Friday, September 28, 2012

5 Reasons the Aggies Should Cook the Hogs This Week

Sick jorts, bro
Look what we have here, ladies and gentlemen: Trey Bahney is back! Apparently people do have real jobs that require real time to really work at. Trey offers up why he thinks the Aggies take care of business tomorrow at Kyle Field:

#1 Coaching: John L. Smith is still very much an enigma to many Aggies out there, but let me give you a little bit of back story to this crazy kook (as seen in the previous post). At the peak of his coaching career, he was hired as the Michigan State head coach. After missing bowl games the last three years of his four year stint, he was replaced by Mark Dantonio. As any coach who is recently fired from a high profile school does, he went into broadcasting for two years. Finally, in '09 he was hired on to coach special teams for Arkansas. Now, stay with me here, this offseason he left Arkansas to become the head coach at Weber State (his alma mater) only to turn around a couple months later and replace Petrino as the “interim head coach”. Oh yea, and he filed for bankruptcy earlier this month.

All that aside, you’re looking at a defensive coach who was doing special teams taking over for an offensive genius. You know who has struggled the most with this change in leadership? Every single aspect of their team. The offense doesn't work because they don’t have the guru calling the correct plays, the defense doesn't work because everyone is spending time trying to figure out the offense, and the special teams doesn't work because they've lost hope in the team.

#2 Christine Michael: He ran for 230 yards and 3 touchdowns against Arkansas last year while splitting time with Cyrus (95 yards and 2 TDs). I don’t care about him being in the doghouse the last two weeks, he is a senior and he’s not going to miss the opportunity to run over this defense again.

#3 Jarius White is in the NFL: The guy torched us for 281 receiving yards last year. It was a school record and a total embarrassment to our defense. Now he is in the NFL and we just have to worry about Cobi Hamilton (303 yards and 3 TDs last week against Rutgers).

#4 JFF is taking care of the ball: Last year, we practically gave away the game by turning the ball over and giving Arkansas opportunity after opportunity. All the yards he has gained aside, Johnny has taken care of the football and that will be very important if the game turns into a shootout.

#5 Kyle Field: The fans are hungry, the team is hungry, and Arkansas is just happy to be away from home where they have disappointed their home fans three weeks in a row. The problem with that is this is their first road game of the season. The 12th Man will feast on the opportunity to terrorize the already shaky psyche of a team spiraling downhill.

Look, Arkansas has the athletes to compete with this team, but they don’t have the heart right now. Sumlin’s offensive system is to speed up when you’re scoring. This is a “step on the throat” approach that was missing in years past. When the opposing team is down, take advantage and finish the job. My prediction is 45 - 24 Ags with C-Mike going for 100+ yards and 2 TDs.

P.S. The world is headed for a bacon shortage so stuff your face with bacon this weekend and wash it down with a big glass of maroon kool-aid.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Bigger... Better?

Reports came out today announcing the results of the study commissioned to research the effects of renovating every Aggie's favorite make-out spot, Kyle Field.

In short, the University is willing to spend nearly half a billion dollars, the stadium capacity may be increased to somewhere in the vicinity of 102,500, and the construction could be done in phases over a period of three years.

Sign me up.

I have made light of the A&M/UT rivalry over the past few months, partly because I know people that would rather have the largest stadium in Texas than the largest in the SEC. It makes sense - all of us bleed maroon, so naturally we want to be better than UT, in anything, at all costs (even half a billion dollars!)

The best thing about this news, however, is that not only would Kyle Field be the largest stadium in Texas, but also in the SEC.

And to that, I say hell yes.

During the conference/head coach/athletic director shuffle of the past year we have heard Texas A&M referred to as a "sleeping giant". Those using the term looked at the size of the school, the passionate fan base, the geographic location, and the resources of the University when saying Texas A&M had the potential to be a national power.

News like these renovations are proof that this football program and university are waking up, and that the administration and the Board are willing to do what it takes to field a winning football team.

Before I get ahead of myself, I acknowledge that a huge state-of-the-art football stadium doesn't equal success on the field. Tennessee, Alabama, UT, Michigan, et al have endured rough stretches over various parts of the last decade. (Take note, Baylor fans - don't bite off more than you can chew!)

