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Aggies need to get past Bulldogs and not worry about future - Aggie Sports: Football

Aggies need to get past Bulldogs and not worry about future

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Posted: Saturday, November 9, 2013 12:00 am | Updated: 10:22 pm, Wed Jan 8, 2014.

It's hard not to get caught up in the looking ahead.

The worth of Texas A&M's season will be determined largely by upcoming road games at LSU and Missouri. And if the Aggies were to win those games, they could play in a BCS bowl game. To win those games would mean monster efforts by Johnny Manziel, which would increase his chances of winning a second Heisman Trophy. Maybe that would help convince Manziel and Mike Evans not to leave for the NFL and each return for another season. Their return would greatly increase A&M's chances of winning a national championship in 2014.

No wonder many want to push the fast forward button, yet the challenge is to slow down and enjoy the present, especially Saturday's game. It will be Senior Day for 15 Aggies, including All-America offensive tackle Jake Matthews and running back Ben Malena. Matthews warmed Aggies' hearts after last season when he opted to return. Malena has been one of the program's solid pillars, whether it as former coach Mike Sherman leaning on him or Kevin Sumlin doing the same.

Wide receiver Travis Labhart has gone from an unknown body on the women's basketball team's men's practice squad to folk hero. Nate Askew has gone from a disappointment on offense at wide receiver to a starting linebacker on defense. And there's 5-foot-8 Gaston Lamascus, the walk-on from Navasota, who has practiced and worked full stream often in obscurity.

This is their day. They've earned it. They won't play for a national championship or Southeastern Conference championship, but they've helped make it a possibility for future senior classes. For that, many are indebted to their perseverance through switching coaches and leagues, moving the program forward during a tricky transition period.

It's easy to overlook most in this senior class other than Matthews and Malena, and even they will take a backseat Saturday because odds are this indeed will be the last go-around in front of the 12th Man for Manziel and Evans. It will be extra hard to see them go. They are the best players in school history at their positions.

Saturday is also special for Kyle Field. It will be the last time we see it as we know it with the $450 million renovation to start not long after the Aggie War Hymn. The artist's renditions of the pending palace to be built by Populous gives every Aggie fan a sense of pride. But as folks are swaying Saturday, many of the older ones might get a little teary-eyed thinking of all the great moments they've seen at the venerable stadium, moments like linebacker Aaron Wallace hitting Houston quarterback Andre Ware so hard his helmet flew off, so Wallace could hold it up to the student section. It was one of the many highlights for the Wrecking Crew defense, which made Kyle Field a living hell for opposing offenses for more than a decade. Or what about freshman quarterback Reggie McNeal coming off the bench to spark a 30-26 victory over top-ranked Oklahoma in 2002? Or Ja'Mar Toombs rambling 71 yards to the 1-yard line in a 28-21 upset of Nebraska in 1998 with the crowd cheering TOOOOOOMBS! And no one will forget a pair of emotional days at Kyle Field -- the Red, White and Blue-Out against Oklahoma State following the 9/11 attacks and the 20-16 upset of fifth-ranked Texas in 1999 following the Bonfire tragedy.

Those are tremendous memories, but reflecting on the past is more dangerous than looking ahead. And the present is what matters most.

For the immediate future to remain bright, it's vital that the 11th-ranked Aggies take care of business Saturday against Mississippi State in much the same matter as a year ago. A&M had so many magical moments during its maiden 11-2 SEC season, but often overlooked is the 38-13 victory at MSU.

A&M was in a stretch of playing five of six games away from home capped by the victory at Alabama, but there's no doubt A&M's effort at MSU the week before heading to Tuscaloosa, Ala., was instrumental in helping put the program where it is.

MSU, ranked one spot above A&M at the time, was primed to put a disheartening loss to Alabama in its past and no doubt expected to return to the form that gave it a 7-0 start. A&M, in its first trip to Starkville, Miss., never gave the soldout crowd a reason to ring those cowbells.

A&M scored touchdowns on its first three possessions and took a 31-0 lead. A&M had run 60 plays for 466 yards at that point to MSU's 30 plays for 92 yards. It was total domination.

It also was a huge game for Manziel. He had his biggest Heisman moment the following week, but the win over MSU was a preview of things to come. He'd shown flashes of greatness against SMU, Arkansas, Ole Miss and Auburn, but there were many still not convinced he was the real deal. Those weren't good teams. He had 557 yards against Louisiana Tech, accounting for six touchdown, but Tech's defense was one of the worst in the nation.

MSU was the first ranked team A&M faced on the road in the SEC. The Bulldogs had a pair of shutdown cornerbacks in Darius Slay and Johnthan Banks -- Banks won the Jim Thorpe Award and both were eventually taken in the second round of the NFL draft.

But they offered Manziel no trouble. He completed 30 of 36 passes for 311 yards and added 129 yards rushing and two touchdowns. He got an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after a 37-yard touchdown run for striking a Superman pose. A week later against Alabama, Manziel and the Aggies confirmed they indeed have super powers.

A&M has won 18 of its first 22 games under Sumlin, and the future indeed is bright. Playing the SEC's 2:30 p.m. game on CBS in November says all you need to about where the program is right now.

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