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Change apparent

Published: Monday, September 10, 2012

Updated: Monday, September 10, 2012 01:09

Surprise. You were probably expecting a column along the lines of “same ol’ story” or “déjà vu.” Well, here’s to giving you something more substantial and worthwhile.

It’s too easy to tie Saturday’s loss against the Florida Gators to the several second-half collapses of 2011. Are there similarities? Absolutely. There are also many differences.

The woe-is-me pity party and shortsighted deprecation of the program, especially as the loss pertains to last season, is moronic. It’s a moronic view for fans. It’s a moronic view for media. It’s a moronic and especially detrimental view for players.

So, here’s to a refreshing analysis of what went right and wrong at Kyle Field in A&M’s inaugural SEC contest. I’m not trying to defend the players or justify the team’s second-half woes. There are positives and negatives to be drawn from Saturday’s highly competitive battle on the gridiron.

First and foremost, the Aggies lost by three points to a good SEC football team.

Not 14. Not 50. Three.

What the final result of Saturday’s game reveals is the Aggies will be plenty competitive against everyone they face not named LSU or Alabama. To say the loss is a testament to the dominance of the SEC is hyperbole, but to say the Aggies aren’t in need of quick improvement to consistently win is naïve.

The first half of the game was particularly encouraging. Few knew what to expect from a new coach, new offense, new defense and — most scrutinized — a redshirt freshman quarterback.

Johnny Manziel, at least for one half, delivered in spades.

The offense moved the ball at will before halftime, never punting once while racking up 269 yards of total offense and 17 points against an athletic Florida defense. Manziel looked surprisingly poised and gained valuable assistance from several new faces — players such as freshmen Thomas Johnson, Mike Evans and Trey Williams.

The defense, unable to establish a presence along the line of scrimmage until Florida’s second series, was decent. Not great, not poor, but decent. They forced several three-and-outs, amassed eight sacks and kept the Aggies in the game for the entirety of four quarters.

Special teams weren’t bad, but not game-changing. The Aggies averaged nearly 50 yards per punt, missed no field goals, had excellent coverage and committed no turnovers. They essentially hit par for the course.

Then, of course, there was what went wrong.

At the first sign of adversity — essentially the first time A&M was forced to punt — the Aggies had lost their potent rhythm. The Florida defense made adjustments in the second half to shut down Manziel’s check-down throws and scrambles. A&M’s effective rushing attack was non-existent and control of the line of scrimmage was lost. The Aggies were limited 65 yards and zero points after halftime.

The defense also had its fair share of flaws. The eight sacks are deceiving. The Aggies were unable to deliver a consistent pass rush and were painfully run down by Florida’s running attack. Missed tackles were devastating and no turnovers were forced. All of this occurred against a suspect offense.

Though the thread of lack of offensive consistency is an exact parallel to 2011, there are factors that separate this game from last season’s five losses. No turnovers were committed, a truly amazing statistic considering the 2011 turnover bugaboo. Further considering this was the first game of the season with a fresh quarterback, fresh corners and several fresh skill positions on offense, the Aggies performed at a solid level.

Though solid wasn’t good enough to defeat the Florida Gators, there’s enough reason to believe these are the “same old” Aggies. Given greater context, I’m sure we’ll figure out if this was just a close loss or a continuation of a culture.

It’s just one game. Let’s leave it at that.


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