Barnburner: A Hot Time in Shreveport Saturday Night

Aggies refuse to lose

Barnburner: A Hot Time in Shreveport Saturday Night

"Late last night …"
Early Sunday morning, the Aggies eked a red-eye win from their trip to Shreveport, beating the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs 59-57 in regulation. The final whistle didn’t sound until 12:45am, nearly four and a half hours after Saturday's kickoff. It was an agonizing win for the Aggies, who take a 5-1 record into this week's matchup with LSU.

Even superstar Johnny Manziel had trouble watching near the end, covering his head with a towel as Louisiana Tech attempted a two-point conversion that would have given the Bulldogs a tie with 38 seconds left. But ultimately, the Ags made the game worthwhile for the fans, and for themselves, in a variety of ways.

"We are the ones that show the real old fight …"
A few weeks ago, I called Ole Miss and Louisiana Tech a "wide open road." I guess I got what I deserved from the games that followed, but these two nerve-tweaking nights proved that Texas A&M is not the same team we watched crumble in 2011.

While the Aggie offense posted decent numbers last week against Ole Miss, with 30 points and 481 total yards, the A&M defense made the difference in that game. "Damonster" Damontre Moore and his crew limited the Rebels to 27 points despite a devastating six turnovers by the offense.

The A&M defense started strong against Louisiana Tech, too. The Aggies shut out the Bulldogs in the first quarter and gifted offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury with more than 10 minutes of possession. Manziel took advantage of those minutes, racking up 21 points in the first quarter and adding another six before the Bulldogs got on the board.

But then the Aggie defense tucked in early while the rest of us stayed up to watch the offenses score. A&M allowed 21 unanswered points in the second half and had to rely on their phenomenal freshman to anchor them in the resulting hurricane. Louisiana Tech finished with 615 yards of offense, but the Aggies finished with 678; Tech "General" Quinton Patton caught any ball he wanted to (except the fourth-quarter two-point conversion senior quarterback Colby Cameron didn't throw to him), but Aggie gunslinger Manziel accounted for 576 total offensive yards, breaking the SEC record he set himself just a few weeks ago. If the Aggie defense went home early, the emphatic offense answered everything the Bulldogs had to say.

But the biggest difference for the Aggies the past two weeks? They simply refused to lose. The Aggies never showed this winning mentality in 2011. A&M is a new team. They're young, they're fast, and they make some mistakes. But they don't give up.

"Recall! Step off! On! Hullabaloo!"
Six games have come and gone in 2012; we're already halfway through the season. Even so, I get the sense that for the Aggies, the season is just set to begin, as if the first six games meant nothing more than a long and grueling preseason. "We haven't really accomplished anything," head coach Kevin Sumlin said prior to the Louisiana Tech game, and he was right. Everything that's come so far – the close loss to Florida, the ensuing routs, and the nail-biting wins over Ole Miss and Louisiana Tech – merely provides context for the six weeks still standing on the schedule, especially the next four games. A&M hosts the LSU Tigers next week, and then the Aggies hit the road to visit Auburn, Mississippi State, and that inexorable Crimson Tide.

"That good old Aggie spirit thrills us …"
I've been an Aggie for 16 years now, but I only recently learned that the Aggie War Hymn's repeating verses actually comprise the song's second stanza. While the well-known lyrics emphasize A&M's long-time rival, the University of Texas, that lesser-known first verse promotes Aggie loyalty in a purer sense, speaks to the school's future independent of that rivalry, and announces a change in Aggie football, like a bugler splitting the dewy air of a College Station morning with his or her clear staccato.

In years past, the Aggies played every game with UT as if it was the first game of the season. On Thanksgiving Day, nothing mattered: records vanished, and stats blurred. Everything written was written in invisible ink. And every year, I'd wonder what would happen if the Aggies played every game like it was Thanksgiving. They did that against Ole Miss, and they did it again Saturday night, denying Louisiana Tech a win and a shot at a BCS bowl. As the Aggies' extended introduction trills to a close, now's the time to harness that passion and get in the practice of conjuring it week by week, game by game, all season long.

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Johnny Manziel, Aggies football, Damontre Moore, Kliff Kingsbury, Colby Cameron

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