Emerging from the ashes -- how will A&M respond?

We can hash and rehash the reasons for this predicament, but what purpose would it serve? At this point, Texas A&M has been stripped bare for all the college football world to see. The question now becomes, what will be done about it?

After Texas Tech shellacked the Aggies 59-28 in early October, I predicted here that several more blowouts were possible in 2003. With the arrival of mid-November, I'm beginning to look like a clairvoyant.

Nebraska ran A&M out of Lincoln and then Oklahoma State put the worst home loss on the Aggies that memory could recall. However, nothing so far has compared to the complete and utter domination of top-rated Oklahoma over A&M this past Saturday.

Believe it or not, the scoreboard was actually kind to the Aggies, as 77-0 only began to tell the story. The Sooners could probably have reached triple figures if they really had wanted. The story of this game is where these two programs are as the 2003 season winds down to it's close.

Should this score have come as a surprise? I don't think so. Unless of course you missed the way OU ran roughshod over Texas 65-13 and then dispatched Oklahoma State 52-9. Both the Longhorns and Cowboys are miles ahead of the Aggies right now so this one really shouldn't shock.

Perhaps we'll look back at November 8, 2003 as the day the Aggies completed their descent to rock bottom. Make no mistake though; this decline didn't begin this season.

We can hash and rehash the reasons for this predicament, but what purpose would it serve? At this point, Texas A&M has been stripped bare for all the college football world to see. The question now becomes, what will be done about it?

I suspect the current coaching staff, while no doubt disappointed, isn't terribly shocked by the recent outcomes. Their grasp of the situation was probably incomplete coming in, but after nearly a full year on the job, I would imagine that Dennis Franchione and the professionals who answer to him assess both the talent and experience level at where it is. As I said last week, the fact that the coaches have been able to stay the course and resist the quick fix temptation speaks well of their commitment to the long-term resurrection of this program.

The talent level is deficient and there is no way around that fact. You can look at close losses the past couple of years and woulda, coulda, shoulda the situation all you want. The score board cannot be ignored. Right now, everyone but Baylor (in the Big 12 South) has scoreboard on the Aggies, and by a sizable margin.

The staff needs to dig in now. Recruiting against Texas and Oklahoma, to name just two opponents, won't be any easier regardless of the reputation Coach Fran has among high school coaches in the state. Several 17 and 18 year-olds who have OU and A&M on their lists undoubtedly saw the slaughter in Norman. Success other programs may be experiencing is an aphrodisiac that won't be easy to overcome.

Don't look now, but Texas may find itself right back in the BCS picture. The Longhorns have been able to shake off the OU pummeling, and when you combine their recent successes with losses by teams above them, UT fans now have new hope. The season ending game at Kyle Field may have extra meaning for Texas this season. Again, kids considering both A&M and UT will likely see the showdown. Make no mistake; this staff has a tough road ahead during this first full recruiting season.

How will the team respond? A&M has two games remaining and will be underdogs in both. Beginning this week at Missouri, we'll begin to learn how being at the wrong end of a whipping of historic proportions will affect this group. Will it galvanize or fracture them? Will it demoralize or inspire?

Who will emerge as a rallying point for this team? If ever there is a time for these players to look within, the time has arrived. There have been teams in the past that took defeat and used it, learned from it and decided it doesn't taste so good. Will the Aggies be one of these teams?

The few seniors remaining at A&M now have nothing but pride for which to play. The opportunity for them to help those who will return can make a positive statement heading into what might be a long, difficult off-season.

What of us Aggies and Aggie fans? Will we cede Kyle Field to the visitors on Thanksgiving +1 Day? Will Maroon Out look more like a checkerboard?

At Texas A&M we've always prided ourselves in our involvement with our team and even in the game. I guess when gametime arrives November 28 we'll find out if the 12th Man and Former Students are able to support one that's just for pride.

One good thing came out of 77-zip. Now we can quit talking about last year and that glorious upset of the mighty Oklahoma Sooners, America's number one team. The past year seems to have been defined by a startling upset that shocked the college football world. Is that really how we want Aggie football to be viewed?

I'll trust that the program is headed in a direction other than being defined by an upset. I want to see the day again when nothing more than a simple, knowing, raised eyebrow greets word of an A&M victory over any opponent. We may not be number one yet, but I want us close enough to the top spot that an A&M win over anyone, number one included, isn't a shock at all.

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