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Recapping the highs and lows of Aggie football

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2019 was everything we expected, and also a complete surprise.

NCAA Football: Alabama at Texas A&M John Glaser-USA TODAY Sports

From a top 15 ranking to start the season, to battling for bowl eligibility, followed by nearly knocking off one of the top programs in the country, 2019 was a bit of an odd time for Jimbo Fisher’s football team down in College Station. While expectations were high after finishing second in the SEC West in 2018, the second year coach entered the season with just 4 seniors on the two-deep depth chart and an absolutely grueling schedule with five opponents ranked in the top 10.

In other words, it’s fair to say that the Aggies’ 2019 campaign was somehow everything we expected, while simultaneously a complete surprise. Here’s a look back at the highs and lows from a season that falls somewhere between booming success and massive failure.

Highs:

Return of the Wrecking Crew

Despite an offense that was more sporadic than Kyle Field’s wifi in 2015, Mike Elko’s unit shined bright for much of the season. When the dust settled, the Aggie defense finished 2019 ranked #29 in total defense, #15 in third down defense, and #30 against the run. They also allowed 28 points or less in all but three games. Considering that 12 of the Ag’s 22-deep rotation were freshmen or sophomores, it doesn’t look like that’ll be changing any time soon.

Freshmen Phenoms

Though there were multiple first year players who contributed for the Maroon and White, there were few who stood out more than Ainias Smith, Isaiah Spiller, and Jalen Wydermyer. The freshmen trio combined for nearly a third of the Aggie’s total offensive yardage after injuries and a lack of production forced them onto the field.

After original starter Jashaun Corbin went down with a torn hamstring in week two, Spiller took the reins and never looked back. The powerful runner poured in over 1100 all-purpose yards and 10 touchdowns while gaining over 100 total yards six times.

Like Spiller, Wydermyer also took advantage of an injured starter when promising five-star tight end Baylor Cupp went down during Fall camp. The 6’5, 260 pound pass-catcher averaged nearly 50 yards a game in conference play and racked up a team-best 6 receiving touchdowns - 3 of which came in contests against #1 ranked Clemson and Alabama respectively.

Smith’s explosiveness in the return game gave him a platform that ultimately helped the three-star prospect carve out a role in the offense. Despite playing behind a trio of veterans, the shifty playmaker poured in over 700 all-purpose yards as a receiver, returner, and running back.

Getting Ugly With UGA

I’m going to start this out by saying any of you “great, hang the banner” weirdos on Twitter can go to hell on this one. [Ed. note: we’re one step ahead of you] If there was any game in 2019 that can go down as a moral victory, it’s the Ags 19-13 loss on the road against the #4 ranked Georgia Bulldogs.

In spite of one of the most gutless, god-awful displays of officiating that I’ve ever witnessed in my 26 years on this earth, Kellen Mond and the Aggies stepped toe-to-toe with Kirby Smart and the Dawgs, taking the SEC East champ down to the wire in Athens.

Giving up only a single touchdown drive (which was essentially gift wrapped by the blind zebras mentioned above), Justin Madabuike and the Aggie front seven shut down the Bulldog rushing attack and repeatedly put quarterback Jake Fromm on his back. Mond also delivered arguably his best game of the season after sparking a pair of second half scoring drives while completing 16 of 24 passes for 205 yards and a touchdown in the second half.

Lows:

Mad Man Malzahn:

The Aggies have a bit of an odd history against Auburn since joining the SEC eight years ago. After metaphorically euthanizing the Tigers in 2012 by a score of 63-21, the last seven matchups have been decided by two scores or less. 2019 was no different.

When the two divisional foes squared off in September, Gus Malzahn and quarterback Bo Nix - who for the record, is a slightly less awful version of Felipe Franks - methodically churned out first downs while their defense suffocated the Aggies’ rushing attack. Add in a classic Malzahn-trick play (a reverse to speedster Anthony Schwartz that went for 57 yards and a touchdown) and that was virtually all she wrote. Mond made a strong push late to bring the Ags within a score, but it was too little too late.

The loss sucked the wind out of the program’s sails and was tough to recover from the rest of the way. To make matters worse, it didn’t take long after the defeat for a video of the College Game Day Crew drunkenly blasting Kyle Field to spread like wildfire across the Twittersphere.

O - Line No:

Despite being one of the most experienced groups in the conference, the Aggies struggled mightily up front last season. With Moore, Green, Prater, and McCollum solidifying themselves in the rotation, the Maroon Goons entered 2019 with a combined 61 starts between the quartet of upper classmen. Unfortunately, that continuity and experience appeared to do very little. Ranked #107 in sacks allowed with 34, the big uglies’ lack of production up front derailed the offense throughout the year and led to the Ags consistently playing behind the down and distance.

Bloodbath in the Bayou

Despite a promising showing in Athens the week before, the Ags fell apart the next week in Baton Rouge. Facing the #1 ranked team (depending on what poll you looked at) for the third time, the Maroon and White were beaten like they stole something as Farmer Fran Ed-O and the Tigers got revenge after their 7-overtime defeat a year prior.

While Mond threw for under 100 yards on 32 passing attempts with 5 sacks to boot, the defense followed suit and was scored on more times than Joey Tribbiani’s sister. This was also the night that we officially broke String. I don’t think I need to go into anymore details.

Somewhere in between:

Chum’s Claim To Fame

To be honest, it’s tough to say where I stand on this one. On one hand, I had a close up on national TV on a “show” that over 90% of the people in my life were currently watching. On the other, not only did that 90% see how border line unstable I am during Aggie athletics, so did the entire country.

Kellen Mond

The third year passer’s performance mirrored the success of the ‘19 season almost to a tee. When #11 got hot it became contagious. When the junior signal caller struggled, it spread like the plague.

Though a dreadful offensive line that’s given up more sacks in the last two seasons than the Aggies did during the entirety of Luke Joeckel’s career can take on a fair share of the blame - as can a receiving corps that methodically struggled with drops - the ripple effect from his play ultimately defined the Ags’ season.

The Texas Bowl

Any time you can beat a former conference foe and cap off the season with a win it’s a good thing... but did anyone in the fanbase really walk away with a buzzing smile after the Ags’ near collapse against Mike Gundy and the Pokes in the Texas Bowl?

Sure, the creativity in the run game created a spark and Mond found a way to bounce back after a slow start, but the lack of crispness and execution on both sides of the ball left many - myself included - walking away conflicted.

Looking ahead

Though a rocky start, there were plenty of positives to take away from Jimbo Fisher’s second year in Brazos County. The hope now is that a lighter schedule, a senior quarterback, and the best defensive coordinator in the country will be enough of a response to all of the negatives.