Thursday, September 19, 2013
Aggies remain focused on big picture
By Sam Khan Jr.
COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Kevin Sumlin didn't want his team coming into the Bright Football Complex on Sunday, less than 24 hours after a draining battle against No. 1 Alabama, one that left the Aggies with their first loss of the year.
Even if the Aggies had won, Sumlin wouldn't have the players around. Unless there are extenuating circumstances, such as those that come with a shortened week of preparation, Sumlin likes to give his players Sundays off while the coaches dive into the video from the previous day's game.
"We don't want them around here at all, instead of coming in right after the game and then [have them] get back on Monday," Sumlin said. "I've always done that. There's plusses and minuses to that. Some people say they want to get things over with as soon as possible. It gives them an opportunity, and gives me an opportunity, to really analyze the plusses and minuses, whether you win or lose, away from the players."
Johnny Manziel and the Aggies know it's still possible for them to win the SEC, so they're moving on.
On Monday, Sumlin and his staff went over the Alabama loss, then the message was clear: Move on.
"We had an opportunity to watch the video, positionally and as a team, and my message to the team was, 'After we're done with that, we're not talking about it anymore,' " Sumlin said. "Whether we had won or lost, that was going to be the message."
The Aggies (2-1) heeding that message will be key, because any lingering effects from dropping an emotional game against the Crimson Tide hinder the Aggies' goal, which still is to win the SEC West. The circumstances become more difficult now that they are 0-1 in SEC play, but Sumlin's words after Saturday's loss harped on that one point.
Player after player came into Hagner Auditorium on Saturday, repeating that message.
"He pretty much explained it to us this way: Last year we went to Tuscaloosa, Ala., and did the same exact thing," sophomore defensive end Julien Obioha said. "We beat them on their own turf, and they thought that was the end of the season. Then at the end of the season, they actually ended up winning the national championship. He told us, 'It's not the end of the season. If you do your job and win all the rest of the games, then you can end up in Pasadena.' So it's not the end of the season."
The Aggies must now win the rest of their games to have a chance at winning the division, and they'll need at least one Alabama loss, perhaps two, to help their cause. That's something they can no longer control, so instead they'll turn their focus to SMU, which comes to Kyle Field at 6 p.m. CT on Saturday.
"You've got to keep fighting and know that this isn't the end of the season," junior right tackle Cedric Ogbuehi said. "We still have a lot more games to go and a lot more games to win. We played good, we played hard. We've just got to get better in some areas, and it's good for us that we got the young guys out there against Bama; that'll help in the future."
The Aggies must get better on defense, that much is clear. After giving up more than 200 rushing yards in each of their first three games and more than 500 yards and 49 points to the Crimson Tide, there's a lot of work to do there.
"We have to fill our gaps better and have better eyes on the back end for the play-action pass," defensive back Toney Hurd Jr. said. "Up front, we just have to continue to get better and work on our craft."
Offensively, the Aggies don't seem to have much to worry about. After putting up more than 600 yards against a defense that was No. 1 in the country last year, the Aggies are hitting on all cylinders. They do need to take care of the ball better than last week (two turnovers) but overall, the unit appears on track to rank among the best offenses in the nation.
For now, the Aggies are focusing solely on SMU, with the bigger picture remaining in the back of their minds.
"Just got to go game by game," quarterback Johnny Manziel said. "Just like last year, continue to get better, week by week, and the result was what happened in the Cotton Bowl.
"For us [the loss to Alabama] wasn't the end of our season. This wasn't the Super Bowl. This wasn't the last game of the season. Alabama lost a game last year and still went on to win a national championship. They lost to LSU the year before and still went on to win the national championship. Our season isn't over. Anything can happen."