Texas A&M football: Alabama win means absolutely nothing if Aggies can't handle Mizzou
That’s what makes this game so great, there’s always a new challenge ahead. That challenge for Jimbo Fisher and Texas A&M this week is to eliminate the clutter – the “rat poison” as Nick Saban likes to call it.
The No. 21 Aggies (4-2, 1-2) travel to Columbia to take on Missouri (3-3, 0-2) in an 11 a.m. local Saturday kickoff.
Fisher’s challenge this week is to make sure his team has gotten all the chest-beating out of its system after toppling Saban’s No. 1 team in the country, a heart-pounding 41-38 victory over Alabama, and refocus on a Missouri team that is much like his.
The Tigers are 3-3 but could very easily be 5-1. They lost by a touchdown on the road at Kentucky and dropped an overtime decision at Boston College. Missouri is 3-1 at home this season and have owned the series recently, winning 5 of the past 6 games over the Aggies, including 7-point victories in the 2 most recent meetings. Seven of the previous 9 meetings have gone to the Tigers.
The teams have not played each other since 2014, a 34-27 loss to the Tigers in College Station. The Aggies haven’t beaten Missouri on its home field since 1999.
Getting his team past the euphoria of beating Alabama and refocused on the next opponent will be a major task this week for Fisher and the Aggies.
“You got to eliminate the clutter, block it out, come back and practice and prepare like you did last week and do the things you got to do to be able to go play,” Fisher told the media in his weekly press conference on Monday. “And that’s important.”
Identifying and accentuating the positive so that it can be replicated is what Fisher said would be the main focus this week. That and emphasizing to the team who it should be listening to.
“That’s the ‘eliminate the clutter’. You’ve got to understand who to listen to,” Fisher said. “You got to understand the world you’re in. And it takes maturity. It takes leadership. It takes trust. It takes everything.
“And that’s the challenge. People who can stay focused, no matter who your opponent is, that’s what I’m talking about. Your opponent’s faceless. It’s your standard, based on nothing else. You match the standard,” Fisher added, referring to the process, which he learned from his years as an assistant to Saban, and constantly preaches to his team.
Fisher may be tired of talking about his signature win at Texas A&M, but nobody else is, and that’s what he hopes to guard against. That’s the clutter that is his job to get his team to eliminate.
His challenge this week is to get the team to focus on what made them successful last Saturday in Kyle Field and clean up the things that weren’t.
“Some of our young guys are growing, we’re getting better, and they’re understanding the standard at which they have to play to have success,” Fisher said. “And so we’re growing. Now, there’s a lot of growing still left to do because there’s still a lot of mistakes out there on that field in that game. We played and won the football game and all that, but there’s still a lot of things we got to clean up in what we’re doing.”
Quarterback Zach Calzada did a lot of growing on Saturday and that was due in large part to the incredible amount of growth in one week of his offensive line. It’s a much-maligned unit that worked as one on Saturday with All-American Kenyon Green, Laydon Robinson and Blake Trainor meshing well with freshmen Bryce Foster and Reuben Fatherlee.
“It’s unbelievable, it really is,” Fisher said of the level of play from his freshmen on the biggest stage in college football. “The injuries have hurt us and what we’ve had to do and had to put them in situations, unfortunately, I don’t want to put them in, but I’ve got to put them in. And they have been unbelievably tough, mentally tough.
“The part of it is the mental preparation and toughness and the fortitude to go through that pressure and knowing that everything is going to revolve off you making your blocks, because that allows the skill guys to play. It’s been amazing. And making all the calls that Bryce and those guys are doing? It’s been amazing. Absolutely amazing. A lot of respect for those guys.”
Now, if the clutter can be eliminated and the process continues to take hold, the second half of the season just might be as thrilling as last Saturday’s electrifying finish in Kyle Field.