Aggies seeking elusive win at home against SEC West
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.”
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.