Ag­gies seek­ing elu­sive win at home against SEC West

San Antonio Express-News - - COLLEGE FOOTBALL - By Brent Zw­erne­man brent.zw­erne­man@chron.com twit­ter.com/brentzw­erne­man

COL­LEGE STA­TION — The last time Texas A&M won an SEC West game at Kyle Field, Eric Hy­man was the Ag­gies’ ath­letic di­rec­tor. A&M bas­ket­ball fans were beg­ging for coach Billy Kennedy to at least make the NCAA tour­na­ment — the Ag­gies have had two Sweet 16 show­ings since — and Tex­ans quar­ter­back De­shaun Wat­son was a ju­nior at Clem­son.

The Astros, a decade re­moved from their then­lone World Se­ries show­ing, were wrap­ping up a sec­ond-place fin­ish in the AL West to … the Texas Rangers.

Much has changed on the sur­round­ing sports land­scape since A&M de­feated quar­ter­back Dak Prescott and Mis­sis­sippi State 30-17 on Oct. 3, 2015.

One thing has not: The Ag­gies’ in­abil­ity to win divi­sion games on their home field. In Jan­uary 2016, A&M ran off Hy­man and re­placed him with Scott Wood­ward, who more than a year later ran off A&M coach Kevin Sum­lin and re­placed him with Jimbo Fisher.

All with games such as A&M (5-4, 3-3 SEC) host­ing Mis­sis­sippi (5-4, 1-4) at 11 a.m. to­day in mind. The cur­rent A&M se­niors have won one SEC West game at Kyle: The 13-point vic­tory against Mis­sis­sippi State more than three years ago.

“It’s been a wild ride, and coach Fisher has come in and made a lot of changes that have ben­e­fited this team,” A&M se­nior of­fen­sive line­man Con­nor Lan­fear said. “It’s only go­ing to con­tinue to im­prove in com­ing years. But be­ing a se­nior and re­al­iz­ing you’re in your last three games at Kyle Field, it’s re­ally bit­ter­sweet, and I’m just try­ing to en­joy ev­ery sec­ond I can.”

Lan­fear and his team­mates on of­fense should have plenty of joy­ous mo­ments to­day against the Rebels, who are worst in the SEC in to­tal de­fense, rush­ing de­fense and pass­ing de­fense.

“It will be a great matchup for us, run­ning the ball and through the air as well,” A&M run­ning back Trayveon Wil­liams said. “If we can ex­e­cute and do our jobs, I hon­estly feel like no­body in the coun­try can stop us.”

Mis­sis­sippi State and Auburn in the past two weeks had no trou­ble stop­ping the Ag­gies when it counted most — in the fourth quar­ter with the games on the line. In each con­test, the Ag­gies were outscored 14-0 over the fi­nal 15 min­utes.

A&M lost at Mis­sis­sippi State 28-13 and at Auburn 28-24, blow­ing a 10-point lead over the fi­nal six min­utes in the lat­ter. Fisher said the Ag­gies need a change in “men­tal­ity” mov­ing for­ward, and that’s not some­thing that hap­pens overnight — or even over months.

“I’m not say­ing it can’t hap­pen quickly, and you (al­ways) have to go through tri­als and tribu­la­tions,” Fisher said. “But some­times you do, to un­der­stand that (nec­es­sary) men­tal­ity.”

The Rebels bring in the SEC’s top pass­ing of­fense, but one also bent on es­tab­lish­ing the run.

“Mak­ing sure they feel threat­ened in the run game is im­por­tant,” Mis­sis­sippi coach Matt Luke said. “That way we can get our play ac­tion go­ing and take our shots deep when we want to, not be­cause we have to.”

The Ag­gies, who won three con­sec­u­tive SEC con­tests be­fore the two-game slide, haven’t been helped by a quirky sched­ule this sea­son. Five of their six pre­vi­ous games were away from Col­lege Sta­tion, and they haven’t played on their home field in more than a month — a 20-14 over­time vic­tory over No. 11 Ken­tucky on Oct. 6.

The Wild­cats com­pete in the SEC East, so the Ag­gies’ home skid against West mem­bers is still in­tact.

In fair­ness, the SEC West fu­til­ity stretch is a bit skewed, con­sid­er­ing the Ag­gies play divi­sion ri­val Arkansas at AT&T Sta­dium in Ar­ling­ton ev­ery sea­son.

A&M de­feated Arkansas 24-17 this sea­son, the Ag­gies’ sev­enth straight vic­tory over the Ra­zor­backs, in a con­test that would have been played at Kyle Field if the two sides com­peted in a home-and-home se­ries. Still, the Ag­gies re­al­ize they haven’t been nearly good enough at Kyle, and that Mis­sis­sippi has won its two pre­vi­ous games at Kyle (2014 and ’16) since A&M en­tered the SEC six years ago.

“There will be a lot of en­ergy” at Kyle Field to­day, Wil­liams said, even with a morn­ing start. “It’s a nice thought to be back in there and hav­ing those fans be­hind us … so we can go out and get that SEC West win.”

Todd Kirk­land / As­so­ci­ated Press

Texas A&M’s Trayveon Wil­liams re­acts af­ter scor­ing against Auburn last week. The Ag­gies haven’t won at home against the SEC West since Oct. 3, 2015.

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