Wednesday, November 20, 2013
The Aggies don't fear their SEC road trips
By Edward Aschoff
Take Johnny Manziel and the Aggies out of College Station and great things happen, as Texas A&M has a perfect 9-0 record away from Kyle Field since Kevin Sumlin took over.
If this is in fact Johnny Manziel's farewell tour with Texas A&M, it's only fitting that he do it, well, on the road.
Obviously, you can't really do an actual tour without hitting the road, but Manziel and the Aggies are done with their 2013 days at Kyle Field and that's a good thing.
While Kyle Field has always stood as one of the best college football environments -- and a tough venue for its visitors -- the Aggies have had much better success in big games away from home since the Manziel-Kevin Sumlin era began last season. In the past two seasons, Texas A&M has gone 9-0 in road and neutral site games, compared to 10-4 (the only four losses under Sumlin) at home. While the Aggies have averaged five more points (48.3-43.8) and have an average points per game margin of 22.4 at home, Texas A&M has averaged 34 more yards (587.7-553.7) and is 4-0 in games decided by seven points or less on the road, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
A&M AWAY FROM HOME
In the Sumlin/Manziel era, Texas A&M is 10-4 at home, with all four losses by seven points or less. In road/neutral games, however...
Last 2 years
Dec by 7 pts or less
At home, the Aggies have gone 0-4 in games decided by seven points or less.
So with trips to No. 22 LSU (7-3, 3-3 SEC) and No. 8 Missouri (9-1, 5-1) looming, the Aggies shouldn't fret over their last two games. In fact, they should smile and embrace their hostile surroundings.
"I feel like when we go on the road, it's us against the world," senior defensive back Toney Hurd Jr said. "We go into the stadium with a mindset that we have to come out here on top. Coach Sumlin has instilled in us that we have to focus and keep the same mindset, just like we're playing at home, but we're away."
But their road mindset is actually better. The Aggies should definitely avoid stowing their home mindsets in their carry-on luggage. They need whatever swagger and confidence that only comes with playing on the road because it has been lethal thanks to Manziel and Sumlin.
In A&M's nine wins away from College Station, Manziel has averaged 288.7 passing yards and 128.6 rushing yards with 31 total touchdowns. His lowest adjusted road QBR came at Ole Miss last year (84.5), while his lowest home QBR is 25.8, which he had in last season's loss to LSU.
Manziel is an animal in his own right, but when he's away from home, he has a Godzilla effect. He led A&M to its historic 29-24 win over No. 1 Alabama in Tuscaloosa last year, led thrilling comeback wins over Ole Miss in Oxford twice and registered a bowl-record 516 yards of offense in a rout of Oklahoma in last years AT&T Cotton Bowl.
The Manziel-led Aggies are also 4-0 with an average margin of victory of 15 against ranked teams on the road, as opposed to losing all four games at home to ranked teams by 19 total points.
"You go on the road, you try to create your own energy," Sumlin said. "We don't make a big deal about road trips. That's part of it. As a competitor, the same type of enthusiasm you get from the home crowd, from an electricity standpoint, you ought to be able to utilize that on the road, and I think our team does a good job of that."
Saturday presents a unique experience/challenge for the Aggies. Tiger Stadium is no walk in the park; it's a trek through a savage jungle. LSU is 55-7 at home under coach Les Miles, including 27-7 in SEC play. The Tigers have also lost just one home game since 2009.
"It'll be a tough challenge, but it's an exciting one, one that we're all looking forward to," senior receiver Travis Labhart said.
"It's a good feeling to know that when you go on the road that it's just you and your teammates -- band of brothers -- and we go out and play our hardest and luckily we've prevailed so far with Coach Sumlin [on the road]."
For junior receiver Malcome Kennedy, playing on the road is intoxicating. Instead of battling the crowd, he chooses to admire them, and inhales their energy.
"You just look around and you see the crowd and, a lot of the times, I don't know if other players get the feeling but I get the feeling that they're cheering for me," Kennedy said. "It's something weird. Different players have different methods of approaching it but it's a very awesome experience."