With a new conference, new uniforms and a new swagger, Aggie excitement is at a fever pitch. Season tickets sold out this year in record time, over 40,000 showed up to the season opening Midnight Yell and Coach Kevin Sumlin has brought in the nations 15th ranked recruiting class in his first year.
Despite all that, the Aggies entered the season in a very unusual position—with nothing to lose. Even the most faithful fans don’t realistically expect A&M to win immediately against the likes of Florida, Alabama, LSU and Arkansas. The beautiful thing is, they don’t care.
In their first SEC test, the Aggies fell Saturday to Florida 20-17 in front of a national TV audience. There will surely be naysayers after surrendering a seven point halftime lead, but make no mistake, this was not a choke job and these are not your 2011 Aggies.
Freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel came out aggressive and confident early, using his speed to keep Florida on their heels and build a first half lead. Florida successfully made second half adjustments to slow the Aggie offense, but Manziel still finished with an efficient 23 of 30 for 173 yards passing to go with 60 yards rushing.
Fellow freshman Trey Williams (running back) and Mike Evans (wide receiver) showed flashes of brilliance, stud offensive tackles Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews were as good as advertised and the defense overcame poor tackling and still played well enough to keep the Aggies in the game.
Most importantly, the Aggies played an exciting close game and showed recruits and the rest of the country that they belong in the SEC.
Eventually, merely earning respect won’t be enough, but Coach Sumlin isn’t wasting the attention A&M is getting now. His 2013 class is currently ranked 10th in the country, ahead of every other school in Texas. The football facilities are getting major upgrades, making them even more appealing to recruits. Coach Sumlin is also getting creative in advertising the Aggie brand, including arriving at a recent high school football game in a maroon helicopter to watch some top recruits.
Despite Saturday’s loss, it’s an exciting time in Aggieland, and fans should enjoy the ride as they follow this years exciting group of underdogs.