooper, and White.  I’m totally good with that.

We still need to add more talent and depth here but looks like we’ll be serviceable at linebacker this season.

Defensive Back:

As mentioned Leon and Demani played the whole game.  They were outstanding.  Leon had a nice pick 6 after he was wrongly flagged for targeting.  The football gods took care of the situation.  Leon also had another nice interception.  I’ve been critical of Leon in the past but he’s really doing an outstanding job.  Demani kind of fits in that Spiller and Leal role where he’s not super flashy but he’s now on his third year starting and he’s been solid and this year looks no different.

Antonio Johnson spent most of the game at the Nickel and I thought he looked good.  He’s a true sophomore and I think he’s going to continue to develop into an outstanding player.  Keldrick Carper also saw a lot of action as we ran four safeties quite a bit and was outstanding.  He’s not the most talented DB on the roster but he really understands his assignments and does a good job.

Jardin Gilbert who is a true freshman showed a few flashes at safety.  Not sure he’ll get a lot of playing time since we have O’Neal, Richardson, and Johnson manning the three safety spots.  It’s good to see someone make the most of their opportunity though.

At corner we rotated a lot more people out due to Myles Jones being out.  That also meant Ainias didn’t have to do his jersey swap on punts if you were wondering.  I saw Jaylon Jones playing but he didn’t show up on the stat sheet.  That means they didn’t throw against him.  That’s a good sign as Jaylon is the best corner we have.

It seemed Tyreek Chappell and Brian George got most of the snaps at corner and did a solid enough job as the Kent State starting quarterback completed half his passes for less than 100 yards.  Deuce Harmon also got some playing time.  Chappell and Harmon are true freshman with plenty of talent so it’s good to see them get some in game experience.

I fully expect Jaylon Jones and Myles Jones to start most of the season at corner but it’s good to see if they’re not able to go for whatever reason we have some talent and depth behind them.

Kent State was a team that averaged over 300 yards passing last season.  They obviously know how to pass but the Aggie secondary didn’t let them.  That’s a good showing.

We’re thin at linebacker but with the defensive line and this secondary I think we’ll be able to cover for the linebacking unit in most of our games.

Looking Forward:

This was just one game but I would have liked to have seen a better start.  It turned out just fine though.  Lots of new guys taking snaps at key positions on offense so it’s justifiable to take a little while to get going.

We’ve got some good tests coming in Colorado and Arkansas.  Those are both VERY winnable games if this is to be a special team.  We’ve seen in the past where other Aggie teams struggled to get things going against good teams like Colorado and Arkansas.  Let’s hope this Aggie team can avoid that and control Colorado and Arkansas from the start only to put them away in the second half.  They’re winnable but not pushovers.  They’ll provide a good barometer of where this Aggie team really is.

Let’s get through September before we really start believing we have something special with this year’s Aggie team.

Other Thoughts:

I thought the Longhorns looked good in their game.  Not dominant and I’m not saying they’re back but they looked different than the Tom Herman teams that made repeated mistakes.  It’ll be interesting to see how their season turns out.  I don’t think they’re loaded with talent but after one game it looks like their coaching has improved.  This Big 12 may wind up being a tossup this year as OU and Iowa State didn’t dominate in their first game.

I didn’t see any of the LSU/UCLA game but the results sure weren’t good for Coach O.  The more I see him the more I realize he’s like Kevin Sumlin.  He caught lightening in a bottle with a generational quarterback and good coaching.  He got cocky after that season talking a lot of trash with no clue on how it happened.

For me personally I want Coach O to hang around.  His body of work says he’s not a good head coach.  Turns out he didn’t figure out how to be a good head coach when he got the job at LSU.  He just got extremely lucky one season.  He’s delightfully entertaining but he’s not a good head coach.

I’m hoping he can still pull off 9 wins losing to Alabama and A&M.  That should be keep him around for another season.  The last thing I want is Matt Campbell at LSU.  I know Iowa State struggled in their first game but that dude can coach football and I think he’s clearly open to getting out of the Big 12 right now.

Other than those few things college football is back in all of it’s glory.  I couldn’t be any happier.

Can’t wait to be in Denver this Saturday although I really do wish it was in Boulder on campus.  That’s much more of a college feel.

A Look at the 2021 Aggies

Haven’t blogged in a while mainly because I got married and as part of that we bought a 1968 Bronco.  It’s been requiring a little bit of attention from me but it’s been fun to tinker with.  Enough of that, we’re less than a month away from football season so time to make a little effort towards Aggie Football.

Before I get going on the 2021 team here’s my thoughts on some recent big news.

Longhorns to the SEC:

I don’t like it but it’s the reality of college football.  What I hate even more is the leadership of A&M through all of this.  The Big 12 was always the most unstable Power 5 conference in college football.  It didn’t take a rocket surgeon to realize that.  The leadership of Texas A&M was woefully unprepared for the inevitable.  It appeared the leadership at A&M didn’t know or didn’t ask the protocol for adding teams to the SEC.

If Brent Zwerneman had not leaked his story then the Sooners and Longhorns join the conference in less than 7 days.  One week to collapse the Big 12 and jump to the SEC.  ONE WEEK.

Even with Brent Z leaking the story they joined the SEC in less than 10 days.  Think about that.  In less than 10 days NOBODY knew about the Sooners and Longhorns joining the SEC and then all of a sudden they’re voted in.

When Brent Z published his article connected people all over the country were scrambling trying to figure out how much was true because they hadn’t heard anything about it.  Highly connected people had no clue this was coming.  Now, obviously some people knew but most people didn’t know. 

This leads me to my biggest issue with A&M leadership through all of this.  As we look back now it appears some people at A&M knew.  Or maybe just some one.  A&M didn’t go from saying they didn’t want Texas in the conference to voting them in a few days later without someone in power having some knowledge.

The rumor is John Sharp knew but didn’t tell anyone.  Maybe he was sworn to secrecy but he hung our AD out to dry.  Poor Ross Bjork looks like a fool saying we didn’t want Texas to join the SEC.  It’s true and we didn’t but the reality is the train was far down the tracks.  When Brent Z published his article the Sooners and Longhorns were coming to the SEC.

That well done Bradley Cooper video got made because of Ross Bjork’s soundbites right when the news broke.  If John Sharp knew he hung Bjork out in a bad way. 

We got to look like the inferior little brother who was afraid of the Longhorns joining the SEC.  I’m tired of that narrative.  We’re the better football program and we’re actually the bigger school now.

Our narrative from the moment the news broke should have been something like this, “We’re aware conference re-alignment is always happening.  We also understand why teams want to join the premier athletic conference in the country.  We made that decision a decade ago leaving an inferior conference.  We will gather with our member schools in the conference and make the best decision for the conference.”  That’s it.  That should have been the narrative all along because we really knew what was going on.

Behind the scenes you can work like hell to keep the Longhorns out but on the exterior don’t act inferior or scared which is what we did.  Even if John Sharp knew and was sworn to secrecy he could have given Bjork and the school president a little info that something might be brewing with the SEC adding teams.  When that news did come out we needed a consistent message of being aware and not being afraid. 

Even if Brent Z didn’t leak the story on a Wednesday afternoon it would have come out the following Monday.  Did Sharp have some grand plan to get everyone aligned in those days?  I don’t think so.  Maybe I’m wrong on Sharp knowing but someone somewhere knew and the leadership at A&M failed in how they handled this.  Completely failed.

If you can’t trust your school president and athletic director then there’s some big issues going on.

From a football standpoint I don’t think this really hurts us that much.  We truly have the superior program right now.  Sure, it sucks we can no longer sell we’re the only SEC school in the state but how much did that really help Sumlin?  It didn’t.  Sumlin won in 2012 with most of Sherman’s players and then never did much in recruiting or really winning after that.

At the end of the day coaching staffs matter more than anything else.  Conference really doesn’t matter.

I remember when R.C. Slocum was complaining about facilities when Mack Brown started crushing him in recruiting and coaching.  R.C. was certainly correct our facilities needed improving in a big way but the reality is Mack Brown was a superior recruiter.  It also didn’t help that Bob Stoops and Nick Saban at LSU were also superior recruiters.  Coaching matters more than anything else in college football.

