COLLEGE STATION — Edgerrin Cooper needed three words to describe not only Saturday’s weather but also the state of Texas A&M Aggies football during a six-game losing streak.
“It was miserable,” said the junior linebacker on Saturday.
Copper isn’t alone in his assessment of the Aggies’ current status, despite clinching a 20-3 win over Massachusetts last week to end the six-game slack. Offensive lineman Layden Robinson was a little more cheerful with his description of the program entering Week 13, but the message remained the same.
“This season will probably be remembered as a disappointment. You can’t hide that. There’s no getting around that,” said Robinson. “It’s also a learning experience for the players.
“This is a lesson for the team to deal with some growing pains and some scars that you develop. You just have to overcome them in the future.”
The Aggies (4-7, 1-6 SEC) will compete again in 2022. With bowl eligibility off the table, Texas A&M won’t have much to offer in terms of immediate expectations.
However, it will have a chance to spoil No. 6 LSU’s chances of reaching the College Football Playoffs in Year 1 of the Brian Kelly era. For players like Cooper, who hails from Louisiana, there’s more than pride in the lineage facing his hometown team.
It’s a big thing that we’re looking forward to,” Cooper said on Saturday. “We look forward to making a stamp to make this possible.”
In a way, the preseason trajectory of LSU and Texas A&M has turned since Week 1 first started. After snagging the No. 1 recruiting class for 2022, the preseason No. 6 Aggies should be in contention for an SEC West title and maybe a shot at the College Football Playoffs.
LSU (8-2, 6-1 SEC), two years from winning their third national title since 2000, should spend a season under Kelly and lay a sustainable foundation for 2023. The crew at Baton Rouge worked overtime to get in the finishing touches on the base level before the start of conference play.
The Tigers have won nine of their last 10 games behind Kelly’s play-calling and improved transfer Jayden Daniels’ quarterback game. Defensively, LSU has a trio of playmakers who can ruin a quarterback’s day, including freshman phenom Harold Perkins at middle linebacker.
“You just see a natural athlete,” Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher said of Perkins, who first became involved with Texas A&M in January. “He’s great at space, rushes, plays physically. He is a very intelligent young man. We knew he was a very highly recruited guy… he’s a very good player. I’ve always enjoyed being around him.”
Morale in the program is higher this week after a monotonous win over the Minutemen (1-10). A win on Saturday could show the program is headed in the right direction to head into the off-season.
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A win not only helps the Aggies avoid their worst record since 2008, but the same goes for Fisher. Before moving to the 12th man after the 2017 season, the Aggies coach finished a fifth-year career-worst 5-6 at Florida State before stepping down to take over Kevin Sumlin.
Fisher said Monday that a win would mean little in the short term. In the long term it could pay off to improve the off-phase status of the program in terms of recruitment and the transfer portal.
Not only will the Aggies be looking to build their recruit class ahead of the early signing phase next month. Fisher will return to work Sunday in hopes of convincing those currently on the list to stay in College Station for another go-around after a lost season.
“It’s tremendous for the future of what you have here, what we have [still] believe it’s very bright where we’re going, what we’re doing and what we’re doing,” Fisher said.
Fisher has been preaching the term “finishing” since the Aggies’ 42-24 loss to Florida. It’s not just about finishing games with wins, but playing for the seniors who will once again wear the maroon and white uniforms.
Players like receiver Jalen Preston, linebacker Andre White Jr. and safety Demani Richardson could all opt for another year since the NCAA did not count eligibility in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Third-year players like Robinson, Cooper and running back Devon Achane are expected to all reflect on their decisions after Saturday’s game.
For Fisher, a win would do wonders for his booster approval rating. In reality, the excitement is at home for its players, who were expecting much more than an under-500 season when Sam Houston arrived at Kyle Field in September.
“It would be a great goodbye for the last time they run in this stadium,” Fisher said. “It’s another lesson in persevering and not letting circumstances determine who you are and what you are, but how you deal with them.
“It’s going to be great for the seniors and it’s going to be a great message for the young players going into the off-season.”
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