That one hurt quite a bit. Not only because of the brutal nature of football that was on display Saturday: a ruthless efficiency and poise that exploited every single Aggie mistake while making virtually none of their own. Not only because getting punched in the teeth for 60 minutes is completely exhausting in and of itself.
It’s largely because we’ve had to do a hard reset on expectations. The performance in the Clemson game blurred the lines between what this team was capable of doing, and what it was capable of doing against Alabama. There is, as we saw, a huge difference. If you’d have said at the beginning of the season that we’d be 2-2 at this point with a two-point loss to Clemson, and a pseudo-respectable showing against Alabama where we outgained them on the ground, most people would have shrugged and thought “sounds okay.” That all sounds well and good until you actually go through the experience of getting mauled by Alabama.
Does it help that the Aggies nearly matched the points output of the three previous Tide opponents combined, or that we were the first team this year to hold them under 50 points? Not really. Nor does the fact that we managed to hang back, just barely technically within striking distance until the end of the third quarter. The fourth quarter turned into the blowout that everyone expected, and the hangover has yet to dissipate. Moral victories have become stale and unpalatable.
This is the first time the Aggies have lost twice in September since 2008, Mike Sherman’s inaugural season. This is not to say that this year will be a repeat of that horrorshow: the program has traveled light years since then. It’s just a sort of stark reminder that we haven’t been in this spot for a decade, and we’re not quite sure what to do with it.
Just have fun. That’s all that we can do. Cut the strings attached to the expectations of 10 wins, buckle in, and watch this team and program continue to grow. The Aggies have a legitimate chance to win all eight games remaining on the schedule. The same approach that allowed us to cling to hope for three quarters against Alabama (chip away with field goals, make the opponent’s offense one-dimensional) will pay greater dividends against Auburn and LSU.
This team is still young and hungry and eager to show what they’re fully capable of. An 11 a.m. kickoff against Arkansas is a great place to start. Let’s have some fun.