A&M starting over amid 3-game losing streak
Texas A&M started 3-0 and the Aggies seemed headed in the right direction early in coach Mike Sherman’s second season.
Now that promise is gone.
But the Aggies lost their next two games and then got humiliated 62-14 at Kansas State on Saturday, a shockingly lopsided loss that raises questions about just how much progress the program has made.
A&M (3-3, 0-2 Big 12) was handed its worst defeat since a 77-0 thrashing against then-No. 1 Oklahoma late in the 2003 season. The Aggies collapsed in every phase:
-They gave away a season-high five turnovers, and Kansas State converted four into touchdowns. Quarterback Jerrod Johnson threw three interceptions after setting a Big 12 record with 225 passes without a pick this season.
-The offensive line allowed six sacks, matching the combined total from the first four games. The Aggies finished with minus-13 rushing yards – the 51 yards gained were offset by 64 yards lost on Kansas State tackles behind the line.
-The defense gave up 232 rushing yards and six touchdowns on the ground. The Wildcats’ offense was ranked 75th in the nation coming into the game.
-Brandon Banks returned the second-half kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown and Kansas State started four other drives inside Texas A&M territory after short punts and sloppy coverage.
A shell-shocked Sherman had no explanation for why the Aggies played so poorly. He acknowledged on Monday that A&M is still short on talent at several positions, but he also said the team practiced well last week and seemed ready for the game.
“We never saw it coming,” Sherman said. “We had a great week of preparation, the kids were fired up about going and playing this ballgame, and it just hit us. We could never get it right.”
Kansas State led 17-0 after the first quarter and 38-0 at halftime. Senior guard Michael Shumard said as the score spun out of control, more Aggies started doing too much and making matters worse.
“It felt like the harder we tried, the further we fell,” he said. “Guys were trying to make plays, but when they would do something beyond what they were coached to do, we kind of got ourselves in trouble.”
Sherman led a sullen film session on Monday morning and pored over breakdowns in basic fundamentals – missed tackles, poor blocking and mental lapses.
The Aggies don’t have time to sulk. They play No. 21 Texas Tech (5-2, 2-1) on Saturday, a team that’s beaten them by an average of 33 points in the last three meetings in Lubbock.
Beyond comprising a game plan, Sherman said most of his job this week will be trying to restore his team’s confidence.
“I’m the captain of the ship, so to speak,” he said. “We’ve sprung a leak and we need to go fix it, and that’s my job. However I lead them this week will be how they’ll react to this loss. If I do a good job, I’ll lead them in the right direction.”
But the embarrassing loss was still lingering around the A&M football complex on Monday. Shumard got into a heated argument with another lineman about how they both played at Kansas State.
“It’s not like we’re panicking, or anything like that,” Shumard said. “We’re yelling at each other and telling each other to step up and we’re going to do this. You can’t do stuff like that because you don’t want to tear friendships up. But at the same time, we’ve got to win, so there has to be a balance.”
Sherman says the leaders of the team are still emerging and he’ll need them all this week to keep the Aggies together. Johnson, more soft-spoken than fiery, said the best thing for A&M to do now is to put Saturday’s performance out of their minds.
“I can’t exactly say what happened, we just didn’t click very well on offense,” Johnson said. “Things just seemed to snowball and it was one of those nights, one of those things that happened. I’m glad it’s in our past and now we’ve got to move forward.”
Sherman challenged his team to not allow the loss to become the pivotal moment of the season. The Aggies played well in stretches of their previous game, a 36-31 loss to No. 15 Oklahoma State, and they still have six Big 12 games remaining.
“The only thing you can do when you get something like this is try to teach them something,” Sherman said. “If they want this one game to define them or this season, then they’ll just lay down and take it. But if they want to rise above and meet this opportunity that adversity has created, then they can really do something special. That’s what I expect out of this team.”