Sunday night, CW8 aired the 1997 Texas A&M-Oklahoma State game for its weekly Aggie Rewind. I was in attendance for that game and it still stands as one of my all-time favorite Aggie games. Fellow fans know it well. In the fourth quarter, the Cowboys held a 22-7 lead over A&M. Going into the final stretch, Oklahoma State held all the momentum after controlling the tempo in the third quarter and stifling the Aggie offense. But after some big holds from the Dat Nguyen-led defense, A&M scored fifteen unanswered points—including a finger tip two-point conversion by Sirr Parker—and beat Oklahoma State in overtime, 28-25. I attended the game with my father and, when the Ags tied the game with less than a minute left, he turned to me and screamed two inches from my face, “NEVER GIVE UP!!” After this last Saturday, the Aggie Rewind could not have been more fitting.
A natural mindset to have for this year is to compare nearly all situations to last season. When Florida came to Kyle Field and eked out a three-point win, the natural thought was that nothing’s changed since 2011. When A&M surged with three straight dominating victories capped off by 48-point win against Arkansas—a team that’s enjoyed three straight years of success against A&M—the natural thought was to think that everything’s changed. The proverbial monkey had finally been removed from A&M’s back. More than any game this season, Texas A&M not only faced a tough and determined Ole Miss squad, they also faced every haunting memory of season’s past.
Every sign pointed to old ways. After being blessed with a 17-17 tie at halftime after suffering three turnovers, A&M continued to pile on the mishaps. In 2011 fashion, the third quarter ended with three straight Aggie turnovers; the third being a Dustin Harris muffed punt putting the Rebels inside A&M’s ten-yard line. Kevin Sumlin has made a point to not bring up last season, but for the three quarters Aggie fans were seeing an outright imitation of that year. In the fourth quarter, now down ten, A&M had a 3rd and 19 from the two-yard line after near safety two plays prior. The throw from Manziel seemed to hang for an eternity. When the weight of an entire season hangs in the balance, time seems to slow. When the pass finally fell, Mike Evans went up and was not to be denied. If there’s a moment a look at and say that the attitude of the maroon and white has changed, look no further than Mike Evans’ game-saving grab.
All of College Station, and Oxford, Mississippi, know the rest of the story. A Johnny Football touchdown run here, a 4th down stop there, and Texas A&M changed from heartbreakEES to heartbreakERS when Manziel placed a perfect pass over the shoulders of Ryan Swope to give the Ags a 30-27 victory when it seemed there was no victory to be had.
No matter who the opponent may be, it takes something special for a team to commit that many mistakes and to still keep their composure in a hostile environment. From the moment Ole Miss ran out of the tunnel, the Aggies were in for a fight. The Rebels looked like a team who believed they can play with the best—which they did the previous week against Alabama—and had a real opportunity to make an impact in the SEC. For three and a third quarters, Ole Miss created havoc on the Aggies. The defense made a great game plan to confuse Johnny Manziel and the offense controlled the time of possession and wore down the defense with long, time-chewing scoring drives. Even when A&M came back and took the lead, Ole Miss still marched into Aggie territory with an opportunity to tie or possibly win the football game. The Rebels believed to the last whistle that they were the better football team and they were going to do everything in their power to win that game. The belief of Ole Miss challenged A&M’s. And through all the mistakes, through all the mayhem, A&M’s mindset did not waver.
A win like Saturday’s can make a team very dangerous. Experiencing an insurmountable deficit and still come out on top can do wonders for any team. After being thrown in such a fire, Texas A&M proved that the past really has gone in the rearview. Aggie fans should not take this year for granted; they may be in for something special.
Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel (2) rushes against Ole Miss (AP Photo/Oxford Eagle, Bruce Newman)