Hold on there a minute, Hoss. Are we really once again looking at
our rear-view mirrors with tears rolling down our sunburned faces, as we drive away from the familiar scene of yet another hostile takeover? How about that famous sense of humor we’re known for, Aggies? Is it only ourselves we now find amusing? Have we still not found the answers somewhere beneath the rubble and ashes that constitute the Herculean efforts of so many former Warriors? Will praiseworthiness for each other forever be fleeting and evasive? We see but we do not touch, as the fruit of ultimate victory for which we strive so mightily remains aloft, smiling down sympathetically at the foolhardy Aggie plight. How long must we wait in this self-induced antsy turmoil, or is it but a fading dream? Has History already decided that only the names be changed, while our story must continue to remain the same? Is it Hotty Toddy time in the dusty old Southwest where Whiskey once called all the shots? Must we survey even more destruction and upheaval as our days grow shorter and our generals are replaced at a more frantic pace R.C. Slocum, we turn our lonely eyes to you. There is but one prize, besides the Golden Calf of full coffers, giddily donated by the system’s true believers in the cause and its leadership, and that is to stand in front of the world rejoicing winning the National Championship, with cap, t-shirts and, oh, the magnificent trophy uplifted in our calloused hands.
[Related: Lockr Room Legends Q&A:
David “Moon” Walker, 12th Man QB]
Oh great spirits, how long is our penance to last for our lowly Christmases
Past? So sudden and swift was your beheading that our on-field leadership seemed obliviously blind to your evil ploys throughout, as unsuspecting as all the George Armstrong Custers who are suddenly pinned down at the sites of their own Little Big Horns. We must never forget the football gods of college football and the Ultimate Curse that circles the Valley of the Brazos, deciding on its flavor of the week. But surely we aren’t the ones to be blamed. All we Aggies ever wanted to be were the Giants in the world of college football. Is this so wrong, America? Look at all we’ve sacrificed in your holy names, oh lords, only to be held hostage now by our true legacy. Our greatest tradition is summed up in nine words: What we have here is a failure to execute.
Has it finally come to this – the defining moment when Aggies everywhere
realize we were never destined to catch “the break” currently comfortably
residing in Alabama, Louisiana and Florida? Or even elsewhere a little closer to home in Texas? We know it’s sitting there in Austin, laughing still. Why
doesn’t the Big Break ever want to land here in the Valley for a visit? Tease us
for just a moment. We’re nice folks. All the folks from Florida were very
impressed with our friendliness, hospitality and generosity. We’re good at
Where are the rewards for our efforts? Does no good deed ever go unpunished? Our trusty coach-pickers and million dollar donors have thrown everything they know at the “Big Break”, yet it laughs uncontrollably at their folly. Next, we build on that great Aggie Tradition by etching in stone newly discovered accomplishments placed right there on the Wall of Kyle Field from nearly a century ago. Quite frankly, do the A&M faithful even deserve their Big Break after recently employing hired guns to manufacture mathematical formulas designed to award themselves multiple national championships and, ahem, Divisional titles somehow disguised as Conference titles? Hey, what’s RIGHT with this picture, gang? Although they’re all gone now, our 1939 team is still the One and Only in our books, and it’s highly disrespectful after all these decades to align others next to them on our hallowed “once in its lifetime” walls at Kyle Field, somehow suggesting these pretenders as equals. Desperation sees no bounds. Is it Alabama we’re trying to catch? Have we “found” any other Heisman
Wait, is that really more smoke, fire and flying debris we fans are again
escaping while suffering palpitations that no longer can be ignored? Is this not Aggieland? I mean, these poor inhabitants all dressed up in their bleeding Maroon and White garb are getting mercilessly bombarded by their teams’ artistry in giving away hard-earned football games! It’s a glorified travesty of aspiration mutilation that’s perpetrated by different culprits every season.
Look how many hours of traveling these people endure, at $3.69 per gallon no less, with screaming kids in the back of the R.V.’s and all the extra grocery
money they’re dishing out to ultimately watch these 2011 re-runs. It’s truly
incredible the creative drama the almighty football gods have seemingly
arbitrarily levied upon our suddenly helpless “Aggie Nation.” Wait, is it Aggie
Nation like everyone else, or just plain old Aggieland as it’s always been.
