The Aggies went into Death Valley extremely confident, but a 24-10 loss to No. 1 Clemson has shaken that confidence.
This weekend’s matchup against Lamar University will be a stepping stone to rebuilding that confidence before the start of Southeastern Conference play on Sept. 21.
Finding that confidence starts with an increased focus on discipline, Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher said. The Aggies had nine penalties against the Tigers, including four false starts, for a loss of 85 yards.
“In those games, it’s the little things, the discipline that keep drives alive or they kill them,” Fisher said. “We had a couple motion penalties on offense. Those things all magnify themselves when you play good teams.”
Junior wide receiver Jhamon Ausbon said moving forward, his focus is on being more of a vocal leader on the sideline.
“When things happen in a negative way, we have to have energy on the sideline,” Ausbon said. “We have to have vocal leaders. I have to do a better job of speaking on the sideline and getting those young guys [energized]. They don’t know what it’s like to be in those situations.”
Prior to the matchup against Clemson, the Aggies were confident in their ability to top the Tigers, and left guard Jared Hocker even promised an upset. Ausbon said he defends his team’s confidence prior to the game, despite the result.
“You work so hard, how do you not think you’re going to play well?” Ausbon said. “[The loss] kills you, but you’re going to have something to build off of.”
Fisher said despite good intentions, the team’s high expectations prior to Saturday’s game had a negative effect on their performance.
“It’s a team learning experience,” Fisher said. “Sometimes you want to win too bad; sometimes you want to make a play too bad.”
The experience the Aggies gained from the game will help them moving forward as they take on No. 2 Alabama, No. 3 Georgia and No. 4 LSU, Ausbon said.
“Now we have experience at playing those big games,” Ausbon said. “We know what it takes to win those games.”
According to Fisher, most of the team’s struggles came due to their inexperience in those high-pressure situations.
“They’ve never been in those moments where they walk in on the No. 1 team in the country and a lot of people think they can win the game, and that’s a learned behavior to be able to deal with that,” Fisher said. “The biggest tragedy is if we don’t grow from how we handled that.”
Though they display great confidence, the young team is still growing, Fisher said.
“We’re still growing to understand how to play at that level consistently and do those things at those great moments,” Fisher said. “We had opportunities to make [big plays] and we have to learn to make them.”
Junior quarterback Kellen Mond had difficulty getting in a rhythm throughout the game, though he improved in the second half. Mond said he’s confident in the team’s ability to fix their mistakes.
“We’re going to go in this week, find out what we did wrong, correct it and come out with another great week,” Mond said.
But Fisher said all the blame for the loss doesn’t fall on Mond’s shoulders.
“We didn’t play our best game around him either,” Fisher said. “You’ve got seven major drops of 15 or more yards. He missed throws, some opportunities he had. They weren’t in sync, and offensively that can happen very easily.”
Fisher said despite all of the negative aspects of the game, he was pleased with the competitiveness and physicality that his team displayed against the Tigers.
Those aspects of the game give him hope moving forward as the Aggies face Lamar on Saturday before moving into SEC play against Auburn on Sept. 21, he said.
“We just didn’t execute well enough,” Fisher said. “We were right there, and all these mistakes were made. The score was 24-10 against the No. 1 team in the country on the road. I feel very comfortable about this team. It’s just a matter of us having the experience to make those critical plays.”