Texas A&M football: Victory over Alabama more proof the process is working
Jimbo Fisher’s signature victory is in the books. Texas A&M’s 41-38 victory over No. 1 Alabama on Saturday marked the third time in program history the Aggies have knocked off the nation’s top-ranked team and the second time vs. the Tide.
Not a bad way to celebrate your birthday. Fisher turned 56 on Saturday. It was a happy birthday when Aggies’ kicker Seth Small nailed a 28-yard field on the last play of the game.
“We’re trying to get him a good happy birthday present,” Small said after the game. “I didn’t know what to get him, so we thought as a team that we’d like to get him a win over Alabama.”
Small was 2-for-2 on field goal attempts and now ranks 2nd on the Aggies’ career list with 60 field goals. He trails only Randy Bullock (63), and after going 5-for-5 on PAT attempts now ranks 3rd all-time at Texas A&M with 144, behind only Kyle Bryant (145) and Bullock (176).
So, what was the key to the big victory on Saturday? What was the difference between beating Alabama and losing to Arkansas and Mississippi State?
“Like I say, when you execute, it’s amazing,” Fisher said. “They were ready. They understood what they had to do, and they were challenged. They were coming out to show what kind of character they had.”
Sophomore RB Devon Achane, who swung the momentum back to the side of Texas A&M with a 96-yard kick return for a touchdown midway through the third quarter, echoed those sentiments.
“We showed that we can be great, and we’ve just got to keep doing what we’ve been doing.” Achane said. “So, get back to Monday, we’re just going to keep working hard and try to win every week and focus on the teams that we’re playing.”
And that’s the big question now. Can the program maintain the momentum? Fisher talks about process. He probably learned from Nick Saban, who until Saturday was undefeated against his former assistant coaches. Saban and Fisher won a national championship at LSU where Fisher was Saban’s offensive coordinator.
Fisher’s process isn’t as advanced as Saban’s at Alabama, but maybe the result from Saturday indicates that it is on its way to getting there.
Senior defensive end Tyree Johnson, who collected 2.0 of the Aggies’ 4 sacks on Saturday, gets it.
“We can’t get distracted by just this one game,” Johnson said. “We still got, like, 6, 7 more games to go. So, we’ve got to focus on this week coming up. We got a new test ahead of us, and we’ve got to keep working.
“The season ain’t over, so we’ve got a lot of things we want to accomplish so we got to keep our heads down and keep going.”
That’s what you expect to hear from your senior leaders, if the process is working.
“Winning, if you don’t understand why you win or have success, it’s wasted,” Fisher said. “And you can understand why you had success because you paid the price. You had the preparation. Then you went and played and you overcame. Hopefully, we’ll find out if we can do it again.”
It’s that consistency, through dedication to the process, that separates programs like Alabama from the rest of college football. A victory like the one on Saturday can go a long way in the development of that process at Texas A&M.
“We’re still in the process,” Fisher said. “Just because we won this game don’t fix everything. We’ve got to learn — prepare and learn to grow from this and understand what we’ve got to do next week.
“It’s a great win. It shows you what you’re capable of. Now, can we respond and understand how to go prepare like that on Monday and forget this thing and learn the things we did well correct the mistakes and move on and go play a good Missouri team? We’ll find out what it means in the future of how we respond to this.”
That’s the Aggies’ next big hurdle. Now that they’ve proven they can play with the big boys, continuing to follow that process to be a consistent winner will be Texas A&M’s biggest opponent moving forward. It’s the next step in the process.