However, in the situation of Kyle Field, having a stadium that gives a fan base already recognized as the loudest in America the opportunity to fit in another 20,000 people (about 25% of current capacity) makes the visit for opposing teams that much more difficult, and also impresses the heck out of recruits. That should not be understated. An awe-inspiring Kyle Field would be added to the growing list of things the Aggies have going in their favor in the eyes of recruits.

This is also about us - imagine our gameday experience as the 12th Man with 100,000+. It remains to be seen exactly what the renovations will actually result in, as well as how much it will cost. I'm trying not to get too excited here, but stadiums are a distinct bragging point for the fans of any serious football school, and ours just got a big green light to go get itself a nice little face lift.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The week of the powderpuff, scheduling, and other tidbits

Winning cures all.  A heartbreaking loss to Florida was all but forgotten after a wonderful thumping of SMU.  The Aggies looked great, and once again, all is well in Aggieland.

And then comes the week of the powderpuff (the first of two powderpuff weekends to be exact).  I define a powderpuff as a sure-fire, run-up-the-score win; South Carolina State is most definitely a powderpuff. 

Powderpuff weeks are weird.  The buildup just isn’t there.  But honestly, with this team, I think it is exactly what we need.  Little to no tension this week, just a calm, steady confidence.  Show up at Kyle Field, pile up some stats, flex your muscles, and leave with a nice (albeit inflated) 2 – 1 record.

Did you know that if a team plays TWO division II schools they need SEVEN wins to become bowl eligible?  I honestly didn’t know this little tidbit until dissecting our schedule prior to the season.  I suppose this is somewhat of a moot point given that the extra powderpuff game essentially equals an extra win.  But would you not rather use that extra game to play the likes of University of Houston (post Kevin Sumlin and Case Keenum, obviously) or some other geographically advantageous school like Rice?  Not quite powderpuff games, but very winnable games nonetheless.

SMU was not a powderpuff, they went to a bowl game last year, June Jones is a quality coach, and the artist formerly known as Garrett Gilbert is a talented, quarterback.  The Aggies took care of business.  Don’t take those wins for granted… Arkansas definitely doesn’t anymore.

Speaking of geographically advantageous games, I really enjoyed the home and away with SMU.  I was not a fan of the home and away (or half neutral) with Louisiana Tech.  Just a little gift left behind by Bill Byrne.  Granted the hurricane serves as the main reason for this disdain, I am still not a fan of being at the will of the not-so-worthwhile WAC commissioner.  Obviously, I am still upset.

Ok, moving beyond the angst towards an event that was out of my control and solely the act of Mother Nature.  Is a home and away agreement with a lower class (don’t get me wrong, LA Tech is good this year, though) Louisiana team worthwhile?  Are we required to agree to a home and away for such things?  Honestly, I don’t know how these arrangements are done?  I know this is about money and payouts, but are there set guidelines or is this just a “make it up as we go along” thing?  Obviously, we don’t have to go to Sam Houston State next year, but could we have gotten the SMU team to agree to one game at Kyle Field, a guaranteed payout with not strings attached?

I should defer to higher sources on these questions.

So the Aggies are 1 – 1 with some good momentum.  A competitive showing against Florida, a thumping of SMU, a soon to be thumping of South Carolina State and then a great matchup with an Arkansas team led by the disaster formerly known as John L. Smith.  If I were Arkansas I would be clamoring for the good old days of Petrino and his motorcycle coed club.  I can only hope an era is coming to an end in Arkansas.

Despite my jabs at Arkansas it is far from a guaranteed win.  If Tyler Wilson is able to return, he undoubtedly has the leadership and skill set to get the team back on their feat despite John L.  No guarantees, but I am definitely not counting my kitchens before they hatch.

All in all, my mood is pretty good. 

And guess what?

Despite the SEC gauntlet that looms, I think we have found ourselves a quarterback.

A quarterback that is worthy of starting in my cutthroat college fantasy football league.  A quarterback that can be the face of our University during this transition into the SEC.  A quarterback with the true gift of “swagger”.  The kind of quarterback that begs the crowd for more and wants to rise to the occasion.  He is winning me over.  Really quickly.  A week ago I would only refer to him as our redshirt freshmen quarterback, but today… he is a winner… and winning makes me smile. 

Gig ‘em Johnny Manziel.     

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Don't do bath salts, kids. Or take the job at Arkansas.

Yeah, Arkansas totally had a shot at the BCS National Championship with this guy running the show. Thank you, Aggie Jesus, for giving us Kevin Sumlin, and not John L. Smith.