I truly believe Texas A&M has the superior coach and we’re going to be fine.  What happens if Texas joins the SEC and we go on a 10-year run like we did from the mid-80s to the mid-90s?  It will actually help A&M because we can definitively show we’re the better program right now.

Things will finally get settled where they should have been settled all along – On the field.  For 12 months one school is going to have definitive bragging rights.

Trust me when I say this – When you see the Maroon and Burnt Orange line up on the field it’s going to feel right.  It really will.  Rivalries are meant to be contested.  That’s what makes them a rivalry.  Actual competition.

Would I be happier if Texas was swirling around in that god forsaken conference known as the Big 12?  You bet.  But they’re not.  They’re coming to the SEC.  There’s too much money involved.  Let’s saddle up and ride proving we’re the better program on the field because we are.

Stop acting so damn scared.  Stop worrying about the narrative and perception.  We’ll settle it on the field.  Just like it should have been all along.

The 2021 Aggie Football Team:

Overall:

I feel great about this team.  I really do.  Jimbo and his staff are excellent coaches.  I truly believe they’re a Top 5 staff in college football.  They recruit well and have a strong game plan week in and week out.  There’s only been a few games in 3 seasons I’ve been disappointed in Jimbo’s approach.  He’s been excellent in 3 seasons as the Aggie head coach.

Let’s recap what the 2020 team did:

  • 8-1 record in 9 SEC games with our only loss being to Alabama
  • Orange Bowl Champs
  • Finished #4 in the Country

Read those three bullet points again.  Read them one more time.  That’s an outstanding season.

The best part about last season was how we put teams away in the 4th quarter.  We might have struggled through 3 quarters like against Auburn and North Carolina but when it mattered most we pulled away and won.  That’s the mark of a well-coached team.

I say that because it gives me confidence Jimbo and his staff will continue the development of this year’s team.  That wasn’t a team that won on raw talent.  That was a team that won on good coaching and hard work by the players.

I don’t see any reason why 2021 will be different.  Talent wise we’ll have more raw talent than last season.  We lose a lot of experience at some key positions.  However, we have something carrying over that I believe is the most underrated thing in sports – Player Leadership.  Demarvin Leal is without a doubt the heart and soul of this team.  He’s the leader that demands excellence.  Behind him you have guys like Demani Richardson, Kenyon Green, Isiah Spiller, and Ainias Smith.  I think you can include Leon O’Neal to a degree.  Sure, he makes some bone headed decisions from time to time but for the most part the dude has really developed into a pretty good football player.

Either way you have a lot of guys at the top that just love playing football.  That sets the tone for the rest of the team.  Tom Brady is a decent physical quarterback.  There are much more talented quarterbacks in the NFL.  What he excels at is leading his team and setting the tone they are there to win football games.  If they don’t want to win football games they don’t need to be there.

I see a lot of guys like that on this team and that bodes well for the season.  Great teams tend to have great leaders on the field.  I think we have that for this season.

Offense:

I think we’re going to see more of the same from Jimbo which is good.  No need to mess with what’s working.  Jimbo runs an offense that works with his talent on both sides of the ball.  We have a stable of running backs and a really dominant defense.  Because of that winning time of possession is key.  Wear the other defense down and keep ours fresh.

I like big plays on offense as much as anyone.  I like winning football games more.  Winning “ugly” games is much sexier than losing high scoring contests.

We lose a ton of experience at quarterback and offensive line.  We’re still waiting on great receivers to emerge.  I think we’ll be more talented at each of those positions but experience is a huge part of being successful.  The good news is the people taking over these positions have been in the program for a year or two so they should be prepared.  It may take them a little bit to figure some things out as in game experience is more valuable than anything else.

Hopefully by October 9th they’ve got all the kinks worked out and are hitting on all cylinders.  Yes, that’s when Alabama comes to Kyle Field.  That will be the most important game at Kyle in almost a decade assuming the Aggies get through September.  I’ll detail it out later but you don’t win it all without beating Nick Saban.  It’s just that simple.

Quarterback:

Although Jimbo hasn’t named a starting quarterback I don’t see how it’s not Haynes King.  King took the backup snaps last season behind Mond.  All indications are he’s acting like the starting quarterback.

King is extremely talented and really fast.  That’s what you want in a college quarterback.  Calzada has a complete cannon of an arm but I think King gives Jimbo more flexibility because of his legs.  Don’t be shocked if Calzada turns into a better NFL quarterback but I expect King to be the starter at A&M for his career.  I think after this season Calzada likely transfers somewhere else after 3 years in the program.

I’m not too concerned about King being a redshirt freshman.  The list of freshmen that have done great things as a college quarterback are pretty long.  Names like Manziel, Jameis Winston, Tua Tagovailoa, and Trevor Lawrence come to mind.

No reason King can’t follow those guys because of the talent surrounding him.

There will certainly be some learning curves and some mistakes here and there but in the end I think King will be just fine.  If not, we have Calzada waiting in the wings.  Jimbo has proven he can develop college quarterbacks.

Offensive Line:

This is my biggest question for the 2021 team and it’s because of this question – Was the 2020 offensive line the result of talent finally developing into coaching or was it just because the guys had so much experience with one another?  They had basically played 3 seasons together.

That 2020 offensive line was OUTSTANDING.  I can’t say enough good things about those guys.  We had 4 seniors and Keyon Green. 

I personally believe it was talent developing into coaching.  Because of that I don’t have a lot of concerns with this group.  They’ll take a little time to develop but I’m hoping by October 9th they’re one cohesive unit.

Kenyon Green moves out to left tackle and Layden Robinson takes over at right guard.  These two will be the heart and soul of the unit.  These are two guys that are going to have long NFL careers.

Aki Ogunbiyi looks to start at left guard, Luke Matthews at center, and Jahmir Johnson at right tackle.

Overall this will be a more talented unit than last year.  Ogunbiyi was a highly rated recruit, Matthews has excellent genes, and Johnson was a four year starter at Tennessee before transferring to the Aggies.

Like quarterback there will be some growing pains but I feel good about this bunch.  They’ve all been in the program for a while and I believe in Josh Henson.  I don’t think last year was the result of four seniors just having familiarity with each other.  I think Henson was a major factor in their performance.  Until I see differently I’m going to believe that.

Running Back:

Texas A&M may really have the best running back group in the country.  Alabama is always loaded with running back talent but the Aggies have an impressive group.  At the top is Isiah Spiller.  The dude isn’t splashy but he just churns out yards.  He and the offensive line work really well together as he waits on holes to develop.

Behind him is Devon Achane who was EXTREMELY impressive in his limited carries last season.  He’s a little small but he has good balance and world class speed as we saw in the Orange Bowl.  He’s the perfect compliment to Spiller.

You also have Ainias Smith who you’ll see lined up in the backfield from time to time. 

Behind those guys you have L.J. Johnson who was a four star recruit out of Cypress.  You also have Amari Daniels who was highly rated out of Miami.  Then you have Earnest Crownover who’s 6’3”/220 and has taken some snaps.

It’s a stacked group and next to the defensive line it’s the most talented bunch on the team.

Wide Receiver:

This is the group that still frustrates me the most.  The best pass catcher in Jimbo’s three seasons has been a tight end or slot receiver.  You’ve had Jace Sternberger, Jaylen Wydermyer, and Ainias Smith.  That’s it.  We haven’t had a truly dominant receiver stressing the secondary down the field.

I know Caleb Chapman flashed in the Florida game but he’s struggled to stay healthy.  Hopefully he can get back to the Florida game form AND stay healthy.  He’s played in 3 games in his Aggie career and had 2 big catches. That’s it. He needs to stay healthy. We need a deep threat in the worst way.  It’s crazy to think what this offense has done with no real wide receivers. For one game we saw it but we need a lot more of it.

We’ve been hearing about Baylor Cupp for two seasons but haven’t seen anything.  I know he’s been hurt but this is a guy that’s missed the last three years of football going back to his senior year of high school because of injuries.  I feel bad for him but until he can stay healthy it’s just empty hope of what he can be as a compliment to Wydermyer.

Demond Demas allegedly has all the talent in the world but we haven’t seen any of it on the field.  Promise is one thing.  Production is even more.  He needs to produce on the field.

Chase Lane is serviceable but I don’t think he’s a superstar.  Same thing with Hezekiah Jones.  Jalen Preston came into the program as a heralded four star and hasn’t done anything.

