Hayes: If Texas A&M gets on an epic run, remember this night against Miami
Forget about the quarterback or the overpaid coach or the underachieving history.
This was foundational. At its core, this was the season 3 weeks into the ride.
They’ve been teased long enough in College Station. For decades, actually.
So yeah, you better believe Texas A&M 17, Miami 9 meant something. Wait, meant everything.
It wasn’t an SEC game, and it wasn’t Nick vs. Jimbo. It was much more.
“Our team showed a lot of heart,” Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher said. “Played with a lot of guts.”
Because at this point, there was no alternative.
When you’ve stacked elite recruiting classes on top of each other for 5 years running, you can’t produce the whiff of what could be mixed with 8-4 seasons and a nonconference home loss to a 17-point underdog.
When you’ve given your coach everything he could possibly want in every form and fashion; when you’ve embraced NIL like few have and given players as much as you can, the results can’t be finishing seasons by losing games you shouldn’t and beginning seasons with back-to-back nonconference home losses.
As much as everything all week was about the quarterback, and if Fisher would play Max Johnson instead of starter Haynes King (he did), this was about the foundation of the program.
What do you want to be, and how are you going to get there? And more than anything, how badly do you want it?
How important is it to separate from all those decades of what if in Aggieland, and be different? How rare can you be?
So Texas A&M ran out on Kyle Field Saturday night without 4 key freshman contributors who were suspended for a violation of team rules — including elite WR Evan Stewart. Then 2 key starters in the secondary were eventually lost for targeting, leaving the until uncomfortably thin against Miami’s dangerous passing game.
Meanwhile, the Aggies couldn’t consistently block Miami’s front seven, and they couldn’t throw the ball with efficiency. Everything was set up for another classic collapse.
Until it wasn’t.
Until Johnson kept grinding despite the Miami rush and made some key throws in the second half and had a couple of key scrambles to keep drives alive.
Until Johnson protected the ball all game, despite the sacks and pressures and big hits. He never turned it over, unlike King, who threw 5 INTs in the first 2 games.
They avoided collapse because the defense, which has played well all 3 games this season, confused Miami QB Tyler Van Dyke — a projected NFL first-round pick in 2023 — into the worst game of his career (21-of-41, 217 yards).
He wasn’t comfortable, he forced throws, he missed throws and his receivers dropped throws. The Canes had no rhythm on offense, and could never string together scoring drives to make a significant push.
Miami got the ball at its 43 with 1:09 to play, needing a touchdown and 2-point conversion to tie. Van Dyke then completed 2-of-6 passes for 17 yards, including the last harmless incompletion on fourth down at the Texas A&M 40.
This is what desperation looks like: you have 264 measly yards, convert only 4-of-12 third downs, run all of 52 plays and rush for less than 4 yards per carry. And win.
They tried to give it away late, Ainias Smith fumbling a punt inside the Texas A&M 10 with 3 minutes to play. But even that potential game-turning mistake showed the resilience of the night: Smith somehow wrestled the ball from 3 Miami players and avoided disaster.
The Aggies then ran off nearly 2 minutes and forced Miami to use the remainder of its timeouts to set up the final defensive stand. The final opportunity to show the importance of the game, and the foundational movement the program was taking.
No more underachieving, no more bending to adversity.
It’s a long season, and the Aggies haven’t even begun an SEC schedule that includes brutal fistfights with SEC West Division rivals, and crossover games against Florida and South Carolina.
They’re a long way from being where they want to be. But more than anything, they’re one step further away from 8-4.
At this point in the development of the program, that means everything.