Texas A&M Three Keys: Ole Miss

Three-keys-Texas A&M

Texas A&M lost to Alabama, and by a comfortable margin. No one should be surprised. The strange thing about processing a loss to Alabama is that while it would have meant everything for the Aggies to win that game, a loss doesn’t feel devastating.

By Matt Zemek

It was so expected that – when one considers everything else which has happened to A&M this year – it rates as the least depressing or disappointing development in College Station.

That might seem like a meaningless throwaway observation, but there is a point to it, and that will be addressed in the first of the three keys:

1 – Stay the course

The weird thing about eating a relatively decisive loss to Alabama on Saturday is that Texas A&M didn’t play poorly. No, the Aggies were not great or even really good, but they weren’t bad. They were… solid.

Alabama converted a lot of high-leverage third downs. A&M’s defense didn’t achieve what it set out to do, but the Crimson Tide had to earn what it attained. Tua Tagovailoa had to be patient against A&M’s defense; when he wasn’t, the Aggies broke his long streak of passes without an interception.

The Aggies did not quit after Alabama took a 21-point lead in the second half. They scored and then got the ball back down 14. They couldn’t complete their comeback, and they didn’t make Alabama sweat bullets in the final five minutes of regulation, but they also didn’t fade away. They competed reasonably well – not amazingly well, but better than a lot of other teams do (and have done) against the Tide.

The bottom line: This was a level of effort (not technical merit, but competitive grit) which did not and will not beat Alabama or Clemson… but it is a level of effort which will beat almost anyone else in the country.

This was a level of effort not seen against Auburn. The Aggies played better in this game than against the Tigers.

Everyone in the A&M locker room needs to trust that with a sustained level of effort, this team can still make something of itself this season. That project of maintaining trust begins against Ole Miss, and it is the most important lesson the Aggies need to apply in Oxford.

2 – Third downs

So, about the point mentioned above: A&M didn’t get off the field nearly as often as it needed to against Alabama… but that was Bama, with Tua and a bunch of elite receivers. Ole Miss doesn’t live in the same neighborhood, zip code, or universe as Alabama does. It is time for Mike Elko’s group to establish an identity in which it can stack together a lot of three-and-outs.

3 – Deep balls

This will be needed against Georgia and LSU, so the Aggies need to build up to those November showdowns starting now. Texas A&M simply has to find more big plays from its offense. It can’t keep moving the ball in shorter chunks. The margin for error is too small under that circumstance. Kellen Mond has to become a great deep-ball-throwing QB. He is not there. He doesn’t even seem close to being there.

No matter – Jimbo Fisher has to push his quarterback and see if he can finally get things fixed before this season slips away.

Saturday’s game kicks off at 6:30 PM CT. Watch on the SEC Network.

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