Friday, September 14, 2012


After the buildup and letdown of last Saturday’s game against the Florida Gators, I honestly didn't have the drive to write anything about it. I thought about jerking my knee and letting out some frustration that night, but decided a night’s sleep would do me right. That one night turned into six, but hey, here I am.

I may have been 1,600 miles from Kyle Field, but I don’t remember an Aggie game draining me like that one did. I have witnessed my fair share of disappointing losses over the years, but none killed my buzz more than Saturday. Why?

We can spin the narrative any way we want – the potential we saw in Johnny Manziel, the strong effort turned in by the defensive front, the electric atmosphere – but at the end of the day, a loss is a loss, and the Florida loss largely resembled so many losses of the recent past.

I’m all for finding the silver linings in tough situations, and let’s not get too beaten down, because we all saw a few on Saturday. Based on one game, I’d say there is hope for a respectable season in 2012. A&M has the talent to compete against most teams in the SEC. They proved that on Saturday.

I was worried the Aggies would come out and lay an egg, and play right into the prophecies of A&M not being ready for the SEC. I was happy they didn’t. But why did this loss still sting so much?

After some thought, it’s the big picture that is eating at me: has a program this big, with this much potential, ever been so starved for a statement win?

Think about it. When was the last time the Aggies came out and really kicked ass from start to finish? When was the last time they actually surprised us?

They did once in 2010, beating a good Oklahoma team at home. (I don’t consider Nebraska a signature win – Taylor Martinez got hurt, and the final score was 9-6. Good win that was fun to witness, but not necessarily dominant.) They did once in 2007, sending Fran off to the badlands with a sound victory against Texas.

So in the last five years, the Aggies have a whopping TWO statement wins, where the offense and defense both played to their potential and delivered the fans with something to really get excited about.

A&M has had so many chances for so many more: against Arkansas and Oklahoma State the last three years, Texas the last two, and LSU in the 2010 Cotton Bowl. That’s nine incredible opportunities to show the nation just what this program is capable of, and ultimately nine major letdowns.

It’s not necessarily the losses themselves that irk me. It’s that I know this team can win these games. It has the talent, it has the coaches, and it has the fan support. It’s the wasted opportunities that hurt the most – when your team is capable of great things, but for some reason just can’t get it done.

Saturday against Florida was another opportunity for a statement win. The table was set. Win the game, and you’ve officially put the SEC on alert that you’re a team to really be reckoned with. Lose the game, and all of a sudden the climb just got significantly steeper.

The SMU game is a chance to take a step in the right direction. I’d like to see the Aggies come out and absolutely smoke the Mustangs on Saturday, and then take out some more frustration on South Carolina State the following week.

I’m tired of this program running in motion. I’m ready for them to take on a destructive mentality, to absolutely obliterate opponents. Do that these two weeks, and then make it happen against Arkansas on September 29th.

We need it.

Monday, September 10, 2012

It Wasn't the Worst Loss Ever

I went to the game.  It turned out painful (like every loss does).  And since I walked out of the stadium, I have pretty much blocked it out of my mind.  I have not read nor watched anything since.  I wanted to let the game clear from mind, then revisit the happenings.  I didn’t want to let any sugar coated tex ag columns (or any column for that matter) cloud my disappointment.  

I truly believe that some good things happened on Saturday and our redshirt freshmen quarterback did well all things considered.  But you don't step onto the field to make "some" good things happen and merely "do your best," you step on the field to win.  With that being said…

My assessments might be wrong, they might be premature, they might be emotional… but hey, that's why I am here.

It definitely wasn’t the worst loss ever, that’s for sure.  Given our redshirt freshmen quarterback and our entrance into the SEC, the expectations were tempered.  Last year was WAY worse.  Can we consider that somewhat demented view as progress?  Maybe.  Probably not.

This one hurt, because the game was winnable on all accounts.  Florida’s defense is REALLY fast and REALLY good overall.  Our redshirt quarterback is fast and pretty darn good overall.  But pretty darn good is usually a euphemism for “not quite enough.”  The QB draw and QB scramble worked well in the first half, but when the Florida D realized that was all we had… they adapted.  I understand a conservative game plan given the situation, but that doesn’t mean I have to love it. 

