Trusting the Process
Last week, we discussed how Texas A&M’s program identity had changed over the offseason. There might not have been a better display of that change in the Aggies’ 67-0 romp over the Prairie View A&M Panthers. Not only did Kevin Sumlin’s squad dispatch an inferior opponent easily when some well-branded programs around the country struggled to do so in similar contests, but they did so cleanly.
When the fans exited Kyle Field on Saturday after the final whistle, all 10,000 of them or so, I’m not sure they realized just how much the program overall had improved in these types of contests. Yes, the Texas A&M offense racked up 672 total yards against the Panthers while only allowing 205 and recorded an uncommon shut out for the Aggie defense. But those weren’t the most impressive stats from Saturday’s contest. This was: in 60 minutes of play with multiple players rotating throughout the game, the Aggies only committed 4 penalties for a total of 35 yards.
During the Kevin Sumlin era in Aggieland, the Aggies have entered into these contests playing down to the level of the opponent, have shown disinterest in the task in front of them, played with general sloppiness and have made these games borderline unwatchable after just several minutes of play. But on Saturday, the game followed a different type of script. While the Aggie offense did start the first quarter somewhat slow (just like against UCLA, a trend going forward?), the Aggies quickly focused in and handled their business like a dominant, winning program should and continued to assert themselves throughout the 60 minute game.
But what does this say about the Texas A&M program? After all, this is Prairie View we are talking about. I think it’s important for two reasons. The first is the depth throughout the roster. No, this isn’t Kevin Sumlin’s most talented team he’s had in Aggieland, but could it be the second most talented squad after the 2012 team? That’s an interesting debate. It is, however, the deepest team he’s had as the Aggies can now field competent players at all positions at least in the two deep, if not three. The 85 man roster is not lacking in good football players across the board, speaking to Sumlin and staff’s recruiting success over the last several years. He and his staff have rebuilt a roster that was depleted of talented depth; we’ve come a long way from being only able to play 17 or 14 defenders throughout a game like we were forced to in 2012 and 2013. The second, and maybe more important reason, is that this 2016 squad is dialed in and focused on the now. They have business to take care of on the field and so far after two games, they have played with poise, decisiveness and direction.
That’s the type of mentality Aggieland has been waiting to cheer on for quite some time.
One True Knight
A quiet murmur began circulating Kyle Field in the 1st quarter on Saturday, as well as on social media, about Trevor Knight’s slow start against Prairie View. During Texas A&M’s first 12 plays on their opening two drives, Knight was 4-8 and failed to lead the offense on any scoring drives, missing his wide receivers high.
When Trevor Knight became dialed in, so did the Texas A&M offense as they scored three touchdowns on their next three series. However, leading 24-0, Knight would then throw a mind-numbing interception in the end zone into the middle of a pack of defenders. Knight finished the game 21-37 for 344 passing yards and three touchdowns along with the one interception while adding 7 rushes for 78 yards and a touchdown.
Let’s be clear on one thing: there is not, nor should there be, any question about who the QB1 for this football team is or should be. It’s Trevor Knight. It’s tempting to think back to Texas A&M’s bowl loss against Louisville and wonder what qualities Jake Hubenak could bring to the offense. Hubenak, in his limited time with the second offensive unit, finished the game 5-11 for 50 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions.
I mentioned last week in my ’10 Things I Think I Think’ section that Knight was most likely a limited player. That’s a hard truth. He doesn’t possess the arm talent of one Johnny Manziel or Kenny Hill. One might make the same argument for Kyle Allen. But that doesn’t mean Knight cannot lead this offense to success in 2016. He flashed on Saturday some of the potential that made him a highly rated recruit out of San Antonio, but he also showed with his interception in the red zone that he is prone to making bad plays in crucial situations. This is something Aggie fans will just have to accept. Hopefully Knight continues to grow in Noel Mazzone’s offense, becoming more comfortable and confident in what he is doing. The most important thing for him is to trust his new teammates and realize there is enough talent around him that he doesn’t have to force the issue and win a game on his own. However, the competition only gets tougher from here, starting with an Auburn defense that held Clemson’s high-powered offense to only 19 points.
Run The Damn Ball Inside the 10 Yard Line
Enough said. Don’t make throwing into the end zone on 1st and 2nd downs inside the 10 yard line a trend this season. Let’s be smarter than this.
