Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Another Aggies collapse isn't on the way
By David Ubben
For Texas A&M, the season's start has to feel somewhat familiar.
Undefeated in nonconference play.
A big first half lead against Oklahoma State evaporates, morphing into a heartbreaking loss.
"I don’t think I’ve ever experienced anything like that in my entire coaching career," Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman said. "We didn’t handle it well. We weren’t engaged. They picked the tempo up, went right down the field on us and scored. We didn’t respond well. We didn’t play very well."
Mike Sherman's Aggies carried a 20-3 lead into halftime against Oklahoma State before losing 30-29. "We didn't handle it well. We weren't engaged," Sherman said.
That's over, and Texas A&M is headed to the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex to take on Arkansas, where it lost the second of three games last year in its 3-3 start.
It's different than last year.
At least one Aggie doesn't need me to tell them that, either.
"That was a tough loss," said senior quarterback Ryan Tannehill. "I don’t think we’ll have a 3-game losing streak again. We have a different team with a lot of veterans. This won’t affect us the same way it did last year mentally. We’ll be able to fight through it."
He's not pumping sunshine over a dark week in College Station. This team doesn't have two freshmen bookending the offensive line. It isn't coming off a six-win season. It didn't need fourth-quarter magic to erase a double-digit deficit and escape an early-season loss to Florida International. It isn't breaking in a new defense and riding the talents of one freakish athlete with a bum ankle to disrupt defenses. There's no quarterback with a bum shoulder causing awkward suggestions he be benched.
Forget senior quarterback curses. The story in College Station this week, with apologies to the SEC, is senior leadership from a group of players that have contributed for three seasons now.
"We need everybody. Something happened Saturday in the third quarter that really got to us as a whole unit," said linebacker Garrick Williams. "That’s just something that we can’t do. We’re going to be on guys this week in practice and try to get everyone very attentive to detail."
So far, it's worked. The seniors have set a tone.
"Our guys showed up today with resolve. No one was cutting up," said defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter. "We realized we had an opportunity and we let it slip. The great thing about this game when you have games left is on Saturday we have another chance to show what we really are all about as a defense."
This is a team that learned how to win over the second half of last season, when it did it six consecutive times in conference play to win a hard-earned share of the Big 12 South before eventually moving to the only division in football that's more difficult: The SEC West.
But for now, they're just in the division-less Big 12.
And they're just a team that, for one quarter, played badly. There's no maturing left to be done. Only playing. And Texas A&M will get that opportunity on Saturday.