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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

Texas A&M utility Gavin Grahovac (9) throws the ball during A&Ms game against Georgia on Friday, April 26, 2024, at Olsen Field. (CJ Smith/The Battalion)
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Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp attends the Class of 1972 50-year reunion in Kyle Field on April 20, 2022.
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The BattalionMay 4, 2024

Commentary: ‘Do or Die’: A&M must beat Miami to stay afloat

Sophomore+DB+Jardin+Gilbert+%2820%29+walks+across+the+field+at+Kyle+Field+on+Saturday%2C+Sep.+10%2C+2022.
Photo by Cameron Johnson

Sophomore DB Jardin Gilbert (20) walks across the field at Kyle Field on Saturday, Sep. 10, 2022.

The Texas A&M Aggies came into the 2022 season with lofty expectations on the gridiron. Head coach Jimbo Fisher entered Year 5 with a roster bolstered by the best recruiting class of all time leading to a No. 6 preseason ranking in the AP Poll. Fisher had his pick between redshirt sophomore Haynes King, junior Max Johnson and five-star true freshman Conner Weigman to lead the Aggies at quarterback. King won the job for the second year in a row, and Aggie fans felt the quarterback room was in much better shape than in the 2021 season.
Fast forward to Thursday, Sept. 15, and the feeling regarding the program is unrecognizable. The Aggies dropped their Week 2 game 17-14 against unranked Appalachian State. The Sun Belt squad ran 82 plays and controlled the ball for 41:30 of the game. The Aggies’ sputtering offense and inability to get off the field on defense contributed to what was arguably the program’s worst loss of all time. To say that the Aggies were stunned would be an understatement.
For many, the loss served as the final straw for long-standing questions about Fisher’s offensive scheme and play calling. The Aggies gained only 186 total yards on offense and managed one offensive touchdown. Fisher has had one year within the top 15 of offensive production, which has proved to be an outlier. The head man’s quarterback evaluations at A&M have been lackluster, with the best quarterback play coming from third-round draft pick Kellen Mond who was cut by the Minnesota Vikings.
All of the Aggies’ historical offensive woes, poor quarterback play and an antiquated offensive system that Fisher refuses to adapt to modern day college football have resulted in the media tearing Fisher apart. Headlines the week leading up to the Miami game on Sept. 17 state that the maroon and white must hire a true offensive coordinator and play caller, or they will inevitably waste their star-studded roster and underperform.
Fisher has said the right things in press conferences, stating he would consider giving up play calling duty and evaluate who the Aggies will start at quarterback against Miami. Those who follow the program closely, however, are not expecting much change. Aggie fans hope that Fisher will take note of Alabama head coach Nick Saban’s approach of constantly adapting his offense and his philosophy to remain at the top of the college football world.
If nothing changes and the Aggies drop their second consecutive game against Miami with the country watching, things could get ugly. Real ugly, really fast. Not only will the visitor list for the Aggies be loaded with four and five-star recruits considering playing at A&M, disaster could strike within the locker room for current players. In the transfer portal era, we could see a mass exodus of talented players leaving A&M for greener pastures and more explosive offenses.
Fisher landed the best recruiting class of all time in 2022, but if those players do not buy into the vision and the product on the field, they can just as easily transfer out. Eight five-stars did not come to A&M to lose to App State and watch the offense struggle to gain any sort of yardage. These athletes were sold on the idea of competing for an SEC title and a national championship in Texas. These young players who had their pick of any school in the country will not stay at A&M if they continue to lose games. Fisher’s window of winning will close quickly if he cannot get things turned around, as he will lose talented players, making his job even more difficult.
The Miami game is not only pivotal in turning the season around, but it is also the biggest recruiting weekend of the year for the Aggies. An electric atmosphere in Kyle Field and a win over a highly ranked team returns huge dividends in landing recruits, demonstrated by the 41-38 victory over Alabama last year. While not Alabama, the Hurricanes are ranked 13th in the nation, 11 spots higher than the Aggies and have a great quarterback, sophomore Tyler Van Dyke. A victory could revitalize the team and could prove the lofty preseason expectations are still very much possible. A loss, however, would prove to be fatal.
The negative attention around A&M and Fisher will dominate the college football media if the Aggies cannot get the job done on Saturday night. Fisher is locked in for 10 years and $95 million guaranteed, and he must salvage the 2022 season. If he cannot, $95 million, the monumental win over Alabama and the vaunted 2022 recruiting class will all go to waste.
The good news is that with some leadership and possibly a quarterback change, the Aggies can make a statement against the ‘Canes. The Aggies will have to build upon what worked in the 31-0 victory over Sam Houston State in Week 1. Fisher has opened up a quarterback competition for this week and is splitting reps between King and Johnson. I expect to see Johnson get the start and attempt to jumpstart the Aggie offense. Starting center, sophomore Bryce Foster, is back at practice after recovering from mononucleosis. While unsure if Foster will start or be 100%, this is a sign of hope of improvement up front on the offensive line. On the defensive side of the ball, defensive coordinator DJ Durkin will need to dial up more pressure this week and let his talented defensive front take over the game. Junior defensive tackle McKinnley Jackson should be back for this week and help fortify the middle. If the Aggies can get everything clicking, there is no one in the nation that should outclass them.
Fisher has never received more criticism, and it seems as if the country is waiting to watch the maroon and white fail again. The Aggies were undeniably moving up the college football landscape, but one misstep can send a program tumbling down the mountain. The Aggies lost their footing last week, and will have to fight like hell to stay alive.
When the best athletes and the best coaches have their backs against the wall, they never go down easily. The ultra-competitive Fisher certainly took the App State blunder harder than the angry fans did. I do not believe that A&M will just go away quietly, and I expect to see a different intensity and fire on the field Saturday. Sept. 17 against Miami marks the most important game in the Fisher-era at A&M, and Fisher will be fighting to keep his program afloat. It is now do or die.

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