Moose Muhammad and Devin Price are redshirt freshmen with lots of promise.  Hopefully they show up this season.

Yulkeith Brown is a true freshman with lots of speed out of Miami.

The numbers and talent are there but the production isn’t.  I don’t know why that it is but something needs to change if this Aggie team is going to dominate.  We’ve got to have receivers on the outside that can stress the defense down the field.  That has been the biggest change with Nick Saban’s offenses over the last few seasons. 

Alabama now has a fleet of receivers stressing a defense’s secondary rather than just pounding them on the ground.  The Aggies need to do the same.

I’m really hoping the receiving corps takes the same step the offensive line took from 2019 to 2020.  If it does, there’s no reason Texas A&M can’t win the national championship in 2021.

Defense:

I feel REALLY good about this defense.  Demarvin Leal is probably the most underrated football player in college football.  He’s not flashy but the dude does work up and down the defensive line.  His football awareness and technique is off the charts.  He may not rack up gaudy stats but he’s the heart and soul of this defense working to create plays for everyone.  The dude loves playing football and others follow his lead.

Beyond Leal this side of the ball has plenty of talent.  The loss of Buddy Johnson is pretty big but I think there’s enough talent and experience to overcome that loss. 

This defense is going to be damn good.  Beyond Leal on the field the other reason is Mike Elko.  What Elko has done in three seasons as the Aggie Defensive Coordinator has been outstanding.  I don’t see that changing in 2021.  He’s an elite college defensive coordinator.

One positive about the Sooners and Longhorns to the SEC is we might be able to hold onto Mike Elko for another season or two.  I really think college football is about to turn into the haves and have nots.  I think firing coaches and hiring new guys for big money might cool down a bit until the college re-alignment talks slow down a bit.

You’ve got 8 teams left in the Big 12 and it looks like they won’t have a landing spot in any new conferences.  I don’t think the money is there.  I think some other smaller schools are going to be reluctant to give a new head coach a lot of money.  Big schools tend to hire guys with head coaching experience.

I’m not saying Mike Elko will never leave Texas A&M but right now he’s making good money and there’s a lot of uncertainty for a lot of schools.  He may see a guy like Dave Arande and wait a bit before he gets his chance for a more stable school.

Before this Sooner and Longhorn news I would have assumed he’s gone after this season.  I’m not sure of that right now.  That’s good news for the Aggies.

Mike Elko is one of the best defensive coordinators in the country.  The dude is fundamentally sound, makes great in game adjustments, and works well with Jimbo’s overall game plan.  I can’t say enough good things about Mike Elko.  Every national championship team has a great defensive coordinator and A&M has a great one.

Defensive Line:

The Aggie defensive line is just stacked.  Just stacked.  It could be the best in the country.  I’ve talked about Leal already.  He’s going to play up and down the line going from defensive end on running downs and defensive tackle on passing downs.  The dude is a monster.  We won’t have him after this year but that’s fine.  There won’t be anything else for him to prove when he’s done this season.

At defensive tackle we have Jayden Peevy and McKinnley Jackson.  Jackson is currently suspended but I’m hoping he gets things cleared up and is only gone for one game.  He’s a true sophomore but was excellent when he played last season.  He’s got All SEC caliber talent.

Peevy is a super senior and it’s great that he came back.  I’m not sure he’ll play in the NFL but he’s an outstanding defensive tackle for the Aggies.  What he may lack in talent he’ll make up for in experience.

Michael Clemons will start opposite Leal as defensive end.  I really feel this guy is the key to A&M’s national title hopes.  Clemons graduated high school in 2016.  This will be his sixth year on a college campus.  He goes 6’5” and 270 pounds.  He’s 24 years old.  He’s a grown ass man playing college football.

Beyond his numbers the dude is talented.  I think he can really have a Demontre Moore like 2012 season.  A&M has been missing a pass rushing threat since Myles Garrett.  I think Clemons can finally bring that element to an Aggie defense.  Last season he had 4 sacks in 5 games.  If he’s healthy he can bring pressure off the edge that will be disruptive to any offense.  He won’t be Myles but if he can be like Demontre in 2012 that’ll be good enough for me.

Beyond the starting four we’ve got a good group of guys that’s short on experience but plenty talented.  Guys like Tyree Johnson, Donell Harris, Fadill Diggs, Isaiah Rakes, and Adarious Jones.  Jimbo has recruited the defensive line really well in his time in Aggieland.  You need talent and depth at the defensive line in the SEC and the Aggies have that.

Linebackers:

As mentioned the loss of Buddy Johnson is big.  The dude had a nose for the football and made plays as a linebacker.  I don’t think we’ll have anyone be as productive as him but we have some guys that are serviceable.

Aaron Hansford returns for his 6th season on a college campus.  I don’t think he’s as talented as Buddy Johnson but he’s got plenty of experience.  He’s been solid the last two seasons.  I don’t think he’ll make a massive leap but he’ll be a very serviceable linebacker.

Andre White, Jr. takes over for Buddy Johnson in his third year in the program.  He started in the Orange Bowl where he played great.  He had 8 tackles, half a sack, and an interception.  He’s not started a full season but I feel good he’ll be solid.

Linebacker is the unit with the least amount of depth but we have Chris Russell and Edgerrin Cooper backing them up.  They’ve mainly been special teams guys the last few seasons.

All in all I don’t think this will be an outstanding unit but I do think it’ll be a unit that can hold it’s own with the rest of the talent on the defense and Mike Elko’s coaching.

Secondary:

I’m a little torn on this secondary.  I’m not sure if it’ll be serviceable or it will be excellent.  The talent is there to be excellent.

Demani Richardson and Leon O’Neal are the starters at safety just like they’ve been the past two seasons.  Richardson is solid and will likely play on Sundays.  O’Neal has all the talent in the world and seems to be maturing.  He has some brain farts from time to time in coverage and emotion but for the most part he’s damn good.

Myles Jones returns for a fifth season and while I’ve been hard on him I thought he played really solid at corner last season.  He’s not spectacular but if he continues to improve from last season he’ll be fine.

Jaylon Jones returns as a true sophomore at the other corner.  He’s a little short on experience but he’s loaded with talent.  He’s got the ability to be a star but he needs to take that step this season.  I’m hopeful he will.

Antonio Johnson will start at the nickel back and is similar to Jaylon Jones.  A little short on experience but loaded with talent.  I too think he makes a big leap this season.  Erick Young will back up Jonson and he’s loaded with talent as well.  He’s struggled from an assignment standpoint but he adds outstanding depth.

Beyond those guys as key contributors you have guys like Brian George, Tyreek Chappell, Deuce Harmon, Josh Moten, Brian Williams, and Keldrick Carper.  Lots of inexperienced depth but hopefully it’s not needed this season.

We go up against some great receivers this season like Treylon Burks at Arkansas, John Metchie at Alabama, and Kayshon Boutte at LSU.  We also go up against Lane Kiffin’s pass happy offense at Ole Miss and who knows if Mike Leach will get things going at Mississippi State.

This unit is going to get tested.  The talent is there and the limited experience says they should be okay.  We just need them to continually get better.  If the secondary really takes that leap we’re talking about one of the Top 5 defenses in college football.

If the talent and coaching come together this season we’re going to be just fine on this side of the ball.

Season Prediction:

I’m not doing my usual record prediction this season.  The sole reason is this – I feel this Aggie team is good enough to win every game on their schedule.  That’s right, I feel this Aggie team can win the national title.  I doubt they do but for the first time in forever I believe it’s possible.

They still play in the SEC West which is the toughest division in college football.  Arkansas will be better, Ole Miss puts up a ton of points, Mike Leach always snake bites someone that wasn’t expecting it, LSU is still extremely talented, and there’s some guy named Saban who coaches in Tuscaloosa.  If I truly had to wager I’d say this team goes 11-1 this season.  I feel like they’ll get past Bama because Saban seems to struggle against first time athletic quarterbacks.  The Aggies will probably then wind up losing to Ole Miss or LSU.  Most likely LSU because Ole Miss is at home and we’ll just run down their throats to keep their offense off the field.

I want to get past September to see where this team is before I start predicting wins and losses.  I want to see the inexperienced talent develop and execute what the coaching staff wants.  I want to see them put teams away in the 4th quarter.  I want to see running backs churning out yards, a quarterback have time in the pocket, and limited busted plays on defense.  If I see those things I’ll hold true to my 11-1 prediction right now.

