For the purpose of the first part of this piece I want you to forget the pre-season expectations. I’ll address those towards the end because, while worth addressing, they kind of take away from a major part of this loss.
Despite poor play from the defense. This was a winnable game. Down four with 7 minutes and change left in the fourth quarter. I mentioned this in my post-Arkansas thoughts but we made our money on situations like that last year.
And we couldn't get it done. Again. This team has found new ways to lose games this year resulting in all of us wondering who we are as a team, and more frustratingly, as a program.
Let’s break it down.
Everyone deserves blame for this game but the offense deserves less blame because they played above their pay grade given how they played earlier this year. Zach Calzada finishes 12/20 for 135 with 1 TD and 1 INT including an electric 25 yard TD run, after which he ran to the sidelines instead of getting back in the huddle for a 2 pt conversion. He missed that TD to Smith in the endzone that would have won it. He missed Jalen a few times. He had his misses.
He had the ball deep in our side of the field with 2 timeouts needing to get to maybe the opposing yard line to set up a game-winning field goal.
And he gets hit for a safety. On a series that went 1 yard loss by Spiller, incomplete pass to Smith, and then sack for a safety. He completed 60% of his passes which I think all of us would have been totally content with as a hypothetical before the game started.
Mississippi State was giving up 70 some odd yards a game rushing, and we gashed them for 162. You’d think that a game where Spiller got over 100 and Achane averaging 8.6 yards a carry that we’d win pretty easily.
The offense did better than they had for the past couple of games but that’s obviously not a high bar to hit. Could a different QB have won this game? Maybe. But we don't have a different QB.
It wasn't enough.
For many of us older Ags seeing a Mike Leach Team come in and dink and dunk us to death brought back a lot of bad memories. But yet here he was again with his QB going 46/59 for 408 with 3 TDs.
This defense gave up 408 yards passing. Unbelievable. But yet totally believable. Like I said we found a new way to lose a game. Makai Polk officially puts his name up there with guys like Todd Blythe of dudes who just torched us at Kyle Field. What a night for him, with 13 catches for 126.
We seemed content to rush 3 all night and get no pressure on their QB. When we did decide to pressure the QB, the pressure didn't get home and resulted in holes in the defense. Rinse and repeat.
And yet we didn't adjust. We stubbornly thought that we could continue doing what we were doing without any sort of adaptation and win the game just because we had more talent. We were ok giving up the 5-yard plays as long as we didn't give up the big one. But you give up enough of those plays and eventually you give up the big one. Can't stop the small ones cant stop the big ones.
Now let’s talk preseason expectations. We came into his year ranked in the top 10 with lofty expectations after a pretty remarkable season in 2020. And yes we definitely had some bad luck, but a loss like tonight is more than just about losing Haynes. We were down a bunch of players but what player would have made this game better than what it was?
Where are we as a program? There’s talent up and down this roster, but there are gaps in multiple key places. Where do we go from here with Alabama looming next weekend?
I don't even know where to begin...well I do. I know that it begins with the head coach taking a hard look at everything he’s doing right now and figuring out how to fix it. I genuinely couldn't care less about how much he makes a year—those dont change my expectations of the work he should be doing. I’d expect better than what we saw tonight from someone making a 10th of his salary.
I love Texas A&M. And I love Aggie Football. And I’ll have to reflect on where this loss and this season falls in the pantheon of letdowns. I know that all of you love this team and Aggie Football too. This one hurts.
I know that guys on this roster want to win. I know that the coaches want to win too.
But desire and wanting to win and all those other buzzwords don't really mean much when you’re 3-2 with Alabama coming to town.
Guess we go back to practice and hope to get better and find out what we’re made of this week.