I am still happy with Sumlin.  And I am honestly still happy with our redshirt freshmen quarterback.  They both showed some guts.  One question that looms in my mind is this: was our super conservative offense mainly due to play-calling, or due to our redshirt freshmen quarterback not having the confidence nor experience to make a pass that wasn’t a screen or bubble route.  Did the Aggies complete a pass greater than five yards in which the receiver was moving forward when he caught the ball?  I don’t remember one.  And that bothers me.  I was in the crowd, so my view was definitely sketchy at best.  But where were the five yard slant routes… that is a relatively elementary pass right?  I wasn’t expecting a bunch of deep post routes or fifteen yard out routes.  But some medium range stuff across the middle… that could have been done right? 

Our defense looked good.  We held our SEC opponent to 20 points.  Solid.  Granted Florida’s offense is mediocre, the outcome was nothing to scoff at.  I loved the pass rush and I sure hope it continues when we face the teams that are more equipped to handle it.  Thank you defense for keeping it close.

Overall, it was probably a good national showing, and that is worth something.  The score was close (heck, it is better than it being ridiculous).  The individuals who watched it on TV said they were quite complementary of A&M.  I can only imagine the redshirt freshmen quarterback love fest that must have gone on at halftime.  For a brief moment in time our redshirt freshmen quarterback was a hit (and still might be). 

It is always hard to look back on any game that puts a tally mark in the loss column.  College football is ALL about the wins and losses.  There is no draft pick to look forward to; just the thought of missed opportunities.

Great weekend, ho-hum game

If you hadn’t noticed, I used the term redshirt freshmen quarterback a lot.  Well, at the end of the day, that is what he is.  And I have to remember that.  Patience isn’t my strong suit, but it is what this season will require.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

A Weekend in College Station: Retro Diary

First Aggie football game of the 2012 season.  First SEC game EVER.  College GameDay in College Station.  Any ONE of those three things is a worthy weekend.  All three of them together?  That is a mind-numbing lineup.

I was fortunate enough to have purchased a season ticket this year… and I am proud to say I will be there on September 8th when the jets fly over and the Aggies begin a new life in the SEC. 

It will be a memorable 36 hours to say the least and I will be drinking ALL the kool-aid until kickoff at 2:30 pm.

In honor of the weekend, I have created a retro diary (starting before I leave for College Station on Friday) of the actual happenings of my weekend.  Many of the happenings may be covered in a fuzzy haze, but I shall attempt to scatter as much insight into the true emotions of the weekend; from my distinct friend circle, to the overall feel of College Station.  Gig ‘em.

Tuesday, September 4th – Friday, September 7th – Lost countless hours of work productivity as my friends and I swapped hundreds and hundreds of emails planning our once-a-year, slobberfest of a tailgate in Spence Park.  The common theme amongst the group has been “are we SEC ready?” 

And I can only hope the players and coaches put in as much time into actual football strategy as we put into how to make the PERFECT jelloshot.  My influence on the weekend is limited to positive energy and libation creativity.

Friday – 9:45 am – As expected the clock is crawling… the only thing I can do to prepare myself while I work is drink water and pee.  12 ounces down.  Looking to get to 100 ounces before I bolt.

Friday – 10:15 am – Ran into a fellow Aggie coworker in the bathroom (he wasn’t wearing an Aggie polo to casual Friday… bummed me out a bit) and I gleefully spouted out “Gameday, baby, you ready?” he responded with, “it’s Friday, the game is tomorrow” and as he walked out, I thought to myself… he is NOT SEC ready.

Friday – 2:00 pm – Excitement is overwhelmingly, requested to leave work early, request granted, still drinking water… still peeing.

Friday – 4:30 pm – Packed up, on the road… College Station here we come!

Friday – 7:30 pm – The gathering of friends brings the excitement to a whole new level, burgers and drinks are enjoyed.  There is truly something special about a football weekend at your alma mater.  Every time I return to College Station for a football game, I count my blessings that I went to such an awesome University (this sentimental notion usually changes by the end of the actual game).

Friday – 10:00 pm to Sleepy time – Northgate is humming.  I honestly forgot how insane that place gets on a huge weekend.  The bars are packed, the streets are packed; College Station feels invincible.  The Florida fans definitely showed up.  It might have been the largest number of opposing fans I have ever seen make the pilgrimage to College Station (save for maybe Nebraska a couple years back) in my time as a student and recent graduate. 

