COLLEGE STATION – When will it click for Texas A&M?
Will he come against Arkansas in two weeks in Arlington? What about the Aggies’ trip to take on Nick Saban and No. 1 Alabama in what could be the rematch of the year?
Seriously, when is it going to click for Aggies #6? Better yet, can it? As evidenced by a 17-14 loss to unranked Appalachia State, A&M (1-1) has yet to show why it looks like a top 10 team this season.
And with No. 15 Miami coming to town in a week, the flaws seem to be multiplying instead of diminishing.
“We knew they were a good football team and they played like that,” Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher said after the game. “They played like an experienced group.”
It would be easy to just blame quarterback Haynes King for Saturday’s mistakes at Kyle Field. After struggling to work in midfield in a 31-0 win over Sam Houston, one would imagine the attacking woes were largely down to his struggles.
King was far from consistent, but his supporting cast didn’t do much to help. The Aggies offensive line allowed pressure left and right, forcing King out of his comfort zone. Passes were dropped by receivers regularly. Throws were either knocked down or knocked down like clockwork.
Apart from a few big runs, A&M’s offense was stale. Running back Devon Achane’s 26-yard touchdown run in the second quarter was the second-longest play from scrimmage. The longest — a 31-yard springboard from King on third down — also marked the quarterback’s only positive play all afternoon.
If there was ever any attacking momentum, negative play hampered the outcome moments later. King joined Ainias Smith for a six-point gain in the third quarter. Three plays later, A&M would kick near midfield. King found receiver Evan Stewart for a first down, only to see him fumble trying to gain a few more yards after contact.
King, who completed 13 of 20 passes for 97 yards, averaged 4.9 yards per throw. Outside of Achane’s breakaway run, he averaged 4.4 yards that day. Five receivers were targeted on passing plays. Only Stewart and Smith have recorded more than two captures.
With just over eight minutes into the fourth quarter, A&M had played in Appalachian state territory twice. It wasn’t in half time either, but rather in the whole match.
The Aggies had just six first downs before King’s last down. Even then, A&M fans could only groan as they watched kicker Caden Davis throw in a 47-yard attempt that would have tied the game with just under four minutes left.
“We will evaluate everything,” Fisher said. “It’s not just on the offensive line. Everyone has taken turns. And when you only have eight possessions, that can happen [to you].”
Should we be mad at the defence? Despite holding the fast-paced Mountaineers (1-1) to a season low, the Aggies gave up far too many free yards. A pair of face mask calls led to a 4-yard touchdown run from App State’s Ahmani Marshall. A pass interference call on defensive back Antonio Johnson led to a 29-yard field goal by Michael Hughes.
The Mountaineers had 22 first downs to A&M’s nine. They beat the Aggies 315-186. They ran 45 games longer than A&M and owned the time of possession (41:30-18:30).
A&M finished with four fumbles and two turnovers. Appalachia State has never lost football. The Aggies’ longest ride lasted just over four minutes. The mountaineers had four training sessions that lasted more than six.
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“We got hurt,” Johnson said. “We had penalties and a list of miscommunications and missed missions. Honestly, that was just on us.”
The statistics will tell one side of the story. The eyes of the faithful of A&M will tell another. The Aggies lost most of the game offensively. They were undisciplined in defense. And if it wasn’t for a few breaks in favor of the home team, A&M would likely have lost by double digits.
Achane scored on a 95-yard kickoff return with minutes left in the third quarter. Had the climbers wrapped it at the 25 meter line as planned, who knows if A&M would have topped the 50 on the next ride?
“We still have a chance to have a really good football team,” Fisher said. “We have to be face down, locked up and coaching the devil of [our players] and get them to play well.”
As the Aggies left the field, the boos grew louder. Several fans in the front row chanted “We want [Max] Johnson,” hoping Fisher would listen and consider appealing for the transfer from LSU next week. A fan yelled at freshman quarterback Conner Weigman, “Tell Jimbo you gotta start next week!”
The players were visibly upset. One threw his helmet against the tunnel wall, watching him bounce a few feet down the slope. Another shouted “They suck. How did we lose?” while a third bellowed “how does this keep happening every year!”
Fans can blame the quarterback, offensive line, or point guard. They can call for a one-position switch, hoping things will change with a new face leading the charge.
There is no I in “the team” as the saying goes. Nor is there any “loss”. It was a collective effort. And while Fisher will take the fall at the helm, he wasn’t the only one in the embarrassment that happened at home in front of more than 92,000 disappointed fans.
Miami scored over 100 points in two games. Arkansas has posted more than 30 points in consecutive weeks. Alabama, which narrowly escaped the upset of the decade against “the other” Texas-based program, can fire up the jets any Saturday.
These teams are next on the Texas A&M role. They’re not slowing down waiting for the Aggies’ play to catch up for better grades. Not when a college football playoff hit is on the line.
At some point, teams rise to the occasion or sink to the bottom with no light in sight. What will be the result of Texas A&M?
More importantly, when will it finally click?
“We are about to see if we really want to play football or not,” said Achane. “From tomorrow we better be locked down… we still have a lot of football left in the season. It’s time to see how we react.”
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