OPINION: Unjust expectations
College football has evolved, but A&M's fan demands remain in the past
Published: Sunday, October 13, 2013
Updated: Monday, October 14, 2013 13:10
At Texas A&M, a certain level of expectation is attached to wearing a defensive uniform. The rich history of the program is built around defense, as the conference championships of the 1990’s Wrecking Crew teams attribute on the wall leading into Kyle Field.
It’s time to move on.
For far too long, A&M has clung to the notion that a reemergence of the famed Wrecking Crew is just around the corner. It’s not. Period. Get over it.
The level of offensive prowess around college football has exploded over the course of the past decade, and will continue to grow as the sport evolves. Skill players are no longer attracted to cornerback or linebacker, but rather wide receiver or running back. They want to score, have their name called out over the stadium loudspeakers and receive the fantasy points as an individual rather than a unit.
There are few “Wrecking Crews” anymore, and that’s a reality many Aggies have yet to face.
The world of college football has changed, and A&M has changed with it, but expectations among the fan base have remained unjustly locked.
Under second-year head coach Kevin Sumlin, A&M has proceeded to lead the Southeastern Conference in both total offense (561.4 yards per game, fifth nationally) and scoring offense (44.4 points per game, sixth nationally).
The seventh-ranked Aggies run one of the most dynamic units in the country under reigning Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel, as the team has surpassed the 40 points margin each game so far this season.
Sumlin understands the complexities associated with running a high-octane offense, as A&M’s quick scoring unit forces its defense to compete for longer periods of time against slower-paced opposing offenses.
According to the head coach, the key for A&M’s defense is third down conversions, as finding ways to shut down drives allows the Aggie offense more opportunities to score down the stretch.
“With our style of play, it’s about third down percentage,” Sumlin said. “Time of possession is not that big a deal with how we do things. What is a big deal is third down conversion, for and against, and we went 8 of 13 offensively and [Ole Miss] was 6 of 14. That’s really the story of the game.”
Defensively, A&M may not live up to par with many of its SEC brethren, as the Aggies rank 12th in scoring defense (32.8 points per game, 93rd nationally) and last in total defense (491.2 yards per game, 113th nationally), but their 5-1 (2-1 SEC) record speaks
A new term has been coined to dictate an effective defense in today’s world — opportunistic. Basically, it refers to the unit’s ability to generate turnovers or produce timely, rather than consistent, stops.
During A&M’s 41-38 victory Saturday over Ole Miss, the Aggies’ opportunistic nature was evident. With the game on the line and the Rebels with the ball, the defense forced a quick three-and-out. The Ole Miss punt resulted in A&M kicker Josh Lambo drilling the game-clinching 33-yard field goal as time expired.
Ultimately, the A&M defense’s “bend, not break” theory has proven effective, despite not living up to the program’s traditional defensive prowess.
The Aggies’ offensive capabilities have skyrocketed — leaving leeway for defensive mistakes — but fans remain entrenched in the idea of Wrecking Crew type units and endure disappointment when they consistently fail to live up to past expectations.
It’s hypocritical in today’s football culture, considering the weapons at the disposal of many of the nation’s offenses.
For Sumlin, a vital component of the unit’s success has been its relentless will despite allowing unprecedented amounts of points, always giving the team a chance to pull off victory.
“Our guys, if there’s one thing I’ll say about them, it’s that they don’t quit,” Sumlin said. “That’s been kind of a trademark here the last year and a half. They’re going to play to the end, and then we’ll see what happens.”