And on this note, I was talking with a buddy of mine, and maybe we were just looking for a reason to bash our old friends in the Big 12, but am I crazy to think that they (as a conference) are significantly below average as far as traveling fans.  Let’s point at Baylor for example; they are ninety miles away, yet I don’t remember any memorable College Station sporting events involving Baylor fans.  But then again, what am I supposed to expect from Baylor.  Baylor is lame. 

It was a great night.  And since I am writing this section with the hindsight of knowing the result of the game, I will definitely defer most of my thoughts to what happened BEFORE the game, which brings me to…

Saturday – 8:30 am – My friends and I were hosting on our tailgate for this special occasion so we were up bright and early to get the shenanigans started.  The weather was a pleasant surprise, and the faint smell of barbecue in the air gave me that warm fuzzy feeling inside.

Saturday – 9:30 am – I wandered my way over to the College GameDay set at Simpson Drill Field.  It was a pretty cool to sight to see, but ultimately underwhelming.  Unless you are in the front row and have the mindset to scream and yell for an hour straight, I think the entire production is probably a little cooler on TV.  But then again, the reason it is cool on TV is seeing all the fans going nuts.  So just chalk this one up on me being lazy AND being preoccupied with the jello shots that were for me waiting back at the tailgate.

Saturday – 1 pm – The tailgate was a success, and based upon my brief observations and the rumblings of others, ALL the tailgates were a great success.  I mean can a tailgate actually be a failure?   I don’t think so.  Not as long as you have excited fans, libations, and meat.  That is a trifecta made in Heaven.

Another facet of the tailgating atmosphere was the solid showing (slash attitude) of the Gator fans.  Save for a couple of annoying drunks I came across in the South end zone during the game, I was thoroughly impressed with the culture they brought with them.  And from the ones I spoke with… they were definitely impressed with Texas A&M.   The Aggies put their best foot forward and I think our true southern/SEC nature showed.

Saturday – 2:00 pm to 2:30 pm  – It was an absolute madhouse to get into the field.  My dumb friends were slow to get moving and in order to avoid any personal blame I deem them completely responsible for me missing the fly over, the pump up videos, and the intros.  I should have known at that very moment what was about to ensue.

Saturday – 2:31 pm – the game starts…

Everyone knows what happened… there is no reason to walk you through the pain again in a step by step fashion.  

My thoughts on the game, after a word from our sponsors.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Panoramic View on Kyle Field

You really need to check this out. Like, now. Copy the link and paste it into your browser. So freaking cool. Hats off to the guys who thought of this. If I can't be on the field right now, this will definitely do.

Greed Is Good

“The point is, ladies and gentlemen, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind.”

- Michael Douglas, as Gordon Gekko in Wall Street (1987)

During lunch, as I was perusing twitter and generally attempting to block out work-talk, I stumbled across this gem from Rant Sports, which uncovered Texas A&M’s clandestine attempt at claiming a few more national and conference championships in football. Bottom line, the claims on the national championships are one thing, as many schools claim titles in years when multiple teams went undefeated (but the BCS figured that all out, right?). However, the claims on the Big 12 titles from 1997 and 2010 are downright bogus. If you’re trying to remember those conference championship games, stop while you're ahead. The Aggies got killed in the Big 12 Championship in ’97, and didn’t even get to the title game in ’10.

The bogus conference titles are disgraceful, but this is just another example of the University’s attitude in recent years.

I can’t quite put my thumb on when or where it started, but is anyone getting the sense that Texas A&M has become excessively greedy?

I believe the root of the administration’s behavior recently is somehow related to the inferiority complex Texas A&M has displayed for years when compared to the University of Texas. Look, nobody likes being treated like a little brother, but the fact of the matter is the University of Texas has enjoyed considerable athletic success over the past decade, which has led to certain profitable commercial ventures.

When UT trotted out an agreement with ESPN to develop its own TV network, I stood 100% by Texas A&M’s outrage at being treated unfairly. I wholeheartedly supported moving to the SEC based on the Aggies’ being snubbed like that.

But now that there really isn’t any pressure to directly “compete” with UT on any level other than recruiting, what motivation has been behind the decisions made by the administration lately?

A calm head coach, who had actually built up a pretty solid program, but wasn’t “sexy”? He got fired.

An athletic director, who had followed through on his “Building Champions” campaign in nearly every sport other than football? He was forced out.

A national championship and 17 conference championships? So embarrassing that we felt the need to sneak in a few more by our own volition.

