Khan: Texas A&M advantages meant nothing against App State, and the loss is on Jimbo Fisher
In the past four recruiting cycles, Appalachia State has not signed a four- or five-star recruit out of high school and none of its signing classes have ranked above 73rd overall. nationally, according to the 247Sports Composite.
Texas A&M has signed more five-star recruits in its 2022 class (eight) than App State has signed the top 1,000 players (six) in the last four classes. Every A&M signing class for the past four years has ranked eighth or higher, including this year’s top-ranked group, the highest-rated in the modern recruiting era.
A&M’s athletic department generated more than five times App State’s revenue in 2021, and Aggies head coach Jimbo Fisher earns nearly 10 times more a year than Shawn Clark of the Mountaineers.
But the Aggies’ enormous talent and resource advantage didn’t matter on Saturday when Clark’s team stormed into Kyle Field and stunned the No. 6 Aggies 17-14. It was a standout moment for the Mountaineers, who are no strangers to stunning road reversals (see: 2007 at Michigan’s No. 5) or success. They’ve had five double-digit winning seasons over the past seven years under three different head coaches.
And it’s undoubtedly a low point in Fisher’s A&M career, marking the program’s first loss to a group of 5 since Aug. 30, 2008.
“We didn’t execute and play at the level we needed,” Fisher said afterwards. “It’s my fault. As head football coach, it’s your job to have your guys ready to play.
A&M’s defense is always good, but sometimes I wonder if Jimbo left his offensive sense behind with that Christmas tree.
— Stewart Mandel (@slmandel) September 10, 2022
Fingers will be pointed across the board. Some will play at quarterback, with third-year second Haynes King failing to pass for 100 yards. Others will be directed to the offensive line, which hasn’t dominated as expected with such a deep and talented group as A&M.
Revenues were a critical factor as two of them turned into 14 App State points. The A&M defense — which was left on the field for 41 minutes and 29 seconds on Saturday as the Aggie offense recorded just 38 snaps — also had its challenges.
But the result falls on Fisher.
The Aggies had plenty of reasons to be on high alert. They showed flaws in their season-opening win over future FBS team Sam Houston. Some of the same issues, from O-line play to ball safety, surfaced then. App State came fresh off a 61-point outing in their Week 1 loss to North Carolina. The Mountaineers have a veteran quarterback, Chase Brice, who spent his first three college seasons at Clemson and had a stunning victory before, surviving Syracuse’s upset bid in 2018.
Instead of showing any progress since their season-opening mishaps, the Aggies have continually stubbed their toes. The Mountaineers played the methodical, diligent style that Fisher has won many A&M victories better than the Aggies, rushing for 305 yards on 80 snaps with no turnovers while A&M looked sloppy.
North Carolina put up 567 yards and 56 offensive points on App State a week ago. The A&M offense could only manage 186 yards and seven points, with the rest coming from special teams.
“It’s practice on our part,” Fisher said.
The shocking result likely sets up any discussion of the college football playoffs this season. The Aggies’ schedule has made the path quite difficult, with the No. 15 visiting Miami in Week 3, a road trip to No. 1 Alabama on Oct. 8 and a six-week midseason stretch. weeks between home games.
But even if A&M didn’t make a real run at the Playoffs, the 2022 season was supposed to be about progress. Maybe a 10-2 year before setting the stage for a real run in the Playoffs in 2023, when the calendar is more favorable.
Instead, the Aggie faithful wonder if they envision another 8-4 season.
Injuries and errant rebounds happen, but when a program has signed 73 four- and five-star rookies over a four-year span and has all the facilities and resources available, those excuses ring hollow on a day like this, especially if a program expects to go neck and neck with Alabama and Georgia. Yes, the Aggies missed several key players on Saturday, but they should have enough depth to withstand that against App State.
Asked about a potential quarterback change, Fisher didn’t rule it out.
“We will assess everything,” he said.
If Fisher makes a switch, LSU transfer Max Johnson and five-star rookie Conner Weigman are his next options.
The season is not completely lost. If the Aggies beat the Hurricanes next week, that could turn things around. The Aggies looked listless a year ago in losses to Arkansas and Mississippi State before doing the unthinkable and upsetting Alabama. The entire SEC agenda is still in effect, though it looks a lot more daunting now than it did Saturday morning.
“It’s time to come together,” Fisher said. “Right now is the time to get back to basics and believe in each other. … You have to put it behind you. You can’t let one loss become two.
This is year 5 for Fisher at Aggieland. Everything he asked for, he got, from massive contracts to facility upgrades to increased support staff. King is his handpicked quarterback, in Fisher’s third year on offense, whom Fisher still calls himself. There’s elite talent around King, from running back Devon Achane, who was one of the few bright spots in A&M’s loss, to five-star first-year wide receiver Evan Stewart. The defense is also charged.
Still, after 50 games of his A&M tenure, Fisher’s record (35-15) is no better than his predecessor, Kevin Sumlin’s, at the same point (36-14).
In fairness to Fisher, the program’s trajectory — at least through Saturday — appeared different. Recruiting hit a crescendo in the most recent cycle and as the year approached, A&M appeared to be heading for years of SEC title and CFP litigation based purely on talent. Sumlin’s tenure peaked at the start of two seasons with quarterback Johnny Manziel, then after a step back from Johnny Football, plateaued until Sumlin was fired after 2017.
Fisher’s best season to date is 2020, when the Aggies went 9-1 playing a pandemic-shortened all-SEC regular season schedule and missed the Playoffs by a hair. Fans had hoped the team could make a similar run this year, but that seems like a long shot now.
Fisher should be held to a national championship standard. The school hired him away from Florida State on a 10-year, $75 million deal largely because he is one of only five active coaches to hold a title ring. He got a raise of $9 million a year and is guaranteed over $90 million over the next 10 years. The school announced this summer that the team would get a new indoor football facility, upgrade the Bright Football Complex and gain access to a new academic and wellness center, in an effort that, along with the track upgrade, has a nine-figure price tag. label.
Everything is in place, all that remains is to win. But Saturday’s loss signaled that the Aggies may have more to do than we realize.
(Photo by Texas A&M quarterback Haynes King and Appalachia State linebacker Nick Hampton: Thomas Shea/USA Today)