As for the national championship here’s an interesting nugget – In 2013 Jimbo Fisher was in his fourth season at Florida State and coming off an Orange Bowl championship.  He had a redshirt freshman quarterback under center and went undefeated winning a national championship.  Can history repeat itself?  It happened once so why not again? 

Interesting Nugget #2 – Did you know every team that won the national championship since 2008 has had to beat Alabama with one exception?  That exception was 2013 when Auburn beat Alabama on the Kick 6 to go to the SEC Championship.  They would beat Missouri and go on to lose to Jimbo’s Florida State team for the national title.  In a way Bama was still a factor as if Auburn didn’t beat them then Bama would have likely played that Florida State team.  For 13 seasons Nick Saban and Alabama have had a direct influence on who won the national championship.  They’ve won 6 of those seasons.  That’s complete dominance of college football.

October 9th can really be a pivotable moment for Aggie football.  If the Aggies can get by Bama then they have a chance to win it all.  No small task but if they can get by Bama the road is paved.

For fun I went back and looked at the national championship winners since 2008.  In 6 of those 13 seasons a team with a pre-season ranking of 5 or worse won the national title.  The most recent team to win a national title with a pre-season ranking of 5 or worse?  The 2019 LSU football team who had a pre-season rank of 6. 

What’s the pre-season ranking of the 2021 Aggies?  6.  Can history repeat itself?  We’ll find out…

Here’s the chart:

Thoughts from the Arkansas Game

On a picturesque Halloween evening at Kyle Field the Aggies played a game against the Arkansas Razorbacks which help test which kind of Aggie fan you are.  If you’re a glass half full Aggie fan you saw an offense absolutely click and a defense that did plenty to beat Arkansas without worry.  If you’re a glass half empty Aggie fan you saw an offense with no explosive plays and a defense that appeared to struggle for most of the game.

I saw an Aggie team beat an opponent without worry that’s given us fits the last few seasons.  This is an Aggie team that can certainly improve but we’re beating teams in convincing fashion and not even playing a perfect game.  This is a damn good football team.  If you’re not happy with how this team played on Saturday night I can’t help you.  You really should quit watching.

Arkansas came into the game with a great game plan.  They wanted to take away Isaiah Spiller and run an offense that had some surprises hoping to pop a few plays for scores.  It’s exactly what I would have done if I was the Arkansas coaching staff.

It looked like it might work.  The Aggies stumbled after a nice run to start the game by Spiller.  Spiller got stuffed on the following play and the next thing you know the Aggies are punting after 4 plays.  Arkansas then gets the ball and drives 87 yards to go up 7-0.  At that point it was a little concerning the Aggies might not be ready for Arkansas.  The Aggies took the next possession and score tying the game.  The Aggies scored two more times to go up 21-7 and there was never really a concern the rest of the game.  The Aggies would lead 28-14 at half and then 42-17 after the third quarter.

I don’t like the final score of 42-31 as the defense allowed two scores while the offense scored none but the entire fourth quarter was spent making sure that lead didn’t get squandered.  You can complain all you want about the Aggies not putting Arkansas away but the reality is Arkansas was put away after 3 quarters.  Other than the first two possessions of the game the Aggies controlled everything after that.  Don’t let the score fool you the Aggies didn’t put Arkansas away.

This is the type of game that Jimbo loves to play.  Get the offense out in front and let the defense keep the opponent in check never giving up big plays.  There’s nothing wrong with that in the SEC.  Jimbo could have taken a chance to completely bury Arkansas but as it was he took the winning without much worry.  I’m okay with that.

Let’s talk about the units.

Offense:

Offensive Line:

I’m starting with what is now the heart and soul of this offense.  These guys are playing outstanding football right now.  I couldn’t be happier with what they’re doing.

It was clear Arkansas wasn’t going to let the Aggies run over them with Isaiah Spiller.  It didn’t matter.  The offensive did their job and did it well.  The running game wasn’t quite as dominant as it was against Florida and Mississippi State.  It was still REALLY good though.  The Aggies racked up 182 yards on the ground averaging 5.1 yards per carry.  In addition, Kellen Mond had time to throw and wasn’t sacked once.

I don’t know what else I can see about this group.  They’re just outstanding.  If they can keep this up the Aggies are going to run the table and likely find themselves in the College Football Playoff.  I’m dead serious about that.  When you have holes to run through and time to throw your offense will score points against anyone.  The offensive line is just doing outstanding work.

Kellen Mond:

This was Kellen Mond’s best game as an Aggie by far.  He was pretty solid against Florida but he was virtually perfect against Arkansas.  He was 21 of 26 for 260 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions.  That’s a completion percentage of 81% and no interceptions.  That’s against a team that had 10 interceptions in 4 games prior to this contest.  They came into Kyle averaging 2.5 interceptions a game and left averaging 2 interceptions a game because Kellen Mond didn’t throw one.

Kellen was just outstanding all night putting balls where they needed to be.  Guys weren’t running wide open either.  There was certainly an element of guys getting separation but Kellen threw some beautiful balls.  His touchdown to Wydermyer was perfect.  Wydermyer certainly had the athletic ability over the Arkansas defender but Mond put the ball where only Wydermyer could get it.  He and Wydermyer are really developing a trust with each other.

In addition to being perfect through the air this was probably Kellen’s best game running the ball.  He only had 6 rushes for 32 yards but he didn’t hesitate when he saw opportunity.  He was just decisive all night through the air and on the ground.  It was refreshing to see him finally play like this the whole game.

While the offensive line is giving him time to throw Kellen appears to have a good timer in his head.  He understands at some point pressure will come so he’s not holding the ball too long waiting for the perfect pass.  He’s trusting the system and play design.  He and the offensive line appear to be working well together.  They understand the amount of time needed to get the ball off.  The offensive line deserves most of the credit for the lack of sacks this season but Kellen does deserve some credit as well.  He’s trusting the pocket and making decisions before pressure finds him.

I’ve seen too much of Kellen to believe this is the Kellen we’ll get the rest of the season.  I’m hoping he won’t fall too far from this place though.  Without a doubt based on five games it does look like Kellen has progressed.  We’ll just have to see where his valley is from here.

Running Backs:

Despite Arkansas committing to slowing him down, Isaiah Spiller had another solid game.  He rushed 21 times for 82 yards but they were hard earned.  He averaged 3.9 yards per carry.  His vision and cutting ability is really outstanding.  His ability to plant and cut makes defenders look silly. 

He’s a true sophomore who looks like a fourth-year senior carrying the ball in the SEC.  He’s just outstanding.  When you can grind out yards despite a defense keying on you it’s really impressive. 

I don’t know what else to say about this guy.  He’s doing for this team what Trayveon Williams did for the 2018 team.  With help from the offensive line he’s just putting this team on his back.

Ainias Smith doesn’t touch the ball much as a running back but he’s the perfect compliment to Spiller.  To use a boxing analogy Spiller is the big right punch the defense keeps looking for.  Smith is that little left-handed jab that doesn’t get thrown very often.  However, when it does it’s effective in surprising the defense.  Smith ran 3 times for 31 yards including a touchdown.  The way Jimbo has been using Spiller and Smith is perfect.

Devon Achane saw his first snaps against Mississippi State.  Against Arkansas he saw 4 carries and made the most of them.  He ripped off a 30-yard touchdown run that didn’t look all that spectacular but it was.  He just hit a hole and then ran straight ahead not letting a defender take him down.  He didn’t throw any major jukes or outrun anyone with his elite speed.  He just hit the hole and ran for paydirt.  Plain, simple, and effective. 

He’s looked good in two brief appearances.  He now has 60 yards on 8 carries for 7.5 yards a carry.  No need to rush him along but he’s offering some good depth.  Let’s hope we just give him 4 rushes a game as that’ll mean Spiller and Smith are healthy.  His time will come.

Wide Receivers:

I wouldn’t define the receiving corps on Saturday night as spectacular but they were certainly REALLY solid.  Wydermyer, Ainias, Chase Lane, and Hezekiah Jones all got fairly equal touches.  Wydermyer was the most dominant catching 6 balls for 92 yards and two touchdowns.  Ainias caught 6 balls for 67 yards and a score.  Chase Lane hauled in 3 balls for 50 yards while Hezekiah Jones caught 5 passes for 47 yards.  Hezekiah should have had 6 catches and at least 60 yards but he dropped an easy ball.  Hopefully he’s just working back from his injury and gets more comfortable catching the ball.

