JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — It wasn’t a perfect season by any stretch, but Jimbo Fisher’s first year at Texas A&M can be considered a success. You don’t change culture overnight, but Fisher is building the foundation for what Aggieland hopes can be a championship program.
The Aggies capped the 2018 season with a 52-13 victory over N.C. State in the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl on Monday night. Here are 10 best things that happened in Fisher’s first season at College Station.
1. Culture change
“It ain’t gonna be how it used to be” became the mantra at Texas A&M. And by all indications, the culture is indeed changing. Fisher said he is grateful for the team buying into it.
“Guys have been in another system before I got here, and to come in and say your junior and senior year that something new is coming in, some guys, you can fight that, you can buck that, these guys didn’t. They bought in one thousand percent,” Fisher said in the week leading up to the Gator Bowl game.
“Why the success we had, the demeanor and attitude of our team, their leadership. They’re spreading the word, the message we send. The guys did an outstanding job.”
2. Fisher on the same page with the administration
It’s not talked about a lot when examining a season, but working hand-in-hand with the administration is critical to a successful program.
“The familiarity with Scott Woodward, the administration (was key),” Fisher said. “Knowing Scott from previous stops when I was at LSU. He’s a personal friend, but a guy who understands things the same way I do.”
Fisher said he is on the same page with administration in regards to ambitions and goals.
“I think our president and our chancellor both were phenomenal in the vision which we saw for Texas A&M,” Fisher said.
3. Getting things done
Again, it’s really behind the scenes stuff, but building the foundation includes getting things done off the football field.
“One of the things I did know at Florida State was who to go to to get things done,” Fisher said. “When you go to a new place, who controls this, who does that, who can get that done. You waste time sometimes figuring that out. I didn’t have to do that with familiarity.”
Fisher said it was instrumental in hiring the staff he wanted.
“The nuances behind the scenes people don’t see, the programs you put in place to develop the kids, all the different ways you try to do it; we’re still putting those in place, have to continue to grow,” Fisher said. “Having the administration there, that was tremendous.”
4. The re-emergence of RB Trayveon Williams
One of the signatures of a Fisher offense is a solid run game, Williams more than did his part. He set the single-season record for rushing. His 236 yards in the Gator Bowl allowed Williams to finish the 2018 season with 1,760 rushing yards, surpassing the previous mark of 1,692 yards set in 1988 by Darren Lewis.
It was also a Gator Bowl record for rushing yards.
Williams smashed the single-season all-purpose yardage record at Texas A&M in the same game. He needed just 5 yards going into the Gator Bowl to surpass Cyrus Gray’s 2010 mark of 1,806.
“I couldn’t lie and say it’s not important,” Williams said of the two all-time records. “When we first come here as a student-athlete, as a player, you want to set your mark on the program.”
5. Establishing a balanced offense
Fisher put together a balanced offense that led the SEC in time of possession. It was an approach that the Aggies improved upon throughout the season.
“I feel definitely we’ve improved, I think we’ve shown that on tape,” Williams said. “We’ve become more acclimated to the offense, learning the ins-and-outs. Not going out there thinking, just reacting. The practices we endure, the game situations we’re put in, I definitely feel like those or learning moments that we improve on week by week.”
6. Broke the streak vs. LSU
The Aggies had not beaten LSU since joining the SEC. That long streak is now over with the epic 74-72 7-overtime victory. It was a defining victory for Fisher and the Aggies in the development of a winning attitude and expecting success.
“I think it’s been a tremendously successful year this year,” Fisher said. “We’ve won some games and broke some streaks, let a couple get away. More important thing was developing the culture of how we play, the way we think, the way we expect to win at Texas A&M.”
7. Top 20 finish
Putting Texas A&M football on the map, Fisher guiding the team to a 9-win season and a Top-25 finish and that’s a great start to what he hopes to built upon.
“If you’re in the top 20, that’s great, top 15, top 20, heck you want to win the whole thing,” Fisher said. “(The Gator Bowl Game) is an important game in that regard. More importantly it’s in regard of how you play, not always your results early in your development of where you’re at.”
8. Patience pays off
Fisher’s patience paid off with QB Kellen Mond, who developed into a very good leader this season. But it took time and Fisher said he didn’t set any deadlines for Mond or the team as a whole.
“I don’t have a set schedule where you have to be, what you have to be,” Fisher said. “So many things can go up and down. Years can vary. Texas A&M, the culture we want to build, the way we want to play with physicality, toughness and competitiveness, the detail. From that standpoint, that’s how the foundation starts.”
9. Finished second in the SEC West
It was Texas A&M’s highest finish since joining the conference. It proved the Aggies have the staying power to compete with the best teams in the best conference week in and week out.
“That’s the thing about that league, it does test you,” Fisher said. “Reminds you you can never take a week off, I don’t care who you are, what you are. I mean, I think you play in the SEC, you played LSU, Auburn on the road, Mississippi State, one of the best defenses in all of college football. …
“You play in the SEC, you do get battle tested. Also the venues you go into. I think that’s one of the biggest things about our league is, the home-field advantage you have at Kyle Field, nothing like it. When you go play at Alabama, Auburn, all those venues, it does toughen you up.”
10. Bowl win
The 52-13 victory over N.C. State in the Gator Bowl was the first for this senior class after losing the past three bowl games.
“I’ve been saying since before we came (to Jacksonville), I feel like everybody deserves to experience a bowl win in their college football career,” senior Landis Durham said.