Thursday, November 7, 2013
Planning for success: Texas A&M
By Sam Khan Jr.
COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Not only will Saturday mark the last time at Kyle Field for some Texas A&M seniors, but it will also be the final time that Kyle Field looks the way it does.
After the No. 15 Aggies host Mississippi State in the 2013 home finale, construction crews will begin work on the stadium and field itself as part of a $450 million renovation that will take place over the coming years with a summer 2015 completion date.
Jake Matthews is one of several Aggies looking for one final win at Kyle Field.
"After Saturday about 5:30 [p.m.], Kyle Field will look completely different forever," head coach Kevin Sumlin said. "The ability to play in that game or coach in that game or be a fan in that game to me is a big deal."
The Aggies will continue to play in Kyle Field next season while the redevelopment project is ongoing, but for 13 seniors, including left tackle Jake Matthews, running back Ben Malena and linebacker Steven Jenkins, Saturday will be it in front of the 12th Man, though the Aggies have two road games remaining to close out the regular season at LSU and at Missouri.
"It's going to be an emotional day," Malena said. "Not emotional, I think it's more exciting than anything. I look at it as a celebration that you came here, paid your dues. It's all part of growing up. Everybody's going to have a senior day."
Jenkins said he's amazed at how quickly time has passed.
"Time goes by fast," Jenkins said. "Being a part of this program, seeing all the guys come in, building that brotherhood, it's been great. But it's time to go. I've enjoyed Aggieland and the 12th Man. There's no place like it."
This particular group will be remembered for helping the Aggies make a successful transition into the SEC, smashing outsider expectations by going 11-2 last season, their first in the premier conference in college football. It helped establish a foundation for future success in the league. Matthews said that's one of his best memories.
"Just going in the SEC, that whole season, how much fun it was, how surprising it was coming up when nobody thought we were going to be any good," Matthews said. "Playing the way we did and having that much fun is something I'll never forget."
It could also be a home finale for the Aggies’ two brightest stars: quarterback Johnny Manziel and receiver Mike Evans. Both are redshirt sophomores and eligible to declare for early entry into the NFL draft. While it likely won't be known for certain until after the season is over whether they'll go, there's certainly a chance Saturday could be their last at Kyle.
The Aggies are still looking for improvement in several areas in their final home game and final three games overall in order to win out the rest of the year.
"You need to be improving at this time of year," Sumlin said. "We've played pretty well defensively the last two weeks. We're gaining some confidence. We're going to find out Saturday how much we've improved."