There’s no doubt we all want a dominant go to receiver but Jimbo’s system is working.  We averaged 10 yards per passing attempt on Saturday night.  That’s not 10 yards per completion but 10 yards per passing attempt.  I know we all want the deep ball/big play but if you can average 10 yards every time you throw the ball you don’t need the deep ball.  The defense was focused on shutting down the run and we made them pay through short and immediate routes.

We all want to see what Demond Demas can do but wins are more important.  Let’s not mess with a good thing.  What we have appears to be working.  No need to disrupt it to force the ball to someone who might not be ready.

Overall:

Jimbo seems to have a good feel for what his offense can do.  He also seems to be doing a good job of reading the opponent’s defense.  Against Florida and Mississippi State he just ground them down with the running game.  Against Arkansas he used a balanced attack against someone who was not going to let Spiller beat them.  That’s smart coaching.

He’s not going away from Spiller as he still got 21 carries.  He made sure Arkansas continued to key on him all night by giving him the ball just enough.

The offense appears to be playing with enough understanding and confidence to stay on track.  I don’t see any reason why they won’t.  I’m hoping this offense is like 2018 where they seemed to get a little bit better as the season wore on.

Defense:

I know some people are frustrated with what the defense did on Saturday night.  While there’s some things this defense needs to improve on I think what they’re doing is part of an overall strategy Jimbo has based on their talent.  This defense has two main areas of weakness – 1) Lack of a dominant pass rusher and 2) Inexperienced secondary.

I really think Jimbo and Elko are doing a really good job of understanding the opponent on both sides of the ball and developing a comprehensive game plan. 

Against Florida they ran a lot of base defense not looking to get burned.  Trask carved them up pretty good but they did just enough to win the game.  Against Mississippi state they dropped a lot of guys in coverage but used blitzes at the right time to make Mike Leach’s offense pretty much inept.

Against Arkansas they went back to mainly base defense to make sure they slowed Arkansas down while not giving up the big play.  Arkansas was coming off a bye week and have a pretty solid offensive coordinator in Kendall Briles.  Arkansas gave this defense a bunch of looks they hadn’t seen and tried to attack to some weak points.  Mainly attacking the perimeter with quick pitches. 

Feleipe Franks ran 12 times for 91 yards.  Some of those were designed runs but quite a few were runs were nobody was really open and he had space to run.  He never really burned us on the run despite picking up really good yardage.

I know some people don’t like bend but don’t break defenses but in today’s game of football it’s not a bad strategy at all.  LOTS of defenses are struggling against decent offenses across college football.

The two main statistics I look at by a defense are third down conversions and points surrendered. 

The Aggies were OUTSTANDING on third down conversions as Arkansas only converted 3 of 11 attempts.  That’s 27%.  For 3 quarters the defense only gave up 17 points.  That’s damn good work.

I don’t like the 14 points in the 4th quarter but the defense didn’t want to give up any quick scores where Arkansas felt they had a chance to get back in the game.  Thanks to their efforts through three quarters Arkansas never had a chance to win the game.  The defense deserves a lot of credit for keeping Arkansas out of this game.

There’s area this defense can get better but it’s pretty solid where it is right now.  It seems to be working really well with the offense.

A quick look at the units.

Defensive Line:

Much of the same here but I do want to point out two things:

  1. While they’re missing a true rush specialist they’re doing a pretty good job of applying pressure as a whole unit.  They’re not going to bring immediate pressure but they’re collapsing the pocket so the quarterback doesn’t have forever to throw.  Both Tyree Johnson and Michael Clemons are doing better of getting pressure in passing situations from the outside.  They’re no Myles Garrett but they’re doing a pretty solid job with the lack of blitzes Elko is shying away from.  The only downside is they’re creating running lanes for the quarterback but that’s for the linebackers and safeties to fill and clean up.
  2. DeMarvin Leal is a true leader.  At one point Jayden Peevy was in someone’s face after a play.  Leal coming back into the game from the sideline grabbed Peevy to get him out of the altercation.  The guy is a true sophomore telling a senior to clear his head and not do anything stupid.  It’s little things like this that help a team.  Leal’s physical play is outstanding but his mental game is really impressive for a guy that was playing high school ball two years ago.

Linebacker:

Kind of like the defensive line not much else to say other than Aaron Hansford has been impressive this year.  We don’t miss Anthony Hines one bit.  I think we improved with Hansford on the field.  Hansford is an amazing story of perseverance that every Aggie fan needs to appreciate.  He’s been big for this team.

Secondary:

Like the others where there’s not much to say other than a few items:

  1. Leon O’Neal is so frustrating to watch at times because he pulls some boneheaded moves.  For the most part his play is damn good.  It frustrates me he lets his head get to him at times but he’s playing good ball.  I assume his orange gloves were for Halloween but who knows.
  2. Demani Richardson is the unsung hero of this unit.  We’re in major trouble without him.
  3. Poor Myles Jones had to watch film on Sunday of him missing a Pick Six.  He had the perfect jump and the ball went through his hands.  Great read but you still must make the play.
  4. The targeting call on Antonio Johnson was total BS.  I’m one that is okay with a lot of targeting calls but Antonio didn’t drop his helmet or lower his shoulder.  The flag should have been picked up.  While I’m talking about Antonio it’s clear he’s going to get picked on since he’s a true freshman.  He’s going to have some growing pains but he’s showing some promise.

I think you’re going to see more teams pick on this unit.  It’s a smart play because it’s young and the weakest link of this defense.  We don’t have lock down corners, our safeties get confused in coverage, and we have no dominant pass rush.  However, this unit is light years better than the last two seasons under Jimbo.  It’s got some holes but they’re not nearly as big as they used to be.

Overall:

Until we find a true edge rusher and the young guys in the secondary get healthy and experience this defense isn’t going to be dominant.  I think Jimbo and Elko know that.  With the way the offense is working right now they need to keep doing what they’re doing.  We can win every game left on the schedule with this strategy.  Limit the big plays and get off on third downs.  This defense has shown they can do that under Elko and what they should continue to do.

I still like Elko and this unit all things considered.

Can the Aggies Run the Table:

As of right now the Aggies are playing better than anyone left on their schedule.  The games won’t be easy as there’s some talented teams as well as some road games.  Mond seems to struggle more on the road than at Kyle Field. 

Teams seem to just have bad games so I fully expect the Aggies to go 4-1 over the last five games.  They can absolutely go 5-0 but it’s going to take serious focus.

LSU and especially Auburn scare me the most.  LSU is still talented but they might be throwing in the towel on the season.  We get Auburn after they play Bama so that might work in our favor as well.  We need to get through the next 3 games before we worry about them.

I have no idea what to think on Ole Miss.  I feel like we’ll be able to pound them on the ground and limit their offense enough especially since it’s at Kyle Field.  We could blow them out.

Tennessee is sort of a toss up as they’re not a terrible team but they seem to be exposed. The Aggies are certainly the better team.  Luckily there won’t be 100,000 people in Neyland so that should help Mond.

South Carolina seems like the ultimate trap game to me.  The Aggies are coming off a convincing win, Muschamp isn’t a horrible coach, and they’re coming off a bye week.  The beat Auburn at home thanks to 3 interceptions by Bo Nix and Shi Smith is a pretty good receiver.  If we turn the ball over and Smith gets deep on us they can beat us.  The big issue with South Carolina is they gave up 225 rushing yards to Auburn and 283 rushing yards to LSU.

I think we’ll be fine against South Carolina.  I think Jimbo just leans on the rushing game not giving Mond a chance to turn the ball over through the air.  We can beat South Carolina if we’re focused and play like Jimbo has this team playing. We really just have to worry about getting by the next opponent above anything else. 

There’s no need to worry about what happens if the Aggies go 9-1.  Beat the next opponent and then the opponent after that.  If we get to 9-1 I like our chances to sneak into the College Football Playoff.  At  worst we’ll be the clear second best team in the SEC West if not the entire SEC looking at a major bowl game in Jimbo’s third season.

That indeed will be one of the last steps to Make Aggie Football Great Again.

