For Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman it was an easy choice, no matter how much he hates losing of any kind.
After watching his team blow a late lead in a 35-34 loss at Colorado last week, Sherman said that those close losses are a lot less palatable than watching his team be dominated by a superior opponent.
“It’s certainly disheartening,” Sherman said when asked about the tight loss. “I’m still struggling over that one. It was a heartbreaker. I’d rather get my butt kicked than to lose like that.”
The Aggies led for almost the entire game at Colorado, enabling the Buffaloes to escape with the wild comeback victory when they fought back from an 11-point halftime deficit and after trailing by 10 midway through the fourth quarter.
The loss came despite a weird set of statistics. The Aggies posted eight sacks, compared to one by Colorado. A&M was penalized three times, Colorado 10 times. But the plucky Buffaloes made plays they needed to win at the end of the game.
“We just need to learn how to finish,” Texas A&M free safety Jordan Pugh said. “We had the lead for the whole game until about the last five or eight minutes, whatever it was. The biggest thing is we just didn’t finish the game when we had our chances. And if we can do that, it will all take care of itself.”
Losing at Colorado didn’t seem to diminish the confidence of the 5-4 Aggies heading into their final three-game stretch of the regular season. They must win one of their final three games in order to earn bowl eligibility for the first time since 2007.
It will be tough stretch starting with A&M’s game Saturday night at Oklahoma. The Aggies have never beaten Bob Stoops at Owen Field in five previous games, losing the games by an average score of 35.4 points per game. The losses have included margins of 77 and 45 points.
The Sooners also will be bringing a nation-best 28-game home winning streak for the game. But these Aggies are capable of big road performances, as evidenced by their 52-30 victory at Texas Tech on Oct. 24 after a blowout road loss at Kansas State the week before.
“You have to draw from that,” Pugh said. “It’s been done before because we went to Lubbock and did it up there. It’s the same thing we’re doing now. And if we go up there and do what we need to do we’ll get that win.”
The fact the Sooners have struggled recently makes the Aggies wary about the challenge they will still be facing – even after the Sooners have been wracked by more injuries than any team in the conference.
“This will be our biggest challenge of the year,” A&M tackle Michael Shumard said. “But we knew that coming in. When we were working out this summer, our strength coaches didn’t say they were training us to beat New Mexico, but against Texas and Oklahoma. They wanted to get us ready to compete against those guys who will be in the league (the NFL) for about 30 years.”
The Aggies also will be challenging an injury-depleted Sooner offensive front with one of the nation’s most potent pass-rushers. Defensive end/linebacker Von Miller leads the nation with 15.5 sacks for the season. The Aggies are tied for third nationally and lead the Big 12 with 30 sacks.
Despite that success, Miller said that finishing the season strong is more important to him than any individual accomplishment.
“I’d trade every sack I’ve gotten this year to be undefeated right now,” Miller said. “I really just want to win and go to a bowl game. All of the other stuff is secondary to just winning and that’s how I’m approaching things for the rest of the year.”