A True Test on The Plains of Auburn
Last week, I grouped three teams that I thought were at the bottom of the SEC West pecking order: Mississippi State, Arkansas, and Auburn. This week, Mississippi State beat South Carolina 27-14, Arkansas knocked off #15 TCU on the road, and Auburn rolled up 706 total yards against Arkansas State in a 51-14 win. Additionally, Las Vegas believes that Auburn is a 4 point home favorite this week over Texas A&M. So what do I know.
After a quarterback carousel against Clemson, Gus Malzahn has chosen Sean White to be the quarterback, with Netflix star John Franklin III mixed in on certain packages for his rushing ability. If Auburn truly does have their offense together in week 3, the Aggies face a formidable opponent that will be a true gauge to where they stand in relation to the SEC West. Win, and the Aggies’ hopes of playing on a New Year’s Day bowl game are still intact. Lose, and well those internet message boards, blog sites, and social media will be buzzing about hot seats and having to endure yet another 7-5 season in the SEC.
How does Texas A&M match up with Auburn? The offensive style that Auburn employs takes away one huge advantage for Texas A&M – their pass rush. In fact, Auburn would love for defensive ends Myles Garrett and Daeshon Hall to get up field and take themselves out of the play, letting the Tiger ball carriers run right underneath them. This has been a huge problem for the defensive ends in the past. Instead, the pressure will fall onto the Texas A&M linebackers and safeties, as they will be the ones tasked to make crucial stops.
10 Things I Think I Think
1. We always spend a lot of time talking about the Aggie offense – it’s just easier to write about– but only allowing 205 yards to any team and getting the shutout at home is headline stuff. John Chavis and the defense should be given a lot of credit.
2. Good things happen when Shaan Washington is on the field. We’ve been saying that since he was forced into action as only a true freshman. Now a senior, it’s fun to see him and the other defenders fly around when there is finally competent talent around them. Players like Shaan are what make this defense a complete unit and that shouldn’t go overlooked. He’s seen a lot of bad defense, and now gets to play in a damn good one.
3. There are only a handful of players around the country that are as diverse in their skill set as Donovan Wilson. His versatility is the defensive key this week against Auburn.
4. I’m still not sure we know what exactly to do with all our receivers on offense. Christian Kirk, Josh Reynolds, Speedy Noil and Ricky Seals-Jones are as talented as you can get in one formation. While I like that we are moving each around the field, different than what we have done previously under Jake Spavital, we just don’t seem comfortable yet in some of the different route combinations we are running, or how to make sure each get the amount of targets they should throughout the game.
5. Just as deep, the running back position truly has some stars in the making. It’s going to be tough to get away from Keith Ford and Trayveon Williams, but I’d love to see James White and even Kendall Bussey rotated in and given opportunities. This is a good problem to have.
6. It was weird watching Kenny Hill complete passes to East Bernard’s own Ty Slanina for TCU and thinking that in some alternate universe they are doing so in the maroon and white.
7. Likewise, as Brandon Harris was benched for LSU, its interesting to wonder where exactly this Aggie football program is if Brandon Harris puts in the call to commit before Kyle Allen did some years ago.
8. If you want to negatively recruit any offensive player from going to LSU, why not just send YouTube videos of that putrid offense that had to be saved by a Purdue QB transfer? It shouldn’t be hard.
9. Bret Bielema finally gets a big win in the Metroplex against a Texas program. He has to continually wonder why he left for Arkansas. Yes, you may not like your athletic director who refuses to increase the pay of your assistants, but sometimes the grass isn’t always greener. Especially at a job that has limited upside like Arkansas has. He’s done a decent job, but Arkansas still isn’t ready to compete in the SEC West and I’m not sure when they will be. If a decent Big 10 program comes calling, why not make the jump back and be satisfied dominating in that arena?
10. With Kentucky being completely fine taking it from Florida in Gainesville, you have to ask yourself what the over/under is on new coaches in the SEC next year. 3.5? Kentucky’s best answer for their program just made Nick Saban go nuclear against Lane Kiffin in Tuscaloosa – Western Kentucky’s Jeff Brohm.
Tweets of the Game
A&M coaches knew what they were getting in Knight. Inaccurate downfield passer, but mature, stable leader.— Jeff Keese (@JKeester) September 10, 2016
Taking preorders on my "Smile for LaCamera" shirts.— Wes Hammit (@weshammit) September 10, 2016
ESPN Headline tomorrow:— Jamie Bennett (@jamesleebennett) September 11, 2016
"Texas A&M shows zero respect to sister school in unfair home win"
I need the PVAMU band hype lady to narrate my life.— Shelton Stephens (@SheltonStep) September 10, 2016
College Station, Texas.— Trevor Knight (@trevor_knight9) September 11, 2016