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We’ll do a re-cap of each game throughout the season along with some other things like game previews for bigger games.

Thoughts From the Florida Game

What a win for the Fightin’ Texas Aggies on Saturday.  What.  A. Win. 

I won’t say that’s a statement win just yet.  There are still 7 games left and the wheels could fall off of this season.  It’s certainly a game that will shut the Jimbo detractors up for at least a month.  Hopefully it does it for eternity where we look back at this game as the day Jimbo made the definitive statement the Aggies have officially arrived.

I’ve been saying this for a while – one of the most important things Jimbo can do to Make Aggie Football Great Again is make Kyle Field a true home field advantage.  Kevin Sumlin was terrible at it.  For whatever reason Sumlin seemed to win his big games on the road and completely spit the bit at Kyle Field.  If the Aggies are truly going to return to a perennial Top 10 team they must win at Kyle Field way more than they lose.  Kyle Field must be a definitive home field advantage.

Jimbo Fisher is now 7-2 in SEC games at Kyle Field.  The two losses are against Alabama and Auburn last season so they’re not terrible losses.  I like the trend so far and hope he can keep it up.  If I had to choose one of beating Bama in Tuscaloosa or Florida at Kyle I’d take beating Florida at Kyle all day long this season. 

I don’t think people understand the importance of making Kyle Field a true home field advantage.  Other than recruiting and developing talent it’s the most important thing Jimbo Fisher can do to sustain long term success as the Aggie head coach.

On Saturday it was a home field advantage without doubt.  Dan Mullen commented on it but it’s impressive in the era of COVID for Kyle Field to help decide the outcome of the game.  That’s a testament to not only the students but the way the team fought back.  The students feed off the team and vice versa.  If the team didn’t kept fighting against the Florida Gators then the students aren’t yelling as loud.  If the students aren’t yelling, the defense might not have a found the will to make a much needed stop on Florida’s final drive.  It’s a beneficial relationship that needs both giving it their all.  That was certainly on display Saturday.

Before I get to the specific units everyone needs to remember the Aggies weren’t even close to playing a perfect game.  They had some stupid penalties which could have ended Florida scoring drives.  Jimbo and his staff had coaching brain farts.  Our running backs put the ball on the ground a couple of times with one of those almost costing us the game.  We also got burned repeatedly through the air. 

Other than the late fumble I think Florida played almost a perfect game yet still lost.  That is thanks to the 12th Man, the talent on this team, and the resiliency by the coaching staff to keep pushing forward to a win.

This whole team can still improve which is a good sign.  They have yet to play their best game where the defense and offense are taking care of the opposition. 

Hopefully they’re still developing to that point.  There’s not a game on this schedule they can’t win.  They can also lose 2 to 3 games if they don’t stay focused.  Hopefully this team understands there’s still work to do and they haven’t yet arrived.

They’re close but they’re not there yet.

Let’s get to the units:

Offense:

I’m starting with the side that played almost a perfect game.  Take away the two fumbles and there’s not much more you can ask of this unit.  This is the offense Jimbo has been working towards and it finally clicked.  Hopefully it keeps clicking.

Offensive Line:

I’ve been the most critical of these guys over the last two seasons.  What they did on Saturday was nothing short of remarkable.  They ground down the Florida defense and imposed their will when it mattered most.  Florida might not be as talented as Alabama or Georgia defensively but they’re damn good.  They’ve got some legit talent in their Front 7 and the Aggie offensive line imposed their will.

I can’t say enough good things about these guys from Saturday.  They weren’t perfect but they were the key to this victory.  If we didn’t run the ball like we did on Saturday we never have a chance to win this game.  We ran the ball because the offensive line took care of the Florida front 7.  It was impressive.

From a pass blocking standpoint they gave Kellen enough time to throw.  They’re not dominant like the 2012 offensive line who gave Johnny time to make sammiches in the pocket but they gave Kellen a pocket he could step up in.  Kellen and this line were pretty in sync where he had a pocket and knew when he needed to step up to buy a little more time.  They worked well together on Saturday.

The unsung heroes of this line are the running backs and tight ends.  They’ve done a tremendous job in either picking up blitzes or chipping at the line of scrimmage before going into their routes.  They do a tremendous job of helping slow down the defensive pressure so the offensive line is not overwhelmed.  Everyone seems to know their assignments and can read the defense.  This has changed drastically how this unit is performing from last season.  Last season they were often lost on who and how to block.

I sure hope these guys can keep this up because I’d love nothing more than to eat a big plate of crow at the end of this season.  I’ll happily eat a little bit right now as I didn’t think they had Saturday’s game in them.  I’m very happy to be wrong about these guys so far.  Keep it up, fellas.

Kellen Mond:

This was the Kellen Mond Jimbo has been building.  Like the offensive line I’m shocked to see it and glad I’m wrong.  He played his best game in an Aggie uniform by far.  I don’t know if he can keep this up but maybe this is the confidence boost he’s been needing.

He was 25 for 35 for 338 yards with 3 touchdowns and no interceptions.  That’s not perfect but it’s DAMN good.  We’ll take that stat line from Kellen Mond every damn game.  I don’t know if he can repeat this the rest of the season but I don’t know why he can’t either.

We’ll just have to see.

If I have one complaint it’s his lack of running ability.  He took off on a couple runs but didn’t gain many yards because he doesn’t have enough shake.  He’s got good straight line speed but he needs some space to get a couple strides going.  He’s certainly not an elusive runner which may explain his desire to stay in the pocket rather than take off.

If he can keep passing like he did on Saturday we won’t need his running ability.

Running Back:

Isaiah Spiller was a complete stud on Saturday.  You can’t say enough about this guy.  He rushed for 174 yards on 27 carries to average 6.4 yards per carry.  His longest run was for 23 yards so that means he was just grinding out yards finding holes and getting yards after contact.  He didn’t get most of his yards on a few long carries.  The dude was taking the rock and finding space and making defenders pay for contact.  He put the ball on the ground once early in the game but he tightened up when it mattered most.  It was a remarkable effort.

He didn’t have a signature run so his performance might not seem that impressive.  It was impressive.  He had a will and he just kept moving the ball forward.  I’m not sure how good he can be but we’re talking about a guy playing in his 16th game as a true sophomore.  He’s still young and seems to get better every game.  Keep on keeping on, Isaiah.

Early in the game I was a little frustrated at Jimbo for not using Ainias Smith more from a running standpoint.  Jimbo was right and I was wrong.  He leaned on Isaiah and it paid off.  There’s a reason I get paid nothing to write this blog and Jimbo pulls in a cool $7.5 million a year.  I’m fine with it.

If Spiller and the offensive line can repeat Saturday it’s going to do wonders for this team.

Wide Receiver:

Holy hell.  We finally completed not one but TWO deep balls to a wide receiver in SEC play.  For one game Jimbo showed us he knows how to use a receiver on a deep route. 

Caleb Chapman had the game of his young Aggie career catching 9 balls for 151 yards and 2 touchdowns.  He saved the best for last catching a beautiful 51-yard touchdown pass to tie the game at 38 late in the fourth quarter.  Unfortunately, he tore is ACL on that play and is out for the rest of the season.  Hopefully there’s some guys on the roster that can pick up where Caleb left off. 

I don’t think it’s coincidence we had our best game on the ground in the same game we hit two deep balls.  Those two things work together causing a defense to defend the entire field.  It’s all a balancing act.

As for the other receivers they were pretty productive as well.  Jimbo really stuck with Chapman, Ainias, Wydermyer, and Chase Lane for the whole game.  There weren’t a lot of substitutions at receiver.

Each of those guys caught 4-5 balls for around 50 yards each.  That’s solid when you can equally spread out 3 guys for ~15 completions and 150 yards between them.  That keeps the defense having to defend the whole field and can’t key in on any single person.  It’s also a strong statement to Mond he was either reading the defense well or he was just spreading the ball around making plays to keep the defense honest.

I like what I’ve seen out of these guys.  I certainly like this unit better than last season’s unit but we need to keep developing.  We need someone to step up for Chapman in a big way.  Hopefully it’s time for Demas to finally step in and live up to his promise.  If it’s not Demas I hope it’s someone else.  We need the deep threat.