A hallowed stadium, revered by the fan base for decades as being one of the “pure” venues to watch a college football game, fresh off additions like a monster video screen with complimentary ribbon boards? On itsway to being renovated, chock full of luxury suites and seats too expensive for many of the fans who form the backbone of the 12th Man to afford.

A high school football game featuring a few recruits the Aggies are interested in, two nights before arguably the biggest game in the last 15 years? Attended by our head coach, who subtly arrived in a helicopter.

A lucrative agreement with Coca-Cola, the beverage choice of (roughly) 100% of the South? Abandoned, for a greater “opportunity” with Pepsi.

I could go on, but I think you get the point.

Somehow, Texas A&M University, like the wife who puts on 20 pounds but you don’t really notice because you love her so much and see her as the girl she was when you first met, is no longer the humble, lovable school we all adore. The school has become an egotistical, entitled, money-printing machine.

And none of us noticed, because we all wanted to join the SEC, and then get all the toys that come with being in the SEC.

We have to have a bigger stadium. We need to make a splash in recruiting. We must get a more exciting coach.

I don’t necessarily disagree with these decisions – some of them were moves that needed to be made. But the red flags keep piling up, and the administration is going to use the “SEC” excuse as long as we let them. Texas A&M has fundamentally changed under the leadership of R. Bowen Loftin. Whether it’s him making the calls or not, the bottom line is the University is becoming greedier by the day.

I’m fine with that, but it better result in the football team actually winning conference and national championships.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Calm Before the Storm

Typically, on most Thursday evenings of the past few years, I would find myself at College Station's finest dining establishment, Republic, enjoying either a cold Shiner or a handcrafted cocktail ordered on the recommendation of the best bartender in town, Stephanie, while listening to the underrated music of the great Brad Cooper and Daniel Crawford, thinking my shit actually didn't stink, and in general, living for the moment.

Tonight, I find myself listening to the Red Hot Chili Peppers at a kitchen table in a condo in Connecticut, scheming of ways to make it to College Station for the big game on Saturday (if you have an extra ticket, plus a way to get me to Easterwood Airport on the cheap, I'm all ears brother). Times change, folks!

So here we are, two days before the (arguably) most hyped game in the history of Kyle Field, waiting to see if the Aggies can get it done. Can they? Yes. Will they? That remains to be seen.

It's too quiet tonight. The storm is coming, and I can't wait.

Taylor Hamm had a solid piece up at this morning about the impact the Florida game could potentially have on recruiting. The list of recruits attending Saturday's game is both large and impressive, so naturally we would like the team to win in exciting fashion.

Taylor drew comparisons between the Florida game with last year's Oklahoma State game, which I think is accurate. The hype surrounding the games is certainly similar, although in any comparison of a Big 12 game against an SEC game, I would probably bet the farm on the fans being more excited about this game (not to mention that having my dog coach the Aggies probably would have excited me more than watching Mike Sherman, but maybe that's beside the point).

Hamm also reminded us of the list of recruits who attended that game, which included a pretty large number who ended up signing elsewhere, implying that those recruits were maybe influenced by the heartbreaking loss to the Cowpokes, with his overarching point being that it will be important for the Aggies to win to impress recruits on Saturday.

I agree that this week is important in impressing recruits, but I don't know that the team winning or losing this week's game will have that much of an impact on the recruits' decisions.

First and foremost, the atmosphere of Kyle Field should sell the recruits, with this being the first game, ESPN Gameday is on site, and it's an SEC matchup against a team these recruits grew up watching win national championships.

I also don't like comparing the recruiting results from last year against our predictions for what will happen this year. With the coach getting fired after an extremely disappointing season in a second-tier league, it's difficult to pin losing recruits on any one visit to an Aggie game.

I also think that Coach Sumlin will be able to overcome any individual game results and sell the recruits on what he is building at Texas A&M. If recruits are only going to come to A&M if we win X number of games this year, then I'm not going to be very confident in our 2013 recruiting class.

If the 12th Man does its part on Saturday, the rest will take care of itself. The team plays better, the recruits are awestruck, and the fans ultimately come away happy.

Everybody get your rest tonight. This weekend has the potential to be one of our biggest.

Rise up, 12th Man. This game is on you.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Reaction to Billboardgate

Sick of "Playing Not to Lose"

I thought this was a solid opportunity to re-post an updated version of a piece I wrote last year. A new season is upon us; let’s hope Sumlin’s football team is ready for the spotlight.

