DALLAS â" After losing its first game as a Southeastern Conference member, Texas A&M quickly gets to go into its past.
The Aggies are headed to SMU (1-1) for the first time in 20 years on Saturday to play their rival from the old Southwest Conference, the league they played in before spending the past 16 seasons in the Big 12. It comes a week after their SEC debut at home against Florida, a game they led at halftime before failing to score again.
âItâs really frustrating, especially for the seniors and guys who have been here for a while that played in a lot of those games and couldnât finish them out,â senior receiver Uzoma Nwachukwu said. âThereâs a lot of frustration built up and weâve got to make sure doesnât happen again.â
Texas A&M has 10 wins and a tie in its last 11 meetings against SMU. The two teams have played only twice since the SWC broke up after the 1995 season, both at College Station â" a 66-8 Aggies win in 2005 and last seasonâs 46-14 opener. The last meeting in Dallas was a 1992 game the Aggies won 41-7.
SMU is playing the third of five consecutive games against Texas opponents to start its season, and like A&M is coming of a solid defensive effort.
In a 52-0 victory over FCS team Stephen F. Austin, the Mustangs forced 10 turnovers. They had a school-record seven interceptions, returning two of the picks and a fumble for touchdowns. They also two blocked field goals, one by Mangus Hunt that was the ninth in his career for an NCAA record.
The Aggies didnât force any turnovers, but after leading all FBS teams with 51 sacks last season, had eight against the 18th-ranked Gators. Damontre Moore had three of the sacks and linebacker Jonathan Stewart had a career-high 17 tackles.
âWhen we went back and watched film, obviously we were upset that we lost and that we didnât get the win, but we saw that we did a lot of good things,â Moore said. âWe were really worried about the transition from a 3-4 game to a 4-3 and I think that we handled it very well and turned a lot of heads. There were a lot of good things and there were also some mistakes but weâre working on trying to get those mistakes fixed.â
Texas A&M didnât have a turnover in freshman quarterback Johnny Manzielâs first game, what became the season opener because of a hurricane-delayed game the week before that. But the Aggies lost 20-17 after leading 17-10 at halftime.
Manziel became the Aggiesâ first freshman starting quarterback in an opener since 1944, replacing first-round NFL draft pick Ryan Tannehill. The redshirt freshman in the fast-paced offense of new Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin threw for 173 yards and rushed for 60 more while accounting for 14 first downs (10 passing, four rushing).
New SMU quarterback Garrett Gilbert has faced Texas A&M before, in the 2010 regular season finale for Texas. He completed 20 of 37 passes for 219 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions in a 24-17 Longhorns loss. Gilbert transferred to SMU and became immediately eligible to play this season after completing 27 credit hours last spring to graduate from Texas.
SMU coach June Jones sees a lot of similarity to what Sumlin wants to do at Texas A&M and what he did before at Houston in Conference USA, the league the Mustangs are playing their final season before moving to the Big East.
âLooks like itâs the same but (quarterback) Case Keenum isnât there,â Jones said. âThey have a young kid they are trying to get ready to play. Heâs a very talented kid and like any young kid, heâs going to take a little while. â¦ Hopefully it takes one more week.â