Overall:

I don’t see a reason why this offense can’t come close to replicating this performance every game.  They’ve actually done it all three games this season.  Against Florida they just didn’t make the mistakes they did against Vandy and Bama as it relates to turnovers and dropped passes.  It’s that simple.  Don’t make mistakes and this offense can win games for this team.

Defense:

This defense is much better than they showed on Saturday which gives me some hope.  Dan Mullen is an outstanding coach with an outstanding quarterback.  They had a great game plan for our defense.  They were really balanced and used a lot of mid level crossing routes and running backs out of the backfield to sustain drives.

It seemed we were pretty committed to shutting down the running game along with not letting Kyle Pitts beat us.  It was a sound strategy by Mike Elko but Dan Mullen utilized other weapons to keep drives going down the field.  I’m not sure we’ll see an offense better prepared for this defense for the rest of the season except when we play Ole Miss and Auburn.

We missed a lot of tackles on Saturday which his really unlike this defense.  I’m really hoping it was related to Dan Mullen’s scheme where our guys were just a tick slow diagnosing plays.  Tackling is physical but it’s also a little mental.  When you’ve diagnosed the play and in the right position it’s a lot easier to make tackles.

My biggest concern for this defense is not having a repeat of when we beat Tennessee at home in 2016.  They missed a ton of tackles in that game and had to be bailed out by the offense.  The John Chavis lead defenses never seemed to be the same after that game.  It’s not a big concern I have with Elko but it is something to be mindful of.  This team is capable of tackling better and they need to get back to it in coming games.

Defensive Line:

This unit is a little boring but I still believe they’re as solid as they come.  They’re still looking for that dominant playmaker but the way Leal and Clemons flash at times I have some hope.  Tyree Johnson is getting more playing time which I think is a good thing to keep guys fresher so they can flash

It would be nice for one of these guys to break out and start playing like Daylon Mack, Demontre Moore, Justin Madibuike, or even half of what Myles Garrett was.  We need someone who on a play can just decimate the offensive line and get a sack or big tackle for a loss.  I’m thinking DeMarvin Leal is the most likely as he’s still a true sophomore learning his role on this defense.  He’s just so versatile right now playing all over the defensive line.  Once the positions become second nature to him I think you’re going to start seeing this guy dominate offensive lines like those names I mentioned.

Now that we’re beyond Alabama and Florida I’m wondering if Donnell Harris starts getting some snaps to see if he has the raw pass rush talent most people seem to think he has.  If we can add true edge pressure in passing situations it’ll be a major boost for this defense and their struggles to get off the field on third downs.

This unit plays a little boring but make no mistake they’re the core of this defensive unit.  This unit allows Elko to focus on the other areas that need help.

Linebacker:

These guys are much like the defensive line.  They’re solid without being flashy and dominant.  Buddy Johnson lead the team in tackles which shouldn’t be a surprise.  Aaron Hansford has looked good as has Andre White Jr.  We certainly need to upgrade the overall talent with this unit but these guys are really serviceable for now.

If there’s one complaint it’s Buddy Johnson really struggles covering running backs out of the backfield.  Alabama was successful doing it and Florida continued it.  He’s not terrible at recognizing it but he’s just a step behind covering it because he’s built to be a run stopper and not cover running backs.  I think getting Erick Young back and not having a defense focused on defending Alabama’s receivers or a guy like Kyle Pitts will help Buddy.  If not, Buddy is going to continue to see situations where he’s responsible for a running back flaring out of the backfield which is a bad mis-match for us.

I’m curious if Antonio Doyle will start getting snaps like Donnell Harris.  He’s a true freshman as well with All SEC talent.  Hopefully he can add some depth and talent to the team this year as it’s still needed.

Secondary:

Dan Mullen doesn’t have the same weapons as Alabama but he does have an accurate quarterback who makes smart decisions.  Florida had 8 receivers catch 23 passes for 312 yards and 4 touchdowns.  We did a really good job limiting Kyle Pitts but I think it opened up Trask to just find the open guy which he did most of the game.

The worst performer of the day for this unit was Leon O’Neal.  For all the good things he did in the first two games he didn’t do it in this game.  He had two REALLY stupid personal fouls.  He also got picked on for three touchdowns.  One was to Kyle Pitts which isn’t a terrible thing to have happen but the other two it seemed like Florida knew they could fool O’Neal in coverage and took advantage.  He let his emotions get the best of him and that can’t happen.  Hopefully Jimbo and Elko can get him settled down and let him play to his talent.  We don’t need this guy regressing as he’s a key component of this defense if his head is screwed on correctly.

As for the rest of the secondary they were all equal offenders it seems.  Florida simply did a good job of flooding the secondary with a lot of crossing routes.  Since we can’t generate a pass rush Kyle Trask simply had time to find the guy our secondary wasn’t covering.  It’s not a huge knock on our defense but just more of a masterful job by Mullen and Trask attacking our secondary in a smart way.

Demani Richardson is still the heart and soul of this unit.  Jaylon Jones does seem to be getting better every game.  It’ll be nice to get Erick Young back at some point this season.  The talent is there to improve.

Overall:

I still believe in Mike Elko and this defensive unit.  I think we simply have seen them against a REALLY good offensive team in Alabama and a very good offensive mind and quarterback in Mullen and Trask.  This unit is going to get tested on Saturday against Mike Leach but I think they’ll be fine.  Leach got his surprise game against LSU and defenses have an idea of how to defend his Air Raid.  The team that scares me the most right now is Lane Kiffin’s Ole Miss team as they’re putting up points against everyone they’ve played.

Let’s get past Mississippi State first and then we’ll let the rest of the season play out.  There’s still plenty of time to improve the young talent on this defense.

Looking Forward:

At this point I think this is a 7-3 football team at worst.  That’s a HUGE improvement from the first two games.

I don’t expect us to win out even though it’s possible.  We still play in the SEC and this is a pretty inexperienced team with a very inconsistent quarterback.  I really expect us to go 6-1 finishing up at 8-2.  That will likely put as the second-best team in the SEC West.  While I’d love to go 9-1, if you’d told me after the first two games we’d wind up 8-2 I would have asked how to nail that record down. I’m not going to get greedy from a record standpoint just yet.

This is a good football team.  We saw that on Saturday and have seen glimpses against Vandy and Bama.  We just don’t know how consistent they can be. 

We’ll just have to see how the season plays out.  It sure looks a lot different this week than it did this time last week.  Fine by me.

Make Aggie Football Great Again.

#MAFGA

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Thoughts on the Alabama Game

This week’s write up won’t be as long as normal.  This Texas A&M team was never beating Alabama.  Sure, there was technically a chance but Alabama is still immensely talented coming off a 2 loss season.  All Nick Saban does after a 2 loss season is win a national championship.  There’s a good chance this Alabama team doesn’t lose a game all year.  Texas A&M losing to Bama on Saturday will be like 13 other teams this season.

Still, you wish the Aggies could have been more competitive.  There was a fleeting moment when the score was 14-14 and it looked like the Aggies might compete.  Saban quickly squashed that.  Going into halftime the game was pretty much done.

Defense:

Normally I start with the offense but I’m going to start with the defense this week.  I’m not going to do unit breakdowns like I normally do either.

Nick Saban and his staff did an outstanding job of understating the strength and weakness of the Aggie defense.  As we know it’s a strong unit up front but suspect to the pass.  It’s better against the pass than in years past but it’s still got a ways to go.  There are still holes in this secondary. 

Alabama basically used the run to not only set up the pass but set up deep balls.  It was a marvelous job of coaching.  For the most part the Aggie defense bottled up the run.  Bama rushed 28 times for 109 yards and two scores.  That’s a little under 3.9 yards per carry.  That’s not a dominant effort for the Aggies but Alabama has a solid offensive line and an NFL caliber running back in Najee Harris.  Their longest run was 16 yards and Harris himself never ran for more than 6 yards on a single carry.  That’s a decent enough job by our defense up front.

The Bama offense annihilated the Aggie team with deep balls.  Bama did a tremendous job of attacking the weakest people in the secondary.  They went after Myles Jones, Devin Morris, Jaylen Jones, and Keldrick Carper.  Jaylen Jones has plenty of talent but he’s a true freshman playing in his second game.  He wasn’t ready for the talent Alabama has.

Bama had three touchdown passes of 78, 87, and 63 yards.  Each time they just isolated one of their speed burners on a vulnerable Aggie secondary member and Mac Jones hit them in stride.  Credit to Bama for a great game plan and executing.

