Texas A&M football had a rough start. It wasn’t fun, there were a lot of growing pains, but the bumps and bruises will be best for this team in the long run.
As I said last week, this is a team that had truly lost their identity. Two-thirds of the Aggies’ roster is composed of 4-star and 5-star recruits. Still, this team has been playing like a group of misfits at a junior college for an overwhelming majority of this young season. The first half of the Ag’s second straight home game only furthered that trend. The maroon and white took the field Saturday morning with a severe lack of motivation and pride. To say we overlooked Louisiana-Lafayette is an understatement.
To be frank, this team needed a good punch in the mouth. The Raging Cajuns gave them just that Saturday afternoon. On a nationally televised broadcast the home team went into the locker room at halftime trailing an FCS school 21-14.
Oh what I’d give to have been a fly on the wall in the Bright complex for that 15 minute break. Whatever it was that Kevin Sumlin and company said, it did the trick. After the slow start, the Ags came firing out of the locker room to start the second half. They finally showed us glimpses of that team we saw in the first half at the Rose Bowl. The intensity, the passion and the pride that we all associate with Aggie football was finally back.
What changed at half time?
Before that halftime buzzer sounded though, eight of the maroon and white’s first 10 quarters had been brutal to watch this season. With a passing attack that was more putrid than anything I ever saw during the Franchione era, I can’t express enough how nice it was to see Kellen Mond make some major strides in the pocket Saturday afternoon.
That came despite an offensive line that looked lost at times. For those who missed it, O-line guru Jim Turner benched his entire starting lineup during one second half drive. Yet, the freshman signal caller looked like a seasoned vet on a number of throws down field. Granted this was a small sample size against an inferior opponent, but that dynamic play under center provided some much-needed rhythm to the offense.
Mond even ignited some fire in our defense that was desperately needed. It’s hard to walk away from this without getting excited about the 18-year-old freshman’s ceiling as he continues to lead this offense.
How about the defense?
Defensively, it was nice to see Coach Chavis get some adjustments made in the box, particularly at the line of scrimmage. After witnessing the wrecking crew surrender numerous big plays in the first half, the Chief went away from their base 4-3 and 4-2-5 packages and implemented a viscous 3-3-5 base that completely shut the Raging Cajun offense down.
It also (finally) freed up some playing time for the highly recruited Anthony Hines. The freshman phenom made plays all over the field Saturday afternoon and helped the Aggie defense limit the opposition to 82 total yards in the second half. The unit also produced five ULL turnovers including two interceptions by the sensational senior safety Armani Watts as well as a pick-6 for linebacker Tyrel Dodson. For the first time in the calendar year, we looked like a complete football team.
At the end of the day there will be many skeptics outside of College Station who will write off the Aggies after struggling in back to back weeks with FCS opponents. I’ll go ahead and be the first to start fighting the current. I do not care what that scoreboard reads or what the naysayers throughout the country say; be proud of this football team, Ags.
Reasons for optimism remain
In Week 3 the Aggies overcame two quarters of football that were littered in adversity. They had every opportunity to mail it in and say ‘it’s just not our year’. To be able to look yourself in the mirror and say ‘hell no, we are better than this’, is a major step for a young football team. Should we be happy with such a porous first half? Of course not. However I learned long ago that this game is not always about that scoreboard. It’s about the lessons that are learned. This team just learned an invaluable one.
We’ll see if they can carry it over to Jerry’s world next weekend. BTHO Arkansas.