The offseason feels longer when you anticipate good things. We had tickets to the first game of 2014, and that summer felt like an eternity. It was the first time I ever dreamed of a football game. August 28, 2014 was an occasion for many debuts; that of A&M post-Johnny; of Kenny Hill; of Myles Garrett; of Speedy Noil; of the SEC Network itself. The rout that ensued of what was at that time a top-10 South Carolina squad by the Aggies was quite literally better than anything I had dreamed. 52-28. Armani Watts jarring loose the ball from Nick Jones’s grasp with a huge hit, and later picking off Dylan Thompson. Hill running a speed option to the short side of the field for a touchdown. Edward Pope skying for an unbelievable catch and score at the end of the half. And capping it all off with a long, sustained drive that ended with a kneeldown in the opponent’s red zone. Someone at school asked me the next day if Hill was really that good, and I nodded confidently, saying that’s just what Sumlin does with his QBs.
The highs precipitate the lows in college football. That’s the nature of something that continues on and is subject to change. Too often, we let the lows dictate how we view those highs. The lowest moment yet since the Aggies joined the SEC was forthcoming that same season; but it still did not—and has not—sullied that moment for me. August 28, 2014, was and continues to be a perfect night of Texas A&M football for me.
The next perfect night happened in 2021.
That summer before the season felt as unnaturally protracted as Haynes King’s throwing motion (sorry). My work had taken me to Texas, and I had secured season tickets for what I was sure to be a remarkable encore to the season we had just had. It didn’t take long for the cracks to show in the foundation, however. In just the second game after Mond, who barely ever missed a snap with injury, let alone multiple games, our new starter had broken his leg. And the new guy didn’t inspire much confidence.
As we had planned before the season, my dad flew out to see me and come to the Mississippi State game that year. Though we had just suffered a loss to Arkansas for the first time since joining the conference, I thought we pretty much had Leach and the Air Raid figured out, given our performance against them in the previous year.
We did not.
As my dad and I exited Kyle Field following Calzada’s game-sealing safety, I wondered briefly if the aforementioned cynicism he sometimes displayed was a more realistic way of approaching Texas A&M football. Things are different now, though, I thought to myself. As we drove away from College Station, my dad asked me if I was still planning on going to the Alabama game the following week. I responded that I was; it was the one game on the schedule my wife really wanted to see. I think I quipped that it may end up worse than 2014, but that we could just leave early if so. He said something about two-percenters.
Roughly one week from that exact moment, I was screaming louder than I ever had in my life as Seth Small’s kick miraculously curved back through the uprights. Our seats were at the worst angle possible for a viewer hoping to tell if a kick was good at that end of the field, so I was forced to go by the reaction of the crowd. The seats beside me were empty; vacated by Alabama fans who had packed up their stuff once Jalen Wydermyer drew the pass interference flag two plays prior. My wife later told me she was certain I was going to pass out from all the hollering and jumping around.
We didn’t make our way down to the field, because I wanted too much to get to the car and get out of dodge; mainly, because I couldn’t wait to come back home and watch the replay of the game. I could not begin to count how many times I have watched it since then. It was another perfect night of Texas A&M football.
As it turns out, that was as good as it was going to get.