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Texas A&M Goes From App State to SEC Contender

The Aggies have been on wild ride over the last three weeks, capped by consecutive wins over ranked teams.
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Momentum, she is a temptress.

Texas A&M was running on empty in the M-department not that long ago. A seemingly lost program with an out-of-touch coach, the Aggies needed big changes and an even bigger buyout check.

Two wins over higher-ranked opponents, the latest 23-21 on neutral ground over No. 10 Arkansas, has the Aggies singing a new tune after their SEC opener Saturday in Arlington.

“We played two top‑15 teams back‑to‑back,” Devon Achane said after a career-high 159 yards rushing against the Razorbacks. “Appalachian State just showed us that we’ve got a lot of heart in this team, that we have a great team.

“We didn’t let that loss take us down. We kept building, kept coming together. And just basically making sure that we all on the same page.”

It didn’t appear that way for a quarter against the Hogs. But a huge run from Achane helped the offense turn the page before the A&M defense made perhaps a season-defining play.

A stop of Arkansas quarterback KJ Jefferson in the shadow of the goal line turned into a mind-blowing fumble-pitch return that went the distance of the field. Demani Richardson’s touchdown, after taking the ball away from teammate Tyreek Chappell, swung the, well, you know what.

“It was a big stop,” said Richardson, who went the final 82 yards for the score. “I kept saying we needed that play. We needed that fumble. We needed that momentum swing.”

Achane added: “It was a big momentum change. For the offense, that was a great play by the defense. I believe in our defense. They believe in us. For them to go in and put up some points on the board, it helped us a lot.”

And guess what? Texas A&M (3-1, 1-0) is a contender in the SEC again. That’s the truth, even with that ugly App State loss on its résumé.

Alabama in Tuscaloosa on Oct. 8 was always going to mean something on the backdrop of Jimbo-Saban, but now it’s going matter in the SEC West standings. The Aggies are in position to take control to the division and their playoff destiny.

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Sure, the Aggies could stumble this coming Saturday at Mississippi State. Ole Miss, Florida, LSU are just some of the potential pitfalls in the stiffest conference in the land.

Just to be in this position with Miami and the Hogs up next following that inexcusable loss to the Mountaineers at Kyle Field is reason for optimism inside the A&M locker room.

“There’s definitely a lot of work to be done,” said Max Johnson, now 2-0 as A&M’s starting quarterback. “But we’re all super happy that we came out with this win. Two wins over top‑15 teams. I think we came together as a team, offense and defense. We weren’t separate. We played together as a family.”

Jimbo Fisher, rightfully criticized in the wake of App State, is focused on the lessons learned over the past several weeks. The seemingly devastating setback followed by a two gut-check wins says something about his Aggies.

“We could have been sitting here undefeated and be top 5 in the country and still be the same football team,” Fisher said. “You know what I’m saying? We learn to gut it out.

“Now, I’d rather been that way. But at the same time, from your standpoint, it wouldn’t have made us a better football team. We’re finding out about ourselves a lot right now and what we’re trying to do. These kids have fight and grit.”

And some momentum.

You can find Art Garcia on Twitter @ArtGarcia92.

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