No. 5 Texas A&M went into the Orange Bowl with something to prove.
And prove they did. A&M defeated No. 13 North Carolina 41-27, thanks to a dominant fourth quarter performance in which the Aggies put up 24 points.
A&M coach Jimbo Fisher had something to say during the trophy presentation immediately following the bowl game.
“Let me tell you this, we ain’t done yet,” Fisher said.
The Aggies are the first SEC team in history with one loss to not make the College Football Playoffs. They carried this fact with them into their first Orange Bowl appearance in 77 years.
In the matchup against the Tar Heels, A&M posted 225 rushing yards and 232 receiving yards.
A highlight for the Aggies during the Orange Bowl was looking at the strength of the young running backs.
Sophomore running back Isaiah Spiller put up 50 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns before leaving the game in the third quarter with an injury. In addition, sophomore running back Ainias Smith recorded 125 receiving yards, with his longest being a 54-yard catch.
Due to an injury Spiller sustained, freshman running back Devon Achane took over midway through the third quarter and made his mark. The true freshman posted 140 rushing yards in the one and a half quarters he played, which was highlighted by a 76-yard touchdown run.
All three running backs are underclassmen and still have years left to play for A&M.
The defense, led by senior linebacker Buddy Johnson, held North Carolina to 90 rushing yards.
Johnson said opposing teams should be worried for the future of A&M football.
“I don’t know [what a ‘future storm’ looks like],” Johnson said. “But I would definitely be scared if I was looking for it. Coach Fisher is a tough coach and all that toughness goes out to the field, it shows itself. I see it coming, I would be worried if I was someone looking for it.”
Senior quarterback Kellen Mond, the four seniors on the offensive line and seniors like Johnson and defensive tackle Jayden Peevy have been leaders for the Aggies this season.
Fisher said the future of A&M is bright because of the work the seniors have put in to prove the Aggies belong on the national stage.
“This is a different stage,” Fisher said. “This is a different environment, this is a different atmosphere. And you have to learn that and I think hopefully our seniors layed that groundwork and our young guys will remember and pass it on.”
During his tenure at Florida State University, Fisher’s team won the Orange Bowl in 2013. The next year, Florida State won the National Championship.
Fisher said the vision for next season is the National Championship.
“ [Florida State] won the Orange Bowl during our third year,” Fisher said. “I’ll take the fourth year [here] just like it was there too, I promise. That doesn’t happen without a lot of work and a lot of circumstances and is the ability there and is the vision there? Yes, and that’s our plan. But now we have got to go back to work.”