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Cessna: Texas A&M fails to take advantage of another opportunity
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Cessna: Texas A&M fails to take advantage of another opportunity

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Texas A&M LSU Football

Texas A&M quarterback Zach Calzada throws past LSU linebacker Micah Baskerville in Baton Rouge, La. on Saturday.

It’s been a frustrating few months for the Texas A&M football team. The victory over Alabama was great, but that was the expectation for the season, not just one game.

A&M kept putting itself in position for great success and each time it failed to take advantage. The Aggies finally ran out of chances in Saturday’s 27-24 loss at LSU in a game that was a microcosm of the season. A&M fell behind early, which also was the case in losses to Arkansas and Ole Miss, only this time the Aggies battled back for the lead. But instead of a possible season-changing or even program-defining victory, the Aggies couldn’t finish. LSU put together a nine-play, 85-yard drive in the final two minutes, handing A&M an improbable setback.

The Aggies (8-4, 4-4 SEC) went into the season ranked sixth in the country with College Football Playoff aspirations. They finished the regular season in a three-way tie for third in the Southeastern Conference West Division with Arkansas and Mississippi State, teams which both defeated A&M.

The loss to unranked LSU (6-6, 3-5) was by far the worst. Losses to 23rd-ranked Arkansas, Mississippi State and eighth-ranked Ole Miss are understandable, especially when you factor in A&M’s injuries. But LSU had struggled in coach Ed Orgeron’s final season. It had to make several lineup changes because of injuries and players opting out. A&M clearly was the more talented team. Everyone knew LSU’s players would give their best shot in Orgeron’s last game and also consider A&M had lost four straight in Tiger Stadium since joining the SEC.Everyone expected this would be a hard-fought game.

LSU, to its credit, played well. But A&M proved to be the more talented team by battling back to take the lead, but then it couldn’t seal the deal.

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This was a team effort from head coach Jimbo Fisher down to the player who was called for blocking out of bounds on a punt. A&M never established a running game; receivers dropped too many passes; the defense allowed a trio of touchdown passes totaling 134 yards; LSU scored touchdowns in the final minute of both halves; A&M failed to run out the clock in both halves; and the Aggies converted only 3 of 14 third downs.

A&M had a couple calls by the officials go against them, but that’s every game. A&M had too many mistakes to be pointing fingers.

The bottom line is A&M didn’t take care of business — again. It didn’t show up ready to play Arkansas, which became a two-game losing streak. A&M bounced back to beat Alabama to jump-start a four-game winning streak capped by a solid 20-3 victory over Auburn. The Aggies couldn’t build on it. A&M started slowly against Ole Miss, failing to overcome a 15-0 halftime deficit in a 29-19 loss. A&M had an extra week to mentally and physically put that behind with a 52-3 victory over Prairie View A&M massaging its ego. But instead of the Aggies taking advantage of one last opportunity, they had their worst loss.

A&M remains a Top 25 team because of its victory over Alabama. That’s a biggie, but other than that, A&M’s best victory is over Auburn (6-6, 3-5). A&M has not lived up to expectations, because it was favored in all of its losses.

A&M will get a chance to end the season with a bowl victory, but with so many NFL-bound players opting not to play in recent years you have to wonder how many Aggies will elect to play, considering how things have gone. Saturday was probably the last time we’ll see that group together. That’s another reason why that loss hurts so much.

Rankings & bowl projections

A&M slipped 10 spots to 24th in the Associated Press Top 25 and dipped nine places to 23rd in the USA Today/Coaches Poll. … Jerry Palm and Athlon’s project A&M to play Iowa in the Citrus Bowl, while Sports Illustrated projects A&M to play Iowa State in the Texas Bowl and 247sports.com projects A&M and Clemson in the Gator Bowl. … The last time A&M lost a game in the final minute was UCLA’s 45-44 victory in the 2017 opener. Jordan Lasley caught a 10-yard pass from Josh Rosen with 43 seconds left to complete the 34-point comeback.

Robert Cessna’s email address is Robert.cessna@theeagle.com.

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