By Kempton Smith, App State ’82
With the loss to UNC, App State is in an unusual place. App has three consecutive losses dating back to the Conference Championship loss. The last time App lost three or more in a row was in 2014, the first FBS year. Since 2014, the Mountaineers have had back-to-back losses only once, in 2017, with losses at Massachusetts and at UL Monroe.
At the end of that same 2017 season, Texas A&M got a new coach. In February 2018, the Aggies agreed to pay App $1.5m to play at Kyle Field in College Station, TX.
Try to rationalize why new coach Jimbo Fisher and then AD Scott Woodward thought playing Appalachian State was a good idea – maybe because App had not yet emerged into the top 25. Coming off a 9-4 2017 season, the Black and Gold had a loss to Georgia (31-10). App also had a somewhat surprising home loss to Wake Forest and stunning losses to Mass and ULM. Did they think this was a sure win… a second cupcake for A&M’s 2022 season?
To paraphrase SI from 2007, App State has a way of adding Wasabi (or Sriracha?) to a cupcake.
This week the Mountaineers travel 1,100 miles to College Station, Texas, to play in a “bucket list” football venue, with a chance to make a statement win.
It is said A&M has all the resources competitive programs want, including a patiently engaged fanbase, an amazing atmosphere, and a tradition of winning.
A&M is a bigger Goliath than UNC. Texas A&M’s football finances are 50% bigger. Using App as a baseline:
- Texas A&M supporters out contribute App State’s Yosef Club 6 to 1 (Yosef raises $8.2m, Aggies $47.8m)
- The Aggies received $80.5m in media and bowl payouts as compared to App State’s $2.9m
- Jimbo Fisher, head coach of the Aggies, is paid $9.5m, about $300k less than App’s total football budget
- Since joining the SEC, A&M has won at least seven games each season
- Year after year, A&M is ranked in the top 10 (nationally) for recruiting
- This year’s class was top-ranked
- 56 players on the active roster are 4-star or 5-star recruits
Some say this is the best team you don’t hear much about.
The Aggies play in the most challenging division in college football (Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, LSU, Ole Miss, and Mississippi State). They have not been to the playoffs (yet) because they cannot get into the SEC championship game. They have been a step behind SEC division-mates Alabama, Auburn, and LSU, all of whom have won national championships since 2010.
A&M began the 2021 season ranked 5th. But a critical QB injury is blamed for two unexpected losses early. Next, they knocked off top-ranked Alabama mid-season in a string of 3 SEC wins but then had late-season losses to Ole Miss (by 10) and LSU (by 3). They ended the season unranked at 8-4, with a COVID-canceled bowl game.
This year the Aggies were pre-season ranked 6th. A&M had a quarterback question coming into the season. Week 1, they started Haynes King. He was the quarterback who played well early last year, but his season ended in game 2 with an injury. In the home opener against Sam Houston, King was 20 of 31, and his backup, former LSU starter Max Johnson was 3 for 4. Three of the 23 passes were long TD receptions (2 over 60 yards and one over 40). Nine receivers caught at least one pass.
A&M’s strength may be the D line; five players are reportedly future NFL bound. The defensive secondary is experienced and successful, allowing only 13 TD passes and intercepting ten passes last season (against SEC opponents).
In week 1, the defense held the Bearkats’ offense to under 200 yards, 107 rushing/91 passing. The Texas A&M Aggies fans have some Football Culture cred too. What will impress App Fans:
- Kyle stadium boasts NCAA top 10 in attendance for the last ten years – top 5 typically
- Attendance has stayed strong despite 7-5 years, coaching turnovers, etc.
- Aggie donations have continued strong through the years. 2021’s $47.8m in contributions is not unusual.
- Fan engagement is strong throughout most games
- Sportscasters have reported Kyle Field is a bucket-list venue for college football fans
What App Fans will consider unusual:
- The Aggie War Hymn lyrics are more a slam on former rival Texas whom they have not played since 2011.
o The swaying fans who lock arms and sing the lyrics cause the upper deck and press box areas to sway.
- Former mascots (dogs, in this case) are buried at one end of the stadium. The burial ground has its own scoreboard
- The student body elects five “yell leaders” instead of having the typical group of cheerleaders, a tradition since 1907.
The opening line had App losing by more than 2 TDs. Some media and many Aggie fans give App State little chance of winning. Others see this for what it might be…. a dangerous game.
Pass the Siracha!
Go App! Beat the Aggies!
For those going to the game, there is a great resource on Aggie tailgating here.