The Texas A&M football team hasn’t been able to beat the best, so it will have to win against the not-so-great to have a good season.
Unranked for the first time in 2019, the Aggies (3-3, 1-2) will start a make-or-break four-game stretch at Ole Miss (3-4, 2-2) in Southeastern Conference play at 6:30 p.m. Saturday.
“I still feel very good about where we’re at and what’s going on and the direction we’re going,” A&M coach Jimbo Fisher said. “The kids are playing very hard. I can watch the film and watch us get better. Recruiting is going well, so I feel very confident in what we’re doing.”
A year ago, A&M had success early and often in Fisher’s first season with the Aggies. They lost to eventual national champion Clemson 28-26 in a good Week 2 showing then later beat 13th-ranked Kentucky 20-14 in overtime to improve to 4-2. After slipping to 5-4 after back-to-back road losses to unranked Mississippi State and Auburn, the Aggies closed the season with a four-game winning streak and were ranked 16th in the final poll.
“Nothing changed,” Fisher said of last season’s strong finish. “We just got better at what we did and understood the scheme and guys believed in the system.”
This year’s team appears to be struggling in part because of losses to Clemson and Alabama, both ranked No. 1 at the time, and eighth-ranked Auburn.
“This year we’ve played some pretty good football teams,” Fisher said. “We’ve got a pretty good football team, too. You see it in spurts in which we play. We’ve got to play more consistent, [get] more experience.”
Fisher said good practices will make A&M better.
“That’s what happened last year as we continued to grow and won some tight games and learned to get over those humps,” Fisher said.
The humps now seem more manageable, starting with Saturday’s game against the Rebels. Ole Miss is the first of four straight A&M opponents who are a combined 11-14 this season. Contrast that against the 17-1 Clemson, Alabama and Auburn have combined for, and the Aggies appear to be starting a cake walk.
For their part, the Aggies don’t view the Rebels as soft and sugary.
“Being in the SEC, it’s heavyweight battles every week,” sophomore linebacker Anthony Hines III said. “We’re definitely prepared to take their best shot, regardless of where the media thinks they are as a team. We’re prepared to face a good Ole Miss team.”
A&M, sans a kicking game that allowed 311 return yards, played its best game of the season in a 47-28 loss to Alabama last week. The Aggies opened the game with 15 straight positive plays on offense for a 7-0 lead. After the Crimson Tide came back to build a 34-13 lead, the Aggies scored a touchdown and got the ball back before self-inflicted mistakes helped Alabama to a pair of touchdowns to put away the game.
“I know all of us — none of our confidence is shot,” junior quarterback Kellen Mond said. “We’re 3-3, but we still have a long season to go. A lot of outside people might think we’re down and lost a lot of confidence, but especially after this game, I saw a lot of growth.”
Fisher said the way a young team gains confidence is to keep plugging away.
“[You] just got to keep playing,” he said. “Hopefully this week we’ll play well, then the next week we’ll play better, then the next week we’ll play better. You’ve just got to keep playing and getting to where we’ve gotta get to.”