I thought the defensive line and linebackers did a pretty good job.  They gave the Bama offensive line a lot of trouble for much of the game.  The defensive line had a nice tip and catch interception that could have swayed the game but it didn’t matter in the end.  The linebackers executed most of their assignments but were just playing more talented guys.  Individually, Michael Clemons continues to look like a guy that can create pressure by himself.  There’s certainly some positives for the defense other than the deep touchdowns.

If there’s one gripe I have about this game it’s the lack of blitzes.  I think we blitzed once and that resulted in one of the long touchdown passes.  Maybe Elko was afraid they would get burned again.  Maybe he felt his defensive line was doing a decent enough job getting pressure.  Maybe he though it wouldn’t matter.  He was probably right.  More blitzes wouldn’t have mattered but it would have been nice to see the attempt jus to see what could happen.

While the defense wasn’t without fault in this game the reality is A&M was never winning this game. Bama is just too talented from a team standpoint as a whole and didn’t make mistakes.  You can’t do anything defensively if you can’t force Bama into making mistakes.  Lick your wounds and move on to Florida.

Offense:

Offensive Line:

I must give these guys credit as they seem to have developed beyond last season.  They’re still not that great but they’re a little more serviceable than last year.  Since A&M played from behind most of the game we really couldn’t focus on the running game to see if we could truly get it going.

When it comes to pass blocking they’re doing a better job of engaging defenders.  In years past they would flat out miss defenders.  These guys are getting pushed back but at least they’re slowing the opposing defense down just a little bit.  They still struggle with blitzes though.

This unit still has issues but for now I’m going to leave them alone.  They’ve improved to a degree.  They are who they are.  They’re not going to establish the run against strong SEC defenses.  All you can hope for is for them to give the quarterback some time to throw by engaging the defender while getting pushed back.

I’m dead serious.  Simply engaging the defender rather than miss the defender straight up is an improvement for this unit.  It’s the little things.

Running Backs:

Spiller couldn’t really get going despite 11 attempts for 25 yards.  Really not much to write about here.  The running game was just never going to be in a factor with the way this game played out.  It takes a while to establish the run against a team like Bama and you can’t do that playing behind the whole game.

Hopefully the run game materializes the rest of the season.  I do see some positives with Spiller and Smith getting hand offs.

Wide Receivers:

Ainias Smith became the first non-tight end to have a touchdown reception over 40 yards in SEC play during Jimbo’s tenure.  That was done solely on his athleticism.  He’s a hybrid receiver/running back so we still have no true wide receiver score a touchdown over 40 yards in the SEC over the past three seasons.  Meanwhile Bama had three long touchdown passes in one game.

Just once I’d love to see an Aggie receiver running deep due to busted coverage and get hit it in stride for a touchdown.  I’d be even happier if it was because the receiver is just so talented they can blow by coverage by themselves.  It still hasn’t happened under Jimbo’s watch.  Deep balls remain elusive for this offensive unit when another SEC team is on the schedule.

Ainias Smith was our best receiver on the day catching six balls for 123 yards and two touchdowns.  The dude is a baller.  Wydermyer was our next best pass catcher with 8 receptions for 82 yards. He almost added an amazing catch on the sidelines but couldn’t hold on.  It was good to see him come back after a bad performance against Vandy.

Chase Lane was targeted 11 times but only caught 6 balls for 62 yards.  Some of the passes were uncatchable but at the same time he’s not regularly getting open.  The rest of the unit was basically the same.  Jalen Preston was targeted 5 times and only caught two balls for 27 yards.  He was the target of the interception returned for a touchdown and did nothing to fight for the ball or chase the defender down.

My biggest gripe with this unit for guys not named Smith and Wydermyer is they don’t fight for the ball.  They just don’t adjust and go after balls.  They basically only catch balls if they’re open and it’s a catchable ball.  Other than that, they’re not making much effort.

Demas saw some snaps and the stat sheet shows he was targeted once.  I guess Jimbo is bringing him along slowly but this dude needs to see snaps.  The other true freshman in Price and Muhammed ought to start seeing snaps as well.  I like this unit better than last year’s unit but it’s not by much at this point.  We need to find some guys that will fight for the football.

We’ve got issues with the offensive line and quarterback but these guys aren’t helping either.  At some point we need a true receiver to step up and be a threat the defense must worry about.  It’s not there right now.

Quarterback:

For the first time in Jimbo’s time at A&M I get to talk about two quarterbacks in a game. I feel like Lawrence in Office Space with a million dollars.

Kellen Mond did what Kellen Mond does.  He made some decent passes but he also missed a bunch of passes.  His receivers dropped a couple balls they should have caught.  Statistically he didn’t look bad.  He was 25 of 44 for 318 yards with 3 touchdowns and 1 interception.  The interception was a back breaker as it was a Pick 6 that took the score from 21-14 to 28-14 midway through the second half.  The Aggies would never stand a chance after that play.

A completion percentage of 56% isn’t terrible against Bama but it’s the way Mond does it.  He’ll throw a beautiful ball at times and an ugly pass the next.  He’s terribly inconsistent.  The offense never gained any true momentum.  He simply failed to make plays in the game much like he did all last season against better opponents.  He did nothing to put the team on his shoulders.  He’s a senior and it’s disappointing to watch.

If you stuck around for the whole game you saw Haynes King take the reins for the final offensive drive.  I wasn’t totally surprised to see King take the field over Calzada.  He’s a true freshman but I think his skill set is better served for what this team needs.  Calzada has a cannon but that doesn’t really help if the offensive line can’t block and receivers can’t get open.  King offers mobility.

King didn’t look that great passing but his running was outstanding.  I understand the game was out of reach and Bama was playing a couple backups but King was decisive in running the ball.  That’s what this offense needs.  A quarterback that WILL run.  Mond has the ability but just chooses not to.

King’s final play was an interception in the end zone but I don’t have a problem with it.  He had single coverage with Chase Lane and put the ball where Chase Lane could make a play on it.  Lane didn’t and the Bama defender did.  At some point you must take chances as a quarterback.  Especially with this team.

King doesn’t appear to have the arm that Mond or Calzada has but if he’s smart and accurate it’s more valuable.  Completions matter more than style.

It was a small sample set but I like what I saw out of King.  He appears to have some moxie and you need moxie at quarterback.  You need someone who’s willing to show the team he’s willing to take chances to make plays.  Mond should have developed that by now.

Special Teams:

Seth Small missed what should have been an easy field goal.  Our kick and punt returners fair caught everything.  None of it mattered.

Looking Forward:

I was shocked Jimbo put in King.  That was a HUGE sign he’s looking for something different.  Even if he didn’t want Mond in on that last series he could have put in Calzada.  That’s the safe play and minimizes controversy.

Calzada has been in this program since January of 2019.  That’s almost two seasons.  Jimbo decided to put in the guy who was playing at Longview High School this time last season.  No offense to Longview but it’s a far cry from Longview High School to Tuscaloosa, Alabama in less than 12 months. 

I think it’s pretty telling for what Jimbo sees playing out at quarterback the rest of the season.  I still believe Mond was the best option at quarterback for the last two seasons.  Starkel wasn’t the guy two seasons ago and Calzada didn’t get the back up reps against Bama on Saturday he wasn’t ready last season.

I do think it’s obvious Jimbo put Kellen Mond on notice.  If you’re going to continue to do the same things you’re not going to take snaps.  I’m totally good with that.

I also think by going with King that Jimbo has a better grasp of the offensive issues than we give him credit for. 

My personal belief is that Mond will start against Florida and struggle.  Florida will be up by two touchdowns at half.  King will start the second half and we’ll never look back.  We won’t beat Florida but I think King will do enough to hold on to the starting job.  King won’t be without his struggles as he’ll make plenty of mistakes but it’s time for a youth movement with Aggie football.

I’m just a little shocked Jimbo is willing to go to it so soon.  It’s good to see though as it’s warranted.

It’s time for a youth movement on the offensive side of Aggie football.  Jimbo’s recruited the talent so it’s time for them to all grow up together.  I’d much rather go 5-5 with the younger more talented guys gaining real experience.  I think we could pull off 7 wins if we do it sooner than later.

It’ll be a sacrifice worth making.  Let’s Make Aggie Football Great Again.

#MAFGA

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