Texas A&M Football: Looking Back at the Key Losses of 2016

Texas A&M Football

Nov 5, 2016; Starkville, MS, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs wide receiver Fred  Ross (8) catches a pass on a touchdown play defended by Texas A&M Aggies defensive back DeShawn  Capers-Smith (26) during the second quarter of the game at Davis Wade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

After a tremendous start, the season didn’t end the way many Texas A&M football fans expected it to. Let’s look back at where it went wrong.

Texas A&M made it’s first appearance in the College Football Playoff rankings in November. Rising from an unranked start to the number four team in the nation in nine weeks.

After dropping what had been a fairly close game to Alabama on the road, the Aggies had routed New Mexico State. That victory came in large part thanks to a pair of Christian Kirk punt return touchdowns. That earned Texas A&M the number four seed in the initial playoff rankings.

Then the wheels came off.

Mississippi State

Trevor Knight was injured on a first quarter touchdown run early in the game against Mississippi State in Starkville. That didn’t help the Aggies chances. Following a lethargic second quarter, mostly without Knight the Aggie deficit widened to 28-7. A Kirk return touchdown before halftime propelled the Aggies back into the game, making the score 28-14.

In the end it was the efficiency of the Bulldog offense (or inconsistency of the Aggie defense) that kept the game just out of reach. Mississippi State scored a pair of long touchdowns (a 74 yard run by QB Nick Fitzgerald and a 60 yard pass to Fred Ross from Fitzgerald) as well as three scores on sustained, back-breaking drives that went the length of the field.

For much of the afternoon the offense seemed shell shocked, but it was able to match the Bulldog offense punch for punch in the second half. It was the defense that couldn’t get off the field, allowing a seven minute, 14 play, 73 yard touchdown drive to put the game out of reach.

The defense allowed 29 first downs, 574 yards, and 5 touchdowns against a Mississippi State offense that went on to finish the season in the upper third in the country in total offense. On the other side of the ball, the Aggies managed 14 first downs, 382 yards, and 4 touchdowns against the 110th ranked defense in college football.

Texas A&M Football

Nov 12, 2016; College Station, TX, USA; Mississippi Rebels

Ole Miss

The Aggies would follow that loss with a gut wrenching defeat at home against an Ole Miss team starting a true freshman quarterback for the first time. The Aggie defense kept the Rebels out of the end zone in the first half and took a 21-6 lead into the break.

The lead didn’t come without cost. Armani Watts and Donovan Wilson both left the game with injuries in the first half and did not return. With those two defenders absent from the lineup in the second half, Rebel quarterback Shea Patterson started to heat up.

an early two score lead was not enough to secure the victory as the Aggie defense allowed 23 fourth quarter points. It was a gruesome sight to see.

With five minutes remaining and a two point lead, the offense had a chance to ice the game. Instead that final drive went like this: 1 yard run up the middle, 2 yard run up the middle, incomplete pass, punt. A lack of aggression and no sign of a killer instinct combined with some questionable play calling were evident here.

Texas A&M Football

Dec 28, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Kansas State Wildcats quarterback Jesse  Ertz (16) runs the ball during the second quarter against the Texas A&M Aggies at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

LSU and Kansas State

Even with the playoff officially out of sight, there was still some hope coming into Thanksgiving. The Sugar Bowl was still in play, but even without an invite to New Orleans the Aggies could still finish the season 10-3 and ranked.

The LSU game was rough, but the Aggie offense showed some signs of life. The 22 points that A&M scored in the fourth quarter were more points than the Tigers had surrendered in a game all season.

Yet again, the defense disappeared. Backup running back Derrius Guice set a LSU record, running for 285 yards as the Tiger offense racked up 54 points at Kyle Field.

A&M drew Kansas State in the Texas Bowl. Not exactly a star-studded matchup, but it’s always better to win your bowl games than lose them. Unfortunately for the Aggies, Kansas State did not beat themselves. The Aggies committed eight penalties, turned the ball over twice, and allowed as many 50 yard scoring plays (2) as the Wildcat offense had scored the entire season.

There was plenty to nitpick here. Whether it was the 52 yard field goal down by five in the fourth quarter or a bizarre option on the Aggies final and most critical third down of the game, the play selection was baffling that evening.

The final pass went to Damion Ratley, who had made two receptions on the season, rather than Reynolds who had already caught 12 passes on the night and two touchdowns.

For a team that finished 8-5, it sure felt like a 5-8 season. 2016 just wasn’t the Aggies’ year. Here’s to hoping things turn out better in 2017. Gig’em.

***Stats from ESPN and Sports Reference***

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