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'It'll Feel Like The Super Bowl!' Mike Elko Excited For Lone Star Showdown

In an interview with The Houston Chronicle, Mike Elko mentioned the atmosphere of what Kyle Field will look like when the Texas A&M Aggies take on the Texas Longhorns.

Mike Elko is ready for the Lone Star Showdown to return to Kyle Field this November. In fact, the first-year Texas A&M Aggies coach believes it will have a feel similar to the NFL's biggest game. 

“It’s going to feel like kickoff at the Super Bowl," Elko told The Houston Chronicle earlier this week. 

Texas A&M and Texas last played in 2011 when the Aggies were still members of the Big 12. After their departure to the SEC, then-A&M school president R. Bowen Loftin told the Austin-American Statesman that the Aggies would be more than happy to schedule a game against their in-state foe so long as it met the scheduling parameters.

That never happened. Justin Tucker's game-winning field goal was the lasting image of one of college football's top rivalries over a decade as the matchup laid dormant and only in the memories of fans who grew up spending Thanksgiving preparing for game day. 

Elko, who spent four seasons as A&M's defensive coordinator before taking the head coaching position at Duke, knows the value of the rivalry, not just among fans, but in the grand scheme of the sport. 

“The history of that rivalry is something college football should have,” Elko said of the game. “It’s a game that means so much to both sides and certainly an awful lot to Aggies"

The Aggies will welcome the newest members of the Southeastern Conference on Nov. 30 as the final regular-season game. Texas won't be playing second fiddle despite being the newcomer, having proved it can win titles after securing a College Football Playoff berth under third-year coach Steve Sarkisian. 

Elko returns to College Station after a two-year hiatus in Durham, where he led the Blue Devils to a 16-9 record with quality wins over Miami, Virginia Tech, and UCF in 2022, and later then-No. 9 Clemson in 2023. 

With Elko serving as the Aggies' defensive coordinator, A&M went 34-14, including a 9-1 finish with an Orange Bowl victory over North Carolina in 2020. After his departure, the Aggies went 11-11, firing Fisher in early November. 

A&M hasn't reached double-digit wins in the SEC since its inaugural season in 2012. The Aggies haven't won a conference since 1998 when R.C. Slocum guided a potent defense to a Big 12 title. Slocum also was a defensive-minded coach, which helped then-athletic director Ross Bjork to pivot toward that side of the ball. 

It would be hard to argue with Elko's results. A&M finished with the No. 2 run defense in 2020 and was one of two teams to hold opponents under 93 yards per game. A year later, the Aggies finished third nationally in scoring, allowing just 15.8 points per contest. 

Elko might have left Aggieland, but the demeanor in which he coached stayed the same in the ACC. 

“I didn’t get to Duke and say, ‘I was at Texas A&M, so you should do this and (that).’ It’s not who I am," said Elko. "I got to Duke, and we tried to make Duke the absolute best that we could, and we’ll do the same thing here.”

The Blue Devils went 3-9 in their final season under David Cutcliffe. A year later, they won their first bowl game since 2018 while Elko was named ACC Coach of the Year. 

Perhaps the former Penn safety doesn't lead the Aggies to a 12-team CFP berth in 2024, but continued progress might be more beneficial for the long run under his regime. A long-awaited win over the Longhorns would be the icing on the cake on a positive first season. 

“We have the potential to flip this thing around really quick,” Elko said. “We’ve got to really focus on building culture, building chemistry, building togetherness and then building some of those intangible qualities — grit, toughness, mental toughness."