Aggies Sleepwalk Through Rout Over Sam Houston
The Aggies' opener moved to September 8, when A&M hosted the Florida Gators at Kyle Field, and the matchup with La. Tech was slotted for October 13.
The change in schedule meant the Aggies would have to play the entire season, their first in the SEC, without a much-needed midseason bye. Wedged between conference matchups with Ole Miss and LSU, and preceding the most difficult weeks of the A&M schedule, the La. Tech game turned an off week into a four-quarter dogfight with one of the best offenses in college football. So much for rest.
Struggling to learn new schemes on offense and defense and steered by an undersized freshman quarterback, the Aggies seemed doomed to a euphemistic "rebuilding year."
But that was not to be.
For the Texas A&M Aggies, that lost bye week did define the season. But instead of taking their bad luck as a discouraging omen, the Aggies embraced their situation and used it to make a statement. They went 6-0 on the road, capping a three-game away stretch with a shocking win over Alabama in Tuscaloosa.
Saturday, Texas A&M finally got that belated bye week, or its equivalent, in the form of a Kyle Field matchup with Sam Houston State. If the final score – 47-28 – looks less convincing than it should, it's because Kevin Sumlin and company treated the game like light practice.
The starters came in, went through a few reps, and initially looked a little sluggish. The Aggies only scored seven points in the first quarter (and those came on their first drive), and the defense played like frat guys on spring break: competitive but sloppy. The Bearkats gained four first downs in the first half, four more than they should have.
But the Aggies woke up for the second quarter and the opening minutes of the third, scoring 40 of their 47 points. The defense shut the Bearkats down, and the offense scored with enough speed and style to show just how lopsided the contest would have been, had they treated the matchup like a real game. Instead, the first team left the game in the third quarter, and backups took the field until time expired.
For the Aggies, Sam Houston State was really just a friendly, and nothing demonstrated that more than Johnny Manziel's extra point attempt in the third quarter. In one not-so-swift kick, Sumlin sent three distinct but clear messages: struggling kicker Taylor Bertolet won’t play for the Aggies next year, Sam Houston State is officially unworthy, and Johnny Football for Heisman!
Sumlin said he did it to help his players relax and have fun. He said playing an entire football season without a break is hard and can wear players down. And I guess goofing around at kicker before a sold-out crowd of mooning fans could help ease the pressure on a 19-year-old superstar. He has supported both his team and a weighty spotlight all season.
Or maybe Sumlin thought no one outside of College Station was watching; with the PPV a nauseating $40, he might have been right.
But for a coach I've found mostly humble and down-to-earth, this move was ill-considered: inconsiderate (to Taylor Bertolet and Sam Houston State) and transparent in its attempt to add footage to Manziel's already spectacular highlight reel.
The kid's play at quarterback is good enough. And with both Oregon and Kansas State suffering losses this week, the team just might be good enough to win Johnny the Heisman, too.
Saturday, November 24, the Aggies close their regular season at home against the Missouri Tigers. The Aggies' performance in that game will determine both their ultimate bowl placement and Manziel's Heisman trophy chances. If the Aggies can come out and make one more statement, he could heft the award he clearly deserves.
If not, we can blame Isaac, and we'll always have Tuscaloosa, but that won't be enough for long.