A raucous atmosphere that College Gameday’s presence only compounded welcomed Florida to Texas A&M’s SEC deubt, and the Aggie football started with matching energy. In Kevin Sumlin’s debut as head coach, Texas A&M manhandled the Gators early and built a two-score lead. Yet — and stop me if you heard this one — the Aggies allowed a second half rally that proved to be their undoing.
A&M had a knack for losing after building sizable leads last season, turning a potential 10-or-11-win campaign into 7-6 and costing Mike Sherman his job. Today, A&M went scoreless in the second half and redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel failed to score touchdown or break 200 yards passing. This was not how Aggie faithful wanted to begin the SEC era.
Manziel did complete an impressive 23-30, but his one score came on the ground. The Gator defense was game for Sumlin’s high tempo style, forcing Manziel into short completions; he averaged just 5.8 yards per completion. The Aggie ground game could never get firing either, and UF chipped away while limiting A&M opportunities.
It was a fitting introduction to SEC style football. The joke about the conference is that #ItsAWar, but its defenses really do force contests into a war of attrition. Like doughboys crawling under lines of barbed wire, establishing offensive rhythm requires patience and sustaining some wounds.
That’s exactly what Florida was able to do, withstanding a rough start to roll off 13 straight points scored in painstaking fashion. Jeff Driskel’s passing opportunities were limited, but he was an effective game manager with 13 completions in 16 attempts. That was just enough to keep A&M honest so that running back Mike Gillislee could pound on the ground.
This adjustment is probably the greatest A&M faces in the SEC, but doing so without the ability to close out games is meaningless. Mental hurdles can sometimes be the most difficult to climb. It’s difficult to look at recent Aggie losses and not see this lack of the Mariano Rivera instinct as the program’s top handicap.