COLUMN: Evolved maturity
Despite falling to top-ranked Alabama, Texas A&M remains confident
Published: Sunday, September 15, 2013
Updated: Sunday, September 15, 2013 21:09
The scoreboard failed to shine in Texas A&M’s favor Saturday afternoon as the final seconds ticked off the game clock. A massive 87,596 fans, all of whom had created a deafening on-the-field atmosphere from start to finish, filed towards the Kyle Field exits as the two teams exchanged polite remarks on the turf.
The hype surrounding top-ranked Alabama’s early-season visit to then-No. 6 Texas A&M had generated a façade of finality, and the 49-42 gut-wrenching loss did exactly that — it stung to the core.
However, starting A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel spoke differently during the post-game press conference. As questions bombarded the sophomore along the lines of, “Where do you go from here,” the reigning Heisman Trophy winner looked taken aback, confidently stating a week three loss to the Crimson Tide was in no way a season-ending loss.
“For us, this isn’t the end of our season,” Manziel said. “This wasn’t the Super Bowl, this wasn’t the last game of the season. Alabama lost a game last year and still went on to win a national championship. Our season isn’t over, anything could happen.”
Despite a 21-point deficit entering the fourth quarter, Texas A&M proceeded to fight back, closing the score to within a mere touchdown before time ran out. The Aggie defense, which had failed to stop the Tide offense on five consecutive drives, produced a fumble while the offense closed the game with four straight scoring series.
Junior offensive tackle Cedric Ogbuehi said the team’s grit and determination to close the game was admirable, and despite the loss, the game provided a solid learning experience for the recently added youth.
“I’m just proud we kept fighting,” Ogbuehi said. “We could have easily given up and not scored, but Johnny kept telling us to keep playing, keep fighting. We’re disappointed we lost, but we did some good things we can take over to next week.”
A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin’s message to the team after the game followed similar lines, citing the attempted comeback as evidence that, “Nobody can say this team quit.”
Looking forward, Sumlin said the lone loss on the Aggies’ record was not a death sentence, using Alabama’s previous two seasons as examples of teams that won national championships despite a loss earlier in the season.
The key, Sumlin said, was reacting to and learning from mistakes, especially against a squad as talented as the Crimson Tide.
“It’s not what happens to you right now, it’s how you deal with it from here on out,” Sumlin said. “You have no greater example of how to handle one game than the team in the other locker room. They went on to have an extremely successful season [last year], and we’ve got a lot of football ahead of us.”
Due to the volatility of the sport, many players remained confident A&M would have an opportunity down the stretch of the season to push themselves back into title contention, both within the conference and on the national scale.
Following last year’s upset-lined November, during which each of the nation’s top teams — Alabama, Kansas State and Oregon — all lost, Manziel said college football’s unpredictability would take care of any one-loss squad.
All A&M has to do is take care of its own business.
“This is college football, some of the craziest things happen every week, so you never know,” Manziel said. “All we can do is take care of ourselves, take care of what’s in this locker room and continue to get better as a team.”