Jimbo Fisher has created great expectations at Texas A&M, which made Saturday’s 24-10 loss to top-ranked Clemson a great disappointment for many.
Fisher said even that can be a good thing. He’s absolutely right, but only if it’s part of the growing process, and that’s the tricky thing.
“It’s the first time since we’ve been here, we’ve gone against the No. 1 team in the country and people expect us to have one heck of a chance to win,” Fisher said. “And that’s part of the learning curve of which we have to go through. I love that the people had the expectations for us, [because] that means the growth in which we’ve shown [is real].”
Actually, it was only the second time A&M faced the top-ranked team in Fisher’s 15 games, the other being a 45-23 loss at Alabama. A&M recovered from a Kellen Mond interception in the first minute that helped Alabama to a 7-0 lead to trail only 14-10 with seven minutes left in the half. But before the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band could play, more A&M mistakes helped Alabama to a 31-13 lead and the game was over.
Now A&M kind of played a second No. 1 team last season since Clemson ended the year as the national champ, blowing out Alabama. It was that game, a 28-26 loss to the second-ranked Tigers in Fisher’s first big game in Aggieland, that set a high standard and got everyone pumped, even though it was only Fisher’s second game.
“Last year, in any of those games, we weren’t expected to win,” Fisher said. “They were, ‘Hey, let’s just go play well.’ People were just hoping we’d play well.”
That attitude changed as A&M beat 13th-ranked Kentucky in overtime and ended the season with a four-game winning streak that included the 74-72, seven-overtime victory over eighth-ranked LSU, the first victory against the Tigers since joining the Southeastern Conference.
Fisher’s 9-4 season created a different feeling for everyone connected with the program heading into the Clemson rematch even though A&M was a 17.5-point underdog.
“We were expecting to win and hoping to win and thought we should win,” Fisher said.
Heck, little known starting offensive guard Jared Hocker predicted an upset. Apparently he’s typically mild-mannered but got caught up in the moment. He wasn’t the only one. You can bet others had visions of repeating the 2012 upset of defending national champ and top-ranked Alabama. Johnny Manziel and the Aggies jumped to a 20-0 lead and held on for a 29-24 victory as Manziel basically won the Heisman Trophy that day.
Saturday, the game started with Mond missing a wide-open Camron Buckley on the second play that would have been a 75-yard touchdown. And even though the Aggies did score first, Clemson answered with 24 unanswered points and was clearly the best team. Mond, who talked before the season about being the SEC’s best quarterback, was only 11-of-23 passing through three quarters for 115 yards. He finished strong for 236 yards with a touchdown to offset an interception, but what if he’d have connected with Buckley?
It’s easy to throw Mond, who also lost a fumble, under the bus, but his receivers had seven drops and the offense had five penalties. A&M rushed for only 53 yards. The defense played well but had four 15-yard penalties and gave up a 30-yard touchdown on third-and-11.
“When you play the teams of that caliber who are used to winning and having success, and when you get those opportunities, you gotta take ’em,” Fisher said. “And we had plenty of ’em and didn’t make enough of ’em.”
Fisher was happy with the team’s physical play, competitiveness and how hard it played. That helped A&M be the first team to stay within 20 points of Clemson in 12 games, but the end result was a loss, though all is not lost if it becomes a stepping stone for a team that has only six seniors.
“[We need to] create a little bit better habits in the right moments of those things to come,” Fisher said. “Cause we’re going to have plenty more opportunities out there to show what kind of team we have.”
A&M is scheduled to play four more Top 10 teams in second-ranked Alabama, third-ranked Georgia, fourth-ranked LSU and eighth-ranked Auburn. The expectation will be for the Aggies to play much better than they did against Clemson.
Morrow to headline Hooey Yell Fest
Texas country superstar Cory Morrow will help host Hooey Yell Fest, a free concert, at the Pepsi Fan Zone at Kyle Field on Sept. 20 at 8 p.m. preceding Midnight Yell Practice. Texas A&M graduate Ross Cooper (2011) will open the concert.
A&M-Auburn to be in CBS 2:30 slot
The A&M-Auburn game on Sept. 21 at Kyle Field will be televised by CBS at 2:30 p.m. It will be part of a doubleheader with Notre Dame at Georgia at 8 p.m. Southern Mississippi State at Alabama at 11 a.m. will be on ESPN or ESPN2. Also at 11 will be LSU at Vanderbilt and Tennessee at Florida with those games on ESPN, ESPN2 or the SEC Network. The other games will be California at Ole Miss, 11 a.m. (ESPNU); Kentucky at Mississippi State, 3 p.m. (SEC Network or SEC Network alternate); South Carolina at Missouri, 3 p.m. (SEC Network or SEC Network alternate); and San Jose State at Arkansas, 6:30 p.m. (SEC Network).
Clemson players earn honors following A&M win
Clemson senior offensive guard John Simpson and Clemson senior safety K’Von Wallace earned Atlantic Coast Conference player of the week honors. Simpson had three knockdowns and graded at 92% sharing offensive lineman honors with Boston College senior guard John Phillips. Wallace had a game-high nine tackles and his first career sack. He also had a quarterback pressure that led to a red-zone interception to earn defensive back honors.
Burrow named SEC offensive player of the week
LSU senior quarterback Joe Burrow threw for a career-high 471 yards in a 45-38 victory over Texas to be the SEC offensive player of the week. He completed 31 of 39 with four interceptions. Other SEC honors were defense-Missouri sophomore linebacker Nick Bolton (10 tackles, two interceptions, including a 20-yard return for a touchdown in a 38-7 victory over West Virginia; special teams-LSU freshman place-kicker Cade York (three field goals, four extra points); offensive line-Kentucky tackle Landon Young (91% grade and seven knockdowns in a 38-17 victory over Eastern Michigan) and Mississippi State senior center Darryl Williams (zero pressures allowed in a 38-15 victory over Southern Mississippi); defensive line-Auburn senior Marlon Davidson (six tackles, two for loss and three pressures in a 24-6 victory over Tulane); freshman-Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral (246 yards passing on 16 of 24 and two scores in a 31-17 victory over Arkansas).