Not sure which was more disappointing. The fact that we couldn't make a yard on fourth down to extend the game in overtime, and or the fact that the game reached overtime in the first place.
Well, disappointing, of course, doesn't come close to capturing the heartbreak of this one. We might have to coin a new word to adequately describe the feeling, conjured like an Uruk-Hai in Saruman's pit, that results from such euphoria followed by such utter collapse.
From a brilliant 50-yard Spartan run through Aggies by Jonathan Williams that places us a yard away from 35-14 and ballgame, to well, I'm still trying to sort out in my mind exactly what happened...
I think the Cliff Notes would read: We shot ourselves in the foot one too many times.
We're still paying a penance, apparently. For hiring Petrino, perhaps...for merely existing it seems. This one was ours, but we couldn't handle the snap.
I've removed myself from all media including this site, beginning with the second AC was stopped on fourth, but I'm sure the Aggies are being heralded for a brilliant comeback. Any objective observer would tell you we gave that one away, folks.
For most of the game, we were the better team. Better than the alleged No. 6 team in the land. And if A&M is, in fact, 6, then how are we not top 10? There was nothing flukey about the way we manhandled them for much of the game.
But, alas, victory is awarded to those who can finish, and our young Shoats couldn't quite finish the race on Saturday. As Coach B has often noted, all we lack right now is depth: Our defense wilted late; the offense couldn't finish 'em off late despite being handed the opportunity to do so several times.
The two muffed snaps were costly, and I'd argue that the second was a turning point, but Brandon Allen played well. He's the gutsy kind of QB that I believe we can win with. It's becoming more evident he played at less capacity than we realized last season.
Gary "I Heart A&M" Danielson blamed the first lost snap on starting center Mitch Smothers; it was hard to tell from the replay. The second bobbled snap was delivered by freshmen Frank Ragnow, though again, it was hard to tell if the snap was bad or if BA just dropped it.
The first, of course, led to a TD. The second led to a loss on first down on what should've been a game-clinging, fourth-quarter drive. Our offense must win first down. MUST WIN FIRST DOWN. I noted one drive on Saturday where we won the down (4 yards) and ended up punting.
Second and 12 is not our bread and butter. The Aggies sold out to make sure we faced more second and longs in the second half, and our pass game -- which made some fantastic plays -- couldn't loosen the D enough late to sustain drives. Seems we locked onto one route too many times late when we needed to pick up a crucial third. But it's getting closer, it really is.
Despite giving up big plays late, the defense was spectacular. Carroll Washington's beautiful play on the ball and subsequent pick had me convinced for the fourth or fifth time that we were gonna hang on and win. We couldn't have scripted it better -- up a score late with the ball and the chance to drive, burn clock and win it.
Ugh. The missed opportunities hover in my mind like horseflies, and there are just too many to swipe away…..
Let's track some of them:
- Holding us on the first series of the second half helped begin the process of turning the momentum. Scoring at the end of the first half and then on the opening drive of the second half may have cemented momentum to our side. If you include what should've been Williams' brilliant, game-clinching run to the 1, we run for almost 350 on 'em. But A&M made it clear in the second that we were gonna have to get creative, and at the very least spread the D out a little.
- The bobbled snaps, one a turnover that led directly to an A&M score, the other a drive killer and ultimately a game squanderer.
- The refs. Anyone remember the 1970/80s era bumper sticker with an illustration of a giant screwdriver chasing a Hog that asked the question, "Ask me about them Texas refs?" I love Dan Skipper and hope he continues to play nasty through the whistle, but it's clear he has a reputation that influenced the crew on Saturday. Essentially, two scores were called back by questionable calls on Skipper. (OK, the Williams run maybe not so much, but still.) Too many penalties, questionable or otherwise.
- Again, Williams' Heisman-worthy, ad lib journey through the heart of the Aggie D should've been the game clincher.
- Several times in the second half, we were a block away from breaking a big run. One whiffed block. In this offense, wide receivers, backs, tight ends, whomever....you better come prepared to block.
- The missed field goal probably would’ve done it, even with an offense failing to notch first downs. Poor John Henson. In his home metro and everything. Wasn’t even close. Well, we’re back to the pre-Hocker days of extended four-down territory. And we’ve got to find someone to consistently send kick-offs into the end zone. I thought Hill had been doing that, honestly. We’re close to giving one up. And speaking of our most effective "wildcatter," Sam Hill’s jaunt into the end zone on the fake punt was pure euphoria, along with no small amount of poetic justice after a TD pass to Henry had been called back earlier.
- Jared Collins had a great game and was in position to make a play on the first long TD pass that pulled A&M within a score. Not sure where the safety was, but Collins was there. Unfortunately, tangled feet led to Collins on the turf and A&M in the end zone. And how many picks did we seemingly just miss?
- And one last observation. Either A&M isn’t nearly as good as Auburn, or we’re that much better than we were on Aug. 30. I believe it’s healthy portions of both.
Last night, I wondered how on earth I was gonna be able to post anything about the game. I kept thinking of the Kentucky game in '08 and the LSU game last year and how it was possible for us to lose one that may as well have been the birth child of those two games. (And how could I forget Rutgers from last year?) The former saw us fail to close out a game we had controlled and the latter saw us give up a late long bomb to break our hearts.
I considered typing one very profane word, over and over. That pretty much summed it up for me, heck, for all of us.
But forcing myself to put something down has proven a little therapeutic, I suppose, and thankfully it's helped me step back and focus on the big picture. Many remained skeptical we could even hang with A&M, after all, much less own a two touchdown lead in the fourth quarter.
Still, that one hurt. I'm not gonna pretend it doesn't. But man, we're close. So very close. And hungry.
Bama comes to town in two weeks, and an elephant feast sounds like just the thing to satiate that hunger. Really, does anyone still doubt that we're capable?
The line is fine indeed between the mood that befell the state on Saturday evening and the state of utter euphoria that would be palpable today if we'd hung on and won. When we break through this SEC fog, and soon we're gonna break through, it'll be glorious.
But for now, we have to sit back and accept the fact that we let a big one get away. The good/bad news is that we've got plenty of big ones left on the schedule to try and land.