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Star-Telegram.com

Aggies want to leave their mark on Texas

Posted Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2011

By Jimmy Burch

jburch@star-telegram.com

COLLEGE STATION -- In a season filled with swan-song showdowns against longtime rivals, Texas A&M observes its final -- and highest-profile -- goodbye moment tonight on its path to the Southeastern Conference.

A&M meets No. 25 Texas for the last time, based on existing schedules, in a football series that dates to 1894. Extended bragging rights will belong to tonight's winner in Kyle Field, with Texas officials saying they have no available dates on future nonconference schedules for a matchup against A&M until 2018, at the earliest.

"It's the last go-around," A&M cornerback Terrence Frederick said. "It's going to be about bragging rights. So we've just got to go out there, win this game and finish on top."

For the Aggies (6-5, 4-4 in Big 12), the idea of finishing on top by beating the Longhorns (6-4, 3-4) goes beyond tonight's 118th meeting between the two teams. A&M also has an opportunity to sweep its fellow Texas-based schools in the Aggies' final season as Big 12 members. A&M already has knocked off Texas Tech and Baylor.

Taken a step further: If A&M can defeat Texas, the Aggies would head to the SEC -- where they will be the league's lone member in the Lone Star State -- with victories over all nine of the other Texas-based FBS football programs in the most recent matchup between the schools.

It's a distinction that could last for a while, with future schedules in flux and SMU, a team A&M defeated 46-14 in this year's opener, the only Texas-based school on the Aggies' 2012 slate. It's a distinction that inspires these Aggies to capitalize on tonight's unique opportunity.

"The historical implications are huge, and we realize that," quarterback Ryan Tannehill said. "There's a lot of different levels to this game, and they're all exciting for me. I can't wait to play."

Because the game involves the regular-season finale, as well as archrival Texas, Tannehill said it feels a little different than swan-song matchups from earlier this season against Baylor and Tech.

"It's something only one team will experience ...to play in this game under these conditions," Tannehill said. "It's special. But at the end of the day, it's just like all those other games, and we have to take care of business."

If they can, the Aggies will have won the last two games in a series Texas leads 75-37-5. More important, said defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter, is that A&M will have won a game that may be remembered in perpetuity.

"The fact that it's the last one for a long time ...Coach [Mike] Sherman has hit that with our guys," DeRuyter said. "This is the one that you're going to be talking about, 10 or 20 years from now. The last time we played Texas, did we win or lose? And we've got a chance to affect that. That's our challenge and that's what's driving us."

Frederick, a senior, put it in simpler terms.

"You lose to them, the whole town turns on you," Frederick said. "So this game really means a lot."

A&M receiver Ryan Swope, an Austin native who did not receive a scholarship offer from Texas, said tonight's matchup is very personal because of his circumstances and the historic ramifications. Swope, a junior, said he attended quite a few of these Thanksgiving showdowns as a youngster and finds it hard to believe he will be playing in the series finale.

"As a little kid, I grew up a Longhorn fan, but things have changed," Swope said. "It's too bad this is the last one, because I've been watching this game for so long and it's a lot of fun. There's a lot history, a lot of tradition. It doesn't matter if you're ranked. It doesn't matter who has the better team. Both teams will come out swinging. I'm just glad we get to play in Kyle Field. That's huge. It'll be electric."

If the emotion-charged crowd is enough to carry the Aggies to victory, A&M will head to the SEC next season with bragging rights against the Longhorns. And every other Texas-based FBS program.

Follow Jimmy Burch on Twitter @Jimmy_Burch.

Jimmy Burch, 817-390-7760

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