Texas A&M football coach Kevin Sumlin started his Tuesday news conference by saying, “I think in times like this,” and then spent the next five minutes, 43 seconds on an uninterrupted breakdown of his team’s emotional state.
That’s not a good sign in late October, but that’s where Sumlin and the Aggies are after two consecutive losses squashed a lot of high hopes built during a 5-0 start.
“Two weeks ago, there was too much big-picture thinking, I will put it that way, by everybody,” Sumlin said. “The last two weeks were an eye-opening experience. Now we’ve got to get back to one-week thinking, and what is important is South Carolina.”
The Gamecocks will play Texas A&M on Saturday in what will be their first game in Kyle Field and their first trip to the Lone Star State since 1976. South Carolina (3-4, 1-4 SEC) is 1-3 all-time in the state of Texas. The Aggies (5-2, 2-2 SEC) have been beaten by Alabama and Ole Miss by a combined score of 64-26.
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“I think, in times like this, people want to know, ‘What’s the pulse of your football team? Where is everything?’ ” Sumlin said.
Sumlin wanted to know, too, so he met with his team’s Accountability Council and captains on Monday and came away feeling like his group has problems, but that they are fixable problems.
“This team is not a divided football team,” Sumlin said. “I would say the word would be frustrated, just like everybody else. If they were not frustrated at this point, that would be another issue. We had some open discussions about where we are and what we need to do to get the ship turned back to where we need to go.”
One local report Monday suggested the Aggies are a team in turmoil, which sophomore defensive end Myles Garrett denied.
“We need to collect ourselves and get the excitement back,” Garrett said. “Guys are disappointed, but nobody has their heads down, nobody believes that the season is over. Nobody believes, ‘We lost two games, we should just stop now.’”
The Aggies will be making changes, though, specifically on offense, Sumlin said. Quarterbacks Kyle Allen, Kyler Murray and Jake Hubenak met with Sumlin and offensive coordinator Jake Spavital on Monday and were put on notice that the starting job is up for grabs.
Allen, a sophomore, has started all seven games this season but has been bad the past two weeks. He finished 12-of-34 for 88 yards last week against Ole Miss. Murray is a five-star freshman who has played in five games but had a sideline confrontation with Spavital two weeks ago against Alabama and did not play against Ole Miss. Hubenak, a junior college transfer, saw his most extended action of the season against the Rebels.
The quarterbacks were told “you are going to be evaluated not only on your practice percentage in drills and everything else, but you’re also going to be evaluated on your leadership skills, your communication with your teammates, your communication with your coaching staff and general overall play and demeanor,” Sumlin said.
The Aggies will announce their starter before Friday’s practice, said Sumlin, whose team finishes the season against the Gamecocks, Auburn, Western Carolina, Vanderbilt and LSU.
“What is the difference between 14 days ago and today? It’s really easy to get into a mindset right now that this is a bad football team. It is not,” Sumlin said. “What has to be talked about openly is what has happened in those 14 days and what we have to do to change it. We’re not 2-5, we’re 5-2 and we have the opportunity to close this season out with some opponents to get some big wins and still have a great season.”
Gamecocks vs. Aggies
Who: South Carolina (3-4, 1-4 SEC) at Texas A&M (5-2, 2-2)
Where: Kyle Field, College Station, Texas
When: Noon Saturday
TV: SEC Network
Line: Texas A&M by 16.5