- Sam Khan Jr., ESPN Staff Writer
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COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- These kind of losses became a theme for Texas A&M in 2011.
There's no getting around it: the Aggies had trouble holding leads. Six times last season, they lost a game in which they once had a double-digit lead.
On Saturday, in their 2012 season opener against Florida, the Aggies once lead the Gators by 10 at 17-7 and fell in the end, 20-17.
Is it a sign that, despite the changes in staff, scheme and some personnel, that things are still the same for Texas A&M?
"It's something that we've been addressing," said head coach Kevin Sumlin, who coached his first game for the Aggies on Saturday. "It's the elephant in the room. But it's like I said, when you have a game that is that close, the first thing that we have to fix is ourselves, from a penalization standpoint and from an execution standpoint. And then the other part, winning and closing out games, becomes a little bit easier."
Sumlin pointed out that while the Aggies might have once possessed a double-digit lead, it was a close game throughout. Texas A&M's halftime lead was a mere touchdown .
The players said that in some ways, Saturday's game felt similar to games from last year.
"Yes, in a way, I had a glimpse back," senior receiver Ryan Swope said. "It's hard...this is a whole new year, so I try to put that behind me. It's one game. We have a great group of guys, great coaches, we just have to prepare and put that one behind us."
Another senior, linebacker Jonathan Stewart, emphasized the Aggies' need to move forward from Saturday's result, and said that other than the final result, it didn't feel the same.
"The end result felt like last year," Stewart said. "But overall, we were confident. We had plenty of opportunities and unfortunately, we just didn't get the job done. The sun will come up in the morning, we'll wake up and move on to the next game and get ready for SMU. That's the great thing about football."
Sumlin said that while he's aware of the events that happened a year ago, he didn't think Saturday was similar.
"I've said it before, walking in in the spring, you could feel it," Sumlin said. "But it's something that based on this game today, which is the only game I've coached here, based on this game today, I didn't feel that. I felt like we just couldn't close or make plays in the fourth quarter, but we were still there. We had a chance to win the game, drive the ball and score or tie it up at the end. We failed to do that."
Emotions were raw after Saturday's loss, a game in which the Aggies hoped to make a statement to those who doubted their ability to compete in the SEC and one which was highly anticipated by the Aggies faithful, including the more than 87,000 on hand.
But if they want to avoid their 2012 season looking like 2011, they know they must turn the page.
"We have 11 games left," Stewart said. "We have to look forward to SMU. We can't hang our heads on losing to Florida and everything that surrounds it."
2dSam Khan Jr.
5dSam Khan Jr.