The biggest play of the game was when Oklahoma State lined up offsides.
Somehow, despite looking disjointed, sloppy, and desperate for any sort of spark, this Aggie team was only down 14-7 at halftime. Oklahoma’s missed field goal at the end of the half was another pivotal point in the momentum chart since they were getting the ball back after kickoff, but any sort of crowd energy that may have generated was erased immediately when the offense got the ball back with just over 30 seconds left and made no effort to move down the field before the whistle. There was an undercurrent of frustration buzzing through the building, a pervading sense that we knew a breakthrough was possible if we’d only allow ourselves to try.
When the Aggie defense held Oklahoma State to a 3-and-out to start the third quarter, that buzz intensified. Maybe the offense had adjusted and all the constipated frustration of the first half could be erased with a tying touchdown drive. But before we knew it, it was third and nine. And we didn’t make it. Groans, sighs of exasperation. That fog of frustrated ineptitude started settling back down and permeating all the humid corners of the building.
Then we saw that little yellow pile of cloth sitting innocuously on the turf, partially disguised on a yard mark stripe. Oklahoma State had lined up offsides.
On third-and-four, Kellen Mond hit Jalen Wydermyer for 28 yard on the seam for the team’s most explosive pass play of the night. On the next play, Mond executed a perfect pitch on a speed option play to wide receiver/running back virtuoso Ainias Smith for a 19-yard gain. Three plays later, Mond hit Jhamon Ausbon on a 10-yard strike to tie the football game.
Once this game was tied, the energy in the building undeniably shifted. During Texas A&M’s 24-0 run that began in the second quarter, Oklahoma State’s drives went as follows:
- missed FG
- turnover on downs
Chuba Hubbard continued to get yards, but the defense bowed and made stops on crucial downs. Kellen Mond made two huge plays with his feet to salt the game away, and the aura of relief that settled upon the Aggie contingent in NRG stadium was immense and tangible. This was vindication of sorts. This was, “yes, we are actually good enough to defeat a GOOD football team.” A well-coached, ranked team with a dynamic player. This was a challenge we hadn’t had to face during the regular season, when all our opponents were either in the playoff discussion or had a losing record.
But it was also sweet for other reasons. Like string mentioned in the all caps, that 2011 loss to Oklahoma State was a beating on the psyche. It was the inaugural and flagship occurrence of the momentous Mike Sherman second-half collapse that permeated 2011. It was a gutpunch, top-ten, blown-lead collapse on national TV fresh off the heels of the announcement to move to the SEC. It also gave the ‘Pokes four consecutive wins over the Aggies to close the Big 12 era.
Eight years is a lifetime in college football. There have been three distinct coaching eras going back to 2011, and the turnover rate for athletic directors is even higher. The Heisman has been to town. There was a #1 overall draft pick. It’s not so much about redemption over the Oklahoma State program for our losses to them in the Big 12.
The biggest change we saw from 2011 to last night was the mentality of the football team. Instead of blowing a solid lead, this one came back from a two-touchdown deficit. This team was patient and methodical in its redemption of the first half’s inept sputtering. This team was ultimately more physical and talented up front. If you listen to Mike Gundy’s postgame comments he mentions this theme repeatedly: A&M wore down OSU on both lines by the end of the game.
In short, this A&M team is built like an SEC team, and it’s depth is finally starting to show. This team was able to overcome a 14-0 deficit to a team with a 2,000 yard rusher, despite having an offense not suited for comebacks at all. This team won on physicality, defense, and running the ball, and it won despite turning the ball over twice in Cowboy territory.
We’re a long way from where we were in 2011. We’re also a long way from where we want to be, but after last night, it feels like we’re a little bit closer. Bowl games are only what you make of them, and Jimbo Fisher made the most of his 100th career win.