Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Aggies good on road; tough tests await
By Sam Khan Jr.
COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- As the time ticked off the clock and the fans trickled out of the stadium, Texas A&M defensive end Damontre Moore took pleasure in the moment.
What was a full, excited Jordan-Hare Stadium was practically empty by comparison when the game entered the fourth quarter and Aggies starters stood on the sideline with a victory over Auburn well in hand. The sound from the crowd -- rather the lack thereof -- is something Moore will remember about his team's 63-21 romp over the Tigers.
Running back Christine Michael and the Aggies are perfect on the road this season
"It was a good feeling to me," Moore said. "I think the perfect quote to me would be 'Silence is golden.' "
The Aggies (6-2, 3-2 SEC) have silenced and stunned road crowds all season, and it's one of the reasons Texas A&M has succeeded beyond the halfway point in its first Southeastern Conference campaign. The No. 16 Aggies are perfect on the road this season. That's a good sign for a team that has its toughest two road games on the next two weekends: Saturday at No. 15 Mississippi State and Nov. 10 at No. 1 Alabama.
The Aggies say they don't make a big deal of going on the road, approaching it as they would a home game. That attitude stems from coach Kevin Sumlin.
"On the road, it's kind of a different environment because you're on your own," safety Steven Terrell said. "You don't have as many fans and things like that. I think [Sumlin] just does a good job of keeping everybody focused and it is basically just another game. We treat everything the same. I don't know if there's something special about the road games, but he just does a great job of keeping everybody calm and making sure that we stay focused on the task at hand."
And the environment is different. For this crop of Aggies, much is new. The road trips take them to different places than those they knew in the Big 12, but those new destinations are opening up wholly new experiences for the Aggies.
Senior receiver Uzoma Nwachukwu said the fans are plenty rowdy in SEC country.
"Right when you get to the stadium, you have the tailgaters and the crazy loud fans and they're jawing with you," Nwachukwu said. "When you walk into your locker room, they're out there talking to you and they give you a hard time and that's kind of the atmosphere we like. I like it especially because that gives us more motivation to go out on the field and stop all that talk. For me, that's been a little different, but it's for the better."
"Of course it happened at Texas and places like OU and Texas Tech, but I think that, with the SEC, it happens everywhere. There's not going to be a game where the fans are going to be quiet. I think that's just the atmosphere that it brings."
And while it's a new world in the SEC for the Aggies, they've stayed focused on their goals week-to-week, avoiding getting caught up in all the hoopla.
"We don't really worry about where we're playing," senior linebacker Jonathan Stewart said. "We worry about the field we're playing on, because that controls how much fun anybody's going to have -- their fans, our fans, everybody who's traveling with us. We just worry about the team we're playing against and everything else, it's not really significant. At the end of the season, we can look back and say 'Oh that was a great place to play,' and everything like that, but in season, every single week we have just one focus and that's to win the next ballgame."
The Aggies' success on the road now isn't new to Sumlin. His teams have a streak of 10 straight wins away from home. At Houston, the Cougars didn't lose a road game in 2011. The last time a Sumlin-coached team lost on the road was Nov. 27, 2010. During his Houston tenure, his teams were 14-11 on the road, excluding bowl games.
"We have a way we do things in travel and a road routine," Sumlin said. "From a record standpoint, it's been pretty successful. We won't do anything to change that."
Moore said keeping a consistent routine is a big factor.
"I think it's been a big reason for success," Moore said. "We don't look at it as 'Going on the road.' We look at it as another game, another opportunity, another chance to win and another chance prove our point and make a statement about ourselves.
"When you're thinking in that aspect, you don't get caught up in the other stuff 'Oh, we're going on a road game, we're playing here, how's their crowd?' and all that stuff. We don't take that into consideration. We're just looking at the opponent we're playing, the task at hand and how well we studied our scheme and let's get the job accomplished."