Identity crisis, anyone?
I’m telling you, the Ags really believed the 2011 showings of “Impossible
Upsets” had been cancelled by the network execs many moons ago. They just didn’t think it would continue to sell or reach those ratings they’re always looking for with the advertising dollars that accompany them. One has to ask, “Will it ever end?” Who out there is ready to sing, “Give it just a little more time, and our love will surely grow?” Aggies are ready, because it’s what we do.
Of course, the opponents on the 8th day of September, 2012, a day that in no
way will go down in infamy but did eventually find itself going up in flames,
were no soft touches. No, we’re talking here about the illustrious Florida
Gators from the SEC-East, who put the painful finishing touches on a game which was massive and unequivocally significant for their home-standing foes, the unsuspecting, slightly favored Fightin’ Texas Aggies. The state of Texas this time of year is usually under a red flag alert, but this wildfire began totally without suspicion on the other side of the stadium in the Visitors’ dressing room, while the Aggie Band entertained its adored 12th Man Corporation outside in the mid-afternoon sun. Even the hint of a comeback against this A&M team and its 12th Man supporters was
non-existent. “Perish the thought, Memory! You’re botherin’ me.” Only the
darkest of pessimists could have possessed the devious minds to predict yet
another second half beat-down on Kyle Field on such a wonderfully explosive and festive day.
Fly, SEC flags, fly! Have we told you lately that we love you?
The Gators were easily the superior team once the first few series of the
game were exchanged, quarterback sacks notwithstanding, as America witnessed on National TV the most recent edition of ESPN “Game Day”. It was the most-watched college game (2.9, they say) of the weekend, one which some Aggie fans probably wish hadn’t been aired on any channel. The common theme here was, “I didn’t go dove hunting just to watch THIS?” Entertainment is one thing but winning quite another.
Hey, you can’t argue with the $6 million or so it reportedly brought to the
house though, and there’s your bottom line, Ags. When it comes to cash, you’re never on the outside looking in. In other areas, well, the Florida Gators have a national record 38th “Game Day” appearance coming up this weekend in Tennessee. We Aggies have played in four or five, but seriously, who actually counts those things?
While disappointment looms and tickets for the Southern Methodist game being played just a few hours north of here in Dallas remain unsold in a city
absolutely jam-packed with A&M’sters, this former Aggie quarterback looks
long and hard for the silver lining. Really, anything will do. Perhaps our
mathematicians will find a way to anoint the Aggies the best unranked team in America! Can you dig it? One statistical graphic really struck me from the
game’s TV coverage: Florida has now beaten 9 of the last 10 UNRANKED teams they’ve played. Now there’s a life boat I don’t care to be in. ‘Unranked’ is quite an ugly word in college sports. Ever been the guest of honor in a snipe hunt?
The simple reality is that following the second consecutive coaching change
at this particular university, the new guy has been beaten in his team’s season
opener, and each time at home. Former head coach Mike Sherman’s first team, presumably in shambles (yes, let’s say that!) after the website-creating efforts of Coach Fran and his hand-picked good ol’ boy staff, lost to Arkansas State in a game I frankly refused to attend because of the weakness of the opponent. Sixteen point underdogs in the House of the 12th Man? Not a prayer!
Fool me once, shame on you!
Hey, the Gator players were solid, patient, trusted what their coaches were
telling them and executed their assignments. Their “penetrate and redirect”
tactics were simply adjusted to playing ‘technique’ defensive football, which
meant beating the blockers to their point of attack but not going haywire in
getting up-field. It worked like a charm as it took away A&M’s biggest
running threat, the quarterback draw. Football is an assignment-oriented game where there isn’t much patience for individuals who stray from the game plan. Coach Muschamp and his staff coached like the veterans they’re expected to be and suddenly inept A&M (is that too strong of a word?) had nowhere to turn. His defenses with the University of Texas were always talented and well-prepared. He and his staff didn’t feel A&M could beat them through the air so they maintained that if they stopped the running of the quarterback, nobody else on the field was going to hurt them. It was as if they’d read the script long before the opening kickoff, which in itself took a while to occur because the ball kept getting blown off the tee. The Aggies know this feeling well.