I didn’t grow up rooting for the Texas A&M Aggies; I only adopted the bad habit when I first set foot in College Station some five years ago. Strangely enough, I grew up in Texas following a similarly underachieving program in the frigid cold of East Lansing – Michigan State University. My father attended Michigan State and as I grew older I slowly began to understand his ridiculous fandom, and when I did, I became a fan too. To keep the comparison brief, to the common fan the Michigan State Spartans live in the shadow of the University of Michigan Wolverines (just as many perceive the Aggies in comparison to the Longhorns). In all reality, that is fair. Decades of dominance deserve recognition (although the arrogance that comes with it does not). Plain and simple, Michigan State torments their fan base, just like Texas A&M. So while not an Aggie fan for life, I did grow up in a similar alternate fan universe.

The most memorable motif from watching the Spartans with my father was his constant proclamation (which was usually on target) that the Spartans often “played not to lose” as opposed to “playing to win." To quickly explain, the Spartans would find themselves in the desirable position of winning a high-caliber game, and then poof! The ferocity? Gone! The intensity? Also gone! The lead? Usually gone. They would abandon what got them to that desirable position and adopt a prevent defense and simple-minded offense. I watched Michigan State throw away countless games, which no doubt nearly forced my Dad into cardiac arrest every time. And guess what? This awful theme just so happened to rear its ugly ahead again this past year with the Aggies.

Not to beat a dead horse, but 2011 was going to be different. I am usually quite the skeptical fan. I often don’t believe in our quarterback (Stephen McGee and Jerrod Johnson) or our coach (Dennis Franchione). Not the case last year.  I was sold on Ryan Tannehill, and I thought Coach Sherman had finally built the team he wanted. Then came the Oklahoma State game, then the Arkansas game, and as the old saying goes… when it rains, it pours. 2011 hurt the most, because I finally let my guard down and chose to believe.

The Arkansas game burns the most in my mind (specifically the countless punts on 4th and short near midfield). I thought to myself, “Our running attack is averaging nearly 10 YARDS PER CARRY! You don’t have confidence in a Cyrus sweep? What about a Christine iso? What about a Tannehill zone read?” Wow. Sherman lost me in that game. In my opinion (you aren’t forced to agree) he stopped “playing to win” in that game and started “playing not to lose”. And that was when I stopped “believing we were good” and started “hoping we might be good”.

Now the times have changed DRAMATICALLY since that horrible October afternoon in Dallas.  Sherman is doing what he was meant to do all along, lead an NFL offense in Miami, and Kevin Sumlin has taken the reigns in College Station and with the help of a big move to the SEC, reignited the Aggie world. 

I sure do hope Sumlin has taken note of what it takes to succeed at a huge program.  I sure do hope he brings a reckless, ruthless attitude to Texas A&M.  He is going to need it.

To start with, I hope Sumlin takes a page from the LSU manual.  Say what you want about LSU’s Les Miles, but that guy has some guts. Some say he coaches like he is playing a video game – and if he does, then I hope Texas A&M wises up and hires the premiere NCAA/Madden player our nation has to offer to assist Sumlin in some “ballsy play-calling." Winners go for it.  Losers think about going for it.  Hopefully Sumlin’s brash confidence will help us put a checkmark in that box when the games are finally played.

Now for a page out of our old friend Oklahoma’s manual.  Say what you want about Bob Stoops, but that guy is ruthless.  Some say he can’t win the big one, but at least he can get to the big one. And you know what? Bob Stoops yearns to annihilate the other team. I am sure this past season nearly killed him. Stoops doesn’t look to just win, but absolutely destroy everything about the opponent. I don’t care if it is unsportsmanlike. You know what else is unsportsmanlike? What the A&M football team has done to my emotions over the past five years. I don’t find much solace in being a “good loser."

I believe Sumlin has some of that fire in his belly, and up to this point he has handled every challenge with confidence and poise.  Sherman wasn’t right for Texas A&M.  We NEED raw emotion and fearless play calling on game day.  I want to win when we aren’t supposed to purely because of our grit, creativity, and determination. I want to lose knowing we took every chance afforded to us by that elusive play clock.

One nice thing about going to the SEC… we will be underdogs.  And with that, I hope Kevin Sumlin isn’t afraid to defy the norm, and start his own traditions at Kyle Field.