Wednesday, September 18, 2013
No hype, no problem for steady Aggies
By Sam Khan Jr.
COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Unlike last week, there weren't national television production trucks parked outside the Bright Football Complex or Kyle Field on Tuesday. There isn't a sizeable buzz or buildup to Texas A&M's upcoming game against SMU on Saturday. The "zoo" or "noise," as Aggies coaches termed what was forming outside of the football facilities in anticipation of the A&M-Alabama tilt last Saturday, is gone for now.
Questions at Tuesday's weekly news conference centered not around national attention or off-the-field matters, but instead about the team, personnel issues, the aftermath of the Alabama game and even coach Kevin Sumlin's offensive principles and coaching roots.
Coach Kevin Sumlin and the Aggies are moving on from the loss to Alabama.
Inside Bright, everything appears to be business as usual. Coaches and players are going about their regularly-scheduled business. Construction continues on the new lobby at the front of Bright, where the Heisman Trophy and other notable things will be displayed. And the players are focused on putting Saturday's 49-42 loss to No. 1 Alabama behind them.
Win or lose, that was going to be Sumlin's message to them.
"We have nine more games," Sumlin said Tuesday. "That's been my approach to how we've done things wherever I've been, whether [or not] they're big games. To you guys, they're big games and we get that. But they become big when you're winning or you're in a position to have success. So in order to do that, it doesn't matter whether you're mad or you're ecstatic. The next week, you've got to move on and that's what we've done."
The emotion and pageantry that came with Saturday's game, which pitted the Heisman Trophy-winner, quarterback Johnny Manziel, and the No. 10 Aggies (2-1) against the defending BCS champion Crimson Tide, was built up in large part because the Aggies were the only team to beat Alabama in 2012.
Despite the loss, expectations remain the same for the Aggies, who all cited Alabama's title run with one loss as evidence that they, too, can do it. Now that they do have a loss, senior running back Ben Malena feels it will be easier for the players to focus solely on their upcoming game.
"I think it will be easier," he said. "I think it's easier just for the fact that we do have a loss. We understand how important it is to take it one game at a time. It's a one-game season every week and you have to prepare for it like it is a one-game season. This week, we have SMU, we're looking at it, we accept the challenge from those guys and they're going to be coming at us, ready to knock us off. We're going to prepare like we did last week."
When asked after Saturday's loss if it was a "relief" to get past Alabama week because of all the hype and buildup, Manziel maintained that the Aggies as a team did not over-emphasize the game against the Crimson Tide over its other games.
"For me, to be honest, as much as people tried to say it was a big game, I know for the guys in the locker room and the guys who are experienced, I probably came out less nervous today than I was in the other games," Manziel said. "What did we have to lose? The pressure wasn't on us. The pressure was on Alabama to try and three-peat and do all this stuff. We were just going to try to go and play our hearts out and leave it all out on the field and that's all we could do."
A&M did that and came within a touchdown of the champs. If the Aggies can continue to do it, it's reasonable to believe that they have a chance to win the rest of the games on their schedule, though some of the tougher tests include a return trip to Oxford, Miss., against Ole Miss and to Death Valley to meet LSU.
Can the Aggies bring the same kind of emotion to this Saturday's non-conference game that they did to the latest "Game of the Century?" Malena believes they can.
"I don't think it'll be difficult at all for us as a team," Malena said. "That's what championship teams do, play at a consistent level. Have similar emotion within a week-to-week basis. We do understand that last week was a big game and it is going to be challenging to have that same kind of enthusiasm just because of the different circumstances but our play on the field is not going to change, our emotion is not going to change. We're still going to be the same team we were last week, this week."