2011. We remember that one, right? The year where the AGGIE SECOND HALF COLLAPSE meme was born, fed human growth hormones, and sculpted into a scary behemoth. Where we ascended to the top ten, only to lose in crushing fashion to another top ten team. Where we lost four of our last five in the regular season to skid to a woeful 6-6 finish after entering the season #8. Yeah, you were probably there, so you remember.
Mid-to-late December. Sherman had gotten canned. A new coach had been announced. The team’s tenure in the Big 12 was officially over. It was maybe the biggest transitional phase in the program’s history and we were gearing up for lower-tier bowl in Houston with an interim coach who’d soon get a head coaching gig of his own. The temptation is to write this off beforehand so a loss isn’t disappointing. But you can tell a lot by how a team handles this.
The team was short its first two running backs due to injury: future NFL-ers Christine Michael and Cyrus Gray. The third-stringer, sophomore Ben Malena, stepped in and was a workhorse: piled up over 100 yards from scrimmage and scored a pair of touchdowns. The Aggie defense sacked Northwestern EIGHT times, and the top three tacklers were all anchors of the 2012 defense: Damontre Moore, Steven Jenkins, and Jonathan Stewart.
This was Texas A&M’s first bowl win in a decade, and the freshmen who played in this bowl: Malcome Kennedy, Deshazor Everett, Cedric Ogbuehi, would never lose a bowl game at Texas A&M. The guys who performed well in the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas were the guys the new staff leaned on during the first year or two in the SEC.
2011 to 2012 was a huge leap into the unknown. 2017 to 2018 is a cakewalk by comparison. Still, whichever underclassmen make an impact against Wake Forest in Charlotte stand a pretty good chance of being tagged as leaders by the new staff. It’s a unique situation when you’ve got an interim coach in a bowl: expectations are actually tempered (even ours!) and all tendencies are thrown out the window. It’s wide-open, fun football.
And if we come up short, well, there are plenty of excuses for that too. We’ve got an extra month of consequence-free football to enjoy. Happy December.