As I stated last week when I reintroduced myself to the Gator Nation via
Florida Gators Gamedayr, I now am the only A&M quarterback who has ever
beaten the University of Florida. Of course, with A&M’s 1-2 overall record
against UF, this isn’t saying a whole lot but I stand by it, as bragging rights
go. The most recent A&M QB to have this opportunity, Johnny Manziel, looked to me like the fastest quarterback this school has seen since the Texas high school high-hurdle champion who succeeded me in the late Seventies, Mike Mosley. Unfortunately, none of us average-Joe onlookers will get the opportunity to know Johnny Manziel until next spring because Coach Sumlin has standing orders that freshmen are off-limits to the Media. I guess this also includes ‘Redshirt’ freshmen, since this is what Manziel actually is – a sophomore academically but a “rookie” to be seen but not heard, otherwise.
One more thing about the Florida game needs to be said and then we’ll gladly move on to SMU, and that’s the real factor gnawing at most members of the 12th Man Club at this time. Our offensive gurus, from the head man on down to the play caller(s), could not figure out a way to get one measly score in the second half that could have sent our players either into overtime or won the game outright. I see this as possibly the recurring theme of 2012, at least until the world officially ends on December 21st, most likely during halftime of the St. Petersburg Bowl pitting the final game ever between the Big East and someone from Conference USA. This is the crux of the matter; not inexperience at quarterback or a defense that had no will or stamina or the postponed opener with La. Tech. The athletes were equal but the new gurus in town had no answer for the Florida adjustments. This is what is most troubling and now everyone the Aggies play gets to study the film. In an offense with no tight end your options are limited and our coaches are the ones who have seen this offense mangle defenseless defenses without the use of a tight end for several years now. How did Florida put the brakes on our coaching staff? It would appear we got out-schemed right here in front of our own folks. We were out-slicked. High tech isn’t supposed to get out-slicked.
The obvious question is how does this band of coaches go from having the
highest scoring team in the land one year to not being able to pick up a handful of first downs the next? Not a single second half play was run in Florida’s territory. Very disturbing stuff, one might say. Unless the QB was making a ton of misreads which I personally didn’t see, then finding the proper play calls to win a 3-point game escaped the offensive staff, pure and simple. This past Saturday night’s realization was a rather somber enlightenment with which to open a brand new season, especially for this newly-inspired and highly boisterous crowd that rolled in, a crowd faced with many dissenters around the state and even within its new conference, wishing it nothing but failure. Step one, accomplished with amazing predictability.
Next up are the SMU Mustangs, sporting a much-improved 24-18 record over the last several years, while the Ags have managed 22 victories versus their identical 18 defeats. You may recall the Alabama-Texas game for the BCS title when Colt McCoy’s right shoulder went numb. Suddenly it was then up to a true freshman named Garrett Gilbert to come in and save the day for the ‘Horns against a highly intense, frothing at the mouth Nick Saban-coached defense. Garrett at times looked like he’d have the opportunity to be the hero, but as youngsters so often do, he succumbed to the pressures of not only the moment but the oncoming pass rush as well, while courageously playing catch-up from play one.
After starting the following season, Gilbert fell prey to a shoulder injury, a torn labrum, and then took 27 hours in a year’s time to finish his degree,
thereby making himself immediately eligible to play for SMU. Meanwhile he was named to the Second Team All-Academics Big 12 list. Under former Run and Shoot disciple June Jones, the best football spinner on one finger I’ve ever seen by the way, now in his fifth season as top mentor, my guess is we can expect some 2012 Aloha-type numbers coming from the Hilltop at any time against anybody. Coach Jones is also a fighter, fortunately surviving a horrendous roll-over accident just as I did, with the main difference being he escaped without a broken neck, but certainly had his share of very major injuries and a long, hard recovery.
Check out the grandure of this program now as it begins its resurgence. I’m
totally impressed and I’m only touching on the outskirts of what’s really taking place. SMU has made over $3 million in Ford Stadium improvements since the summer of 2011, including upgrades to the football locker room and team meeting rooms, a new playing surface and a new lighting system. To think the thrill of the hunt has eluded this one-time Death Penalized program would be very much mistaken. Even though the Aggies are unranked and history means little to this current set of SMU players, this upcoming game makes for a real opportunity, a tremendous opportunity, to knock down a notch what has become a rather aggravating blow-hard from the old Southwest Conference, a team that has fared no better than themselves and now here in Dallas, one very much on the rise in their estimations.
