There was a lot familiar for Texas A&M fans on Saturday, but it's the slight changes that added the personal touch to the program for first-year head coach Kevin Sumlin.
The new field entrance to the field, led by drummers from the Fightin' Texas Aggie Band, sent the team under the west stands and through the smoke piling out of the northwest corner. The team sprinted out of the tunnel with two flags—one for Texas A&M and one with an SEC logo.
It marked a new chapter for the Aggies, and the crowd responded.
"Coming out, I thought that the energy level of the crowd was fantastic," Sumlin said. "It's the reason I wanted to be here and the reason that Kyle Field is such a great place."
The energy that came with the crowd of 87,114—the ninth best in Kyle Field history, and as the press box PA announcer joked, the largest for an SEC game in stadium history—actually hurt the team at the beginning. The first play from scrimmage for the Aggies in the SEC was preempted by a false start.
Once the offense settled down and started to run Sumlin's scheme, the Aggies showed a glimpse of the future. The attack posted 18 first downs and 269 yards of offense in the first half. It wasn't the high octane passing offense that Sumlin showed in his time at Houston. It was a balanced offense that featured the running ability of redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel.
"He's a young guy and he made plays in the first half, but they contained him in the second half and took away the other part, his legs, in the second half," Sumlin said. "This is a real learning situation for him, as it will be every week."
The outcome wasn't what Texas A&M fans were hoping for, but there were positive signs for the future while breaking in a first-year quarterback in a first-year offensive scheme. It's going to take time and added depth for Texas A&M to compete for the SEC title. Some of the pieces are set in the up-tempo, fast break offense Sumlin wants to run, but the process isn't complete.
Saturday was about the showcasing foundation. The roster still needs work, and Sumlin is putting that in with the third best recruiting class in the country and best class in the SEC. The rest is about improving and continuing to develop the depth on the roster.
That didn't make the sting any easier for the Texas A&M players to deal with.
"We let down the great fans," receiver Ryan Swope said. "It's so electric in that stadium. I don't think they ever sat down today. We have the best fans in college football. It's tough. Just knowing how many people we let down, I think that's the biggest thing for me. We let down this university. Not just that, but we let down each other."
The challenge for Sumlin and his coaching staff is to keep the attention and focus of the players. After having the their season opener delayed, the Aggies now have to move forward with the rest of the season now that the emotions of week one in the SEC are over.
"That's something we've been addressing. It's the elephant in the room," Sumlin said.