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Program changer

Alabama upset forshadows future success

Published: Monday, November 12, 2012

Updated: Monday, November 12, 2012 18:11

Eddie coralled


The A&M defense corrals Eddie Lacy and the Alabama offense en route to a rousing 29-24 victory.

Before the beginning of the 2012 A&M football season, so many questions lingered regarding the future of the program and its capacity to compete in the toughest conference in college football. After Saturday night’s win in Alabama, with the Aggie War Hymn echoing in victory throughout historic Bryant-Denny Stadium, those questions were answered.

Johnny Manziel dazzled, receivers snagged, running backs hammered, offensive linemen pushed and the Aggie defense scrapped to the most monumental regular-season win in the history of the Texas A&M football program.

Ponder that. Never before has a regular season victory — through all of A&M’s past successes in more than a century of football — meant so much.

Soak it in. Relish it. Enjoy it while it lasts, because these opportunities are few and far between.

Most gloriously, this victory serves as a harbinger of things to come. Of that I have no doubt.

Of course one game does not make a football dynasty, but head coach Kevin Sumlin, offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury, defensive coordinator Mark Snyder, “Johnny Football” and A&M’s presence in the SEC have awoken the sleeping giant so many believed existed. This giant played the ironic role of David on Saturday, dethroning Goliath in stunning fashion.

Few believed the Aggies would be hanging on to life after a single half, much less a full game, in one of college football’s notoriously intimidating venues as they crossed swords with Nick Saban’s mutant program, the envy and fear of the sport.

The Crimson Tide defense, after all, hadn’t allowed more than six points in each of its previous nine games and Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron, once impeccably mistake-free, hadn’t thrown a single interception.

The high-tempo A&M offense, utilizing a scheme that pundits believed would buckle to the might of SEC strength and speed, left the Alabama defense vexed and confused. The Aggies shocked the Tide and the nation as A&M notched 20 points before the end of the first quarter while allowing none. The largely undervalued and underappreciated defense would pick off McCarron twice with the final takeaway by sophomore Deshazor Everett ultimately sealing the game, a play that will inevitably be replayed on Jumbotrons for decades to come.

Oh, how the tide has turned.

Most significantly, A&M proved it could not only be competitive in the SEC, but surge to a position as one of the conference’s elite programs. The Aggies, already reaping significant recruiting benefits just by being in the SEC, sent a powerful message to recruits Saturday — a message that could soon leave the talent-rich state of Texas in an A&M vice grip. Longhorns, Red Raiders, Horned Frogs and Bears are all quite aware, even if they’re not willing to admit it.

Still, as any intimate college football connoisseur will tell you, the magic of program building belongs in the hands of great coaches. The hiring of Sumlin and his staff has generated a remarkable transformation of the program and its perception. All programs have endured their share of desert-wandering periods, but look no further than Alabama’s Nick Saban, Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops, Kansas State’s Bill Snyder, TCU’s Gary Patterson and South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier as coaches who brought their programs back to new — and dominant — life. You might even remember an A&M coach by the name of Jackie Sherrill from the 1980s. Sumlin has the “it” factor and one of the most electric football players in the history of the game — a mere redshirt freshman — at his disposal.

The future was bright but it just got a whole lot brighter. Who would have thought a coach in his first year with a freshman quarterback in the toughest league in the country would be in consideration for a BCS berth?

Strap yourselves in, Ags. The best is yet to come.


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