For years, Texas A&M has been one of the more underachieving programs in college football. The sleeping giant who never seems to fully wake up. Every time A&M seemed to be on the cusp of elevating the program, disaster would strike. It has come in many forms over the years, from the blown halftime leads of the 2011 season under Mike Sherman, to the hot starts and November collapses that came to define the Kevin Sumlin era. But for members of the Aggie internet, it has been succinctly defined as “Battered Aggie Syndrome” (BAS). Put simply, Aggies are always on alert for the worst to strike, and feel all too familiar when it inevitably does.
But after the 2020 season this team put together, going 9-1 with a New Year’s Six Bowl win, it’s time to put this mindset, and this metaphorical malady, to bed. Not just because of the results, but in how this team responded to adversity all season long. Virtually without fail, they answered the call when winning time came, and going forward, this program, for the first time in a long time, is worthy of our trust.
Let’s re-live some of the big moments that embody the culture change the A&M program underwent in the 2020 season.
SEASON-DEFINING WIN: The season started off rough, with a lackluster win over Vanderbilt and another non-competitive loss to Alabama. Then No. 4 Florida came to town, and even in a competitive game, a fourth-quarter Ainias Smith fumble allowed Florida a short field that led to a touchdown and a 7-point lead. It felt like another “close but no cigar” moment, until the A&M offense responded with a deep TD to Caleb Chapman, and the defense forced a fumble that would set up the eventual game-winning field goal. Jimbo Fisher said this team needed to learn how to win, and this game was the first of many examples of doing just that.
OVERCOMING BAD PLAYS: Against Mississippi State, the Aggies were cruising comfortably with a 14-0 lead, until a deflected pass led to a fluky Bulldog pick-six. It would have been easy for this team to panic, re-living the horrors of previous trips to Starkville, But instead, they calmly responded with a touchdown drive on the next possession, once again putting the game out of reach on a day when the MSU offense could do almost nothing.
LAYOFF BE DARNED: The Aggies had to postpone two games due to COVID-19 contact tracing, and as a result, went into the LSU game having not played in three weeks. A rusty A&M offense was slowed even further by a rainstorm that persisted throughout the game, but once again, the defense stepped up, with a stifling run defense and timely turnovers (including a TD of their own). On a day where the offense only managed 13 points, it never felt like the outcome was in doubt.
CRUNCH TIME CHARACTER: One of A&M’s biggest tests came the next week at Auburn. A game they dominated early on the stat sheet (but not on the scoreboard) seemed to turn after some hero ball from Auburn QB Bo Nix, and the Aggies found themselves down six as they entered the fourth quarter. They then proceeded to outscore the Tigers 17-0 in the final frame, not even allowing the Auburn offense to cross midfield. Yet another example of this team just enforcing their will on other teams as the game wears on.
THAT FIRST TENNESSEE TD: The final week of the regular season saw A&M in a very winnable game against Tennessee, but we’ve seen this team drop winnable but meaningful games before (see; MSU 2016). On the first drive of the game, the anemic Volunteer offense drove right down the field for a TD. But a seemingly ominous start melted away, as A&M seized control and cruised to a 21-point victory in their first ever trip to Knoxville.
ORANGE BOWL AWESOMENESS: From the stagnant offense, the questionable penalty calls and even more questionable secondary play, this had all the makings of a game the Aggies were destined to lose. Instead, they did was they’ve done for the past 2.5 months, dominate in the fourth quarter and win the game by double digits. This time, led by the speed of Devon Achane.
So the next time a call or a play doesn’t go A&M’s way, put away the BAS, and remember this season. Bad moments will still happen, and sometimes bad games will still happen. But this team is on the rise, having learned what it takes to win, both in practice and within the game. They deserve our respect, and they deserve our trust that they will take care of business when the game is on the line.
Jimbo has been preaching about culture change since he arrived three years ago, this was simply the season in which that change finally bore fruit. It truly ain’t gonna be like it used to be. Get used to it.
How confident are you in this program going foward?
This poll is closed
2020 was just a flash in the pan
This season was great but let’s see what they do next
I think this is the start of something big
I’ve reserved AirBNBs in the host cities of the next six National Championships.