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3 Things We Learned: Texas A&M vs Louisville

Despite an admirable job of fighting until the end, the Aggies came up short Wednesday night, losing 27-21 to Louisville.

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Because of the fact that the quarterback almost always gets the most credit/blame/attention/etc., it was always going to be a given that one of the "three things we learned" in the bowl game would focus on A&M's latest starting quarterback, so let's just start right there.

Jake Hubenak is good enough to win games, but can't do it on his own.

Here's what I mean by that. It seemed clear that Hubenak (307 yards passing) was adequate. And I don't mean that in a bad way. I actually mean it as a compliment. I mean adequate in the sense that, if the rest of the team plays ok, he is good enough to also do his job and lead the team to a win. However, he's not the type of talent that can impose his will on the game and cover up for poor play from players around him.

Overall, Hubenak probably had a little more bad than good, and he went through a really poor stretch where he started bailing from the pocket way too soon. But he overcame that and played a pretty good fourth quarter. It's unfortunate that a few of the final passes weren't a little better, but you still have to give him credit for playing pretty well considering it was his first start of the year on a fairly big stage.

His passes lacked velocity compared to Kyler Murray and Kyle Allen, and that affected things at times, but once he realized that Josh Reynolds was basically unstoppable, he started putting things together.

I think it also had to affect him that Damion Ratley, starting in place of the suspended Speedy Noil, only played one snap and then left with an injury after being on the receiving end of a targeting penalty. Ratley and Hubenak were teammates at Blinn Junior College and developed great chemistry during their prolific season there, and it's fair to assume that Hubenak was going to have a comfort level throwing the ball his way.

All in all, I think Aggie fans should be encouraged by Hubenak's performance. He's capable of doing his job at a high enough level to win games.

Josh Reynolds is a bona fide stud at wide receiver.

Before you roll your eyes and say that we already knew this, yes, I agree. We did already know this. But to me, this felt like a big moment for Reynolds.

After bursting on the scene with 13 touchdowns last year, Reynolds had a junior season that at times felt a little quiet. In reality, he put up more yards in 2015 (907) than he did in 2014 (842), but his touchdown total dropped to five this season, and Christian Kirk stole headlines with a stellar freshman season.

But looking past the touchdown numbers, it's clear that Reynolds established himself as a guy who wasn't just a one-year wonder, a guy who can still go out and dominate games (four games of 100+ yards in 2015, compared with just one in 2014) despite the defense knowing he is getting the ball.

What makes it even more impressive is that while Reynolds spent all season lining up at the Z position on the right, the X position (his counterpart on the left side of the field) was the worst it has been at A&M since Sumlin arrived. Between Speedy Noil's injury-plagued season and Damion Ratley never finding a groove, the Aggies had basically no threat on the left edge to force defenses to worry about. (Thankfully, Christian Kirk provided a big time threat from the slot position so defenses did have to scheme for him, to be fair.)

Reynolds had the surest hands of any receiver on the team, the highest yards per catch, and had the biggest day of his career (11 catches for 177 yards) in the bowl game, providing Jake Hubenak with completion after completion when nothing else seemed to be working.

Assuming Reynolds doesn't leave for the NFL, the Aggies will have the top returning receiver duo in the SEC (thanks to Mississippi State's De'Runnya Wilson leaping to the NFL). Sure, the Aggies have questions (again) at quarterback, but having a pair of receivers like Reynolds and Kirk sure gives the quarterback something to work with.

The Aggies were, despite the losses, an incredibly scrappy team in 2015.

I'm focusing on positives here, and let's be honest, even though enduring the losses is hard, seeing the team fight the way they did Wednesday night is something worth celebrating.

The problems and drama are well documented and certainly had negative effects on the team throughout the year. But one thing that it never affected was the Aggies willingness to fight until the end. The loss to Louisville was a great example.

A&M trailed 20-7 in the first quarter, and it looked like Louisville was on their way to scoring 50 points and cruising to what would have been an embarrassing loss all around.

Instead, the A&M defense kept making fourth down stops in their own territory (three times, for the record) and keeping points off the board and giving the offense a chance to come back (sound familiar?). That same Louisville offense that had over 200 yards of offense and three touchdowns in the first quarter alone somehow only managed seven points over the last three quarters.

Meanwhile, the A&M offense, while still having its struggles, kept fighting and  was throwing into the end zone with a chance for the lead with just a couple minutes left. Speaking as a fan myself, and an endlessly optimistic one at that, I can say with much confidence that not many Aggies thought there was any hope during most of that game. And yet, the players played with grit and never gave up or lost hope, and were almost rewarded for it.