When the ‘Stangs aren’t throwing, they’re running Stretches and Draws and
Traps for the No. 4 career rushing leader in the land, Zach Line, a first-team
All-Conference-USA pick from a season ago. Apparently, their defensive secondary and linebackers can catch too, having picked off 7 passes in their last game against Stephen F. Austin. Their opener against the RG3-less Baylor Bears was a tremendous learning experience for a very young offensive line and defense, as former Aggie defensive end and SMU head coach Phil Bennett, now in his second year as Defensive Coordinator with the Green and Gold, had a credible day defending this explosive Mustang offense.
I once carried 27 times for 182 yards against SMU, way back in 1977, in a
home game we were playing after having played 5 straight on the road. Do you know of any teams that have won national championships after scheduling 5 consecutive road trips? They were in order, Virginia Tech, Texas Tech, Michigan, Baylor and Rice. You may recall the one we lost. Anyway, we fell behind 21-7 in our vaunted Wishbone against a 1-win SMU team, the only game in my era where we won a game we were losing at halftime. Such was the curse of the Wishbone. On the other side of the coin, we never lost a game in which we led at halftime. Nope, not a single one, and we won 36 times in my last four seasons. That’s 35 for 35 on holding halftime leads, which you’d have to admit is pretty impressive. Run fast, go score, and play defense. Those were the days, my friend.
My 182 yards carrying the football still stand as the quarterback single-game
rushing record here at Texas A&M. Given the right set of circumstances,
Manziel could pass Mosley, who had 180 against Southern Cal in the Bluebonnet Bowl, and me as well. With this kid’s lightning quick feet, that day will come, or at the very least he’ll make us sweat. Do you really think I want to lose a 35 year-old record?
[Related: Moon Highlighting the Florida
@ Aggies Game]
A little further back, when A&M and SMU lined up in 1973, it was the very
first time in college football history that two freshman quarterbacks, two
true freshmen quarterbacks that is, had ever lined up against each other; myself and Ricky Wesson. It was a game played on Kyle Field where A&M’s new all-time scoring record against SMU was established by game’s end. Then there was the ’74 game whe we were 7-1 and ranked 3rd in the country and knocking on the door for a national championship. We went to Dallas, with half our backfield out with injuries or under duress, trying to run a very suspect Wishbone offense installed by then head coach, Emory Bellard, and I suffered a Sternoclavicular (SC) Joint Dislocation after getting slammed to the cement-like turf inside the Cotton Bowl early in the second quarter.
We lost 18-14, as I continued to play although unable to throw the ball 20
yards, and Ricky Wesson threw no passes at all. Our national championship dreams ended that day and Aggies everywhere were simply crushed. Like this year’s team, we were also favored by a couple of touchdowns. With 30 and 35-point underdogs beating the likes of Houston and Arkansas in successive weekends already this season, anything looks possible. My concern is how the Aggies respond to the fact that their coaches couldn’t get it done. We were in too many “Trips” formations and not enough balanced sets. We NEVER went 4 vertical and keyed the Safety, a base play in the Spread offense. Very curious, indeed.
I want to wish the Gators the best of luck against the Volunteers in Neyland
Stadium. I will say it again as I’ve said for years: I never feel better about
America than when I’m kicking back to watch a fabulous Saturday night game in the SEC. I love the PASSION and the VENOM! Maybe one day even Aggies will belong.
As I sign off, may every Saturday leave you in the Plus column, and our
thoughts and prayers from here in Texas and my home state of Louisiana remain with young Devon Walker of the Tulane Green Wave, who tragically suffered a broken neck in last week’s game.
You’ve just read some Moon Highlighting by the 12th Man QB, David
“Moon” Walker, author of “I’ll Tell You When You’re Good! ~ The Memoir of
America’s Youngest College Quarterback,” wishing you well and a full slate of
Winners. Winning Cures All Ills, and we can never forget it.