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Evaluating Max Johnson’s First Start as an Aggie

NCAA Football: Miami at Texas A&M Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Max Johnson might have just dealt with one of the most pressure packed starts that an A&M quarterback has ever had to endure. There have obviously been plenty of big games in this school’s history, but not very many teams have had the hype and microscope on them quite like this one. Coming off of one of the worst losses this university has ever seen, there was a lot of chatter. A lot of Aggies, myself included, thought this was a game that could set the tone for the rest of the year and the Jimbo Fisher Era. Not only was it a top 25 matchup, but we were looking down the barrel at two straight home losses to non-conference opponents and our perception in the national media had changed quite a bit, which has a direct correlation to recruiting in the social media world we live in. With all of that building up and the 3rd largest crowd in Kyle Field history, there is one word to describe Max Johnson’s first start as an Aggie: Poised.

For a second, let’s throw out all of the stats and look at this performance from a different lens. Not only did Max have the weight of the 12th Man on his shoulders going into this game, he was without two of his biggest playmakers on the offensive side of the ball. You can argue that quarterbacks are without some of their top weapons all the time, which is true, but there is one difference. Normally, an injury or suspension is something you know about going into the week. You have an entire game plan that includes the guys that you’ll be playing with instead and you can focus on their strengths and get more reps with them. That wasn’t the case this weekend. I can only assume that Max figured out about the suspensions at some time on Saturday morning, which isn’t near enough time to change a game plan or get practice reps with other players. For a lot of quarterbacks, this would probably cause some panic, but it didn’t seem to phase Max.

Fast forward to the game, Max seemed to have total control of himself and the offense. He commanded the huddle, played fast, made quick decisions, and protected the football. Max was calm in the pocket and used his legs as a weapon when he needed too. I would be pointing out the obvious to say that receivers needed to create more separation or the offensive line needs to protect better, but Max was a consistent presence.

We threw out the stats earlier, but let’s bring them back. Moving forward into SEC play, the offense has to be much, much better than the 14-17 points and sub 300 yard games we’ve been getting. Our defense is already playing at a high level, but I think our offense stepping up will free up our defense to start getting off the field more and maybe get away from the “bend don’t break” philosophy they seem to have at the moment. Jimbo said in his weekly press conference that, “we’re a lot closer than it seems.” He’s not wrong, you can see that we’re a good route, good throw, or good block away from breaking games open, but it just isn’t happening yet. Skill plays a big part in that, but so does attitude. I’m hoping this offense takes on a new attitude under Max and goes from being “so close” to having a killer instinct. There’s no excuses to be made for this offense or Jimbo moving forward, you have all the skill you need and playing experience at every position. Now it’s time to make it happen.