Familiar slip with the fall
New coach , but some old habits are hard to break
AUBURN, Ala. — Texas A&M defensive end Tyree Johnson trudged across the Jordan-Hare Stadium grass following a final whistle, clutching his helmet in his right hand while beating it against his head in disbelief.
Hundreds of miles away and across the Sabine River, plenty of A&M fans were doing the same thing at the same time, only using walls instead of helmets.
A&M changed coaches but one thing hasn’t changed for the agitated Aggies and their fans: their annual late-fall swoons.
No. 20 A&M blew a 10point lead late in the fourth quarter at Auburn, and the Tigers prevailed 28-24.
“They got momentum at home, and that’s what you can’t (allow) as a road team — you have to finish,” A&M first-year coach Jimbo Fisher said. “We have to learn how to finish. When you get there, you’ve got to put those games away.”
The Aggies (5-4, 3-3 SEC) will stash this one away as another example of their longtime November ills. Under previous coach Kevin Sumlin, A&M typically started the season fast and then stumbled in late October and on through November. From 2013-17 the Aggies were 4-11 against SEC foes in November, a big reason Sumlin was fired and replaced with Fisher last November.
Over eight seasons at Florida State, Fisher was 27-5 in November, but he’s now 0-1 in that critical month with the Aggies, who are finding some old habits hard to break.
“We’re hurting, man,” A&M defensive end Landis Durham said. “We dominate a whole game like that and we preached all week to finish, and we fell short. You let a team like that hang around, they’re going to take advantage of the opportunity.”
The Aggies were seemingly in control at 24-14 with about 10 minutes remaining in the game when they abruptly let off the gas. Their first misstep came when freshman kicker Seth Small missed a 36-yard field goal that would have put A&M up by 13 with 10:27 left.
Auburn, suddenly revived, marched 71 yards on eight plays and punched the ball into the end zone from a yard out with 5:14 remaining. The Aggies still led 24-21, but their following drive again stalled.
This time around, Auburn needed only two plays to grab its first lead since the first half.
“We’ve got to get open at receiver, too, it’s a mix of everything,” Fisher said. “We threw it for 220 yards and ran it for 201 — we had great balance..”
Auburn’s Daniel Thomas grabs the face mask of Texas A&M’s Kellen Mond during the second half.