Mac Engel

A plea to the state’s college coaches: Make Texas Football Great Again

Without tweeting a WWE-body slam of Nick Saban, Lincoln Riley or Ed Orgeron, our football coaches in Texas need to take on their growing number of demons outside of this state.

On this Fourth of July, it would be nice of Kevin Sumlin, Gary Patterson or Tom Herman (and every other football coach and player in the great state a Texas) to actually make Texas Football Great Again.

In a bit of #FakeNews that sounds just believable enough to make you ponder its veracity: No team in Texas has defeated an opponent from a Power 5 conference since 1993. Because truth has been relegated to inconvenient and unnecessary status, for the sake of this, just go with it, because it sounds good.

Even if the above paragraph is entirely fake, the hard truth is that Kansas State still swept all of Texas in football last season, which is enough to make you sick. (As far as Kansas beating Texas ... that still reads like #FakeNews).

The Fourth of July feels like the right day to begin, and this process starts in College Station with the only Texas team in the mighty SEC.

Texas A&M athletic director Scott Woodward all but placed his football coach on notice this off-season by telling ESPN’s Paul Finebaum: “He has to win this year. He has to do better than he has done in the past.”

This is about Aggie pride and Texas pride.

A&M hasn’t finished above fourth in the SEC West since 2012.

“Nobody could touch us then,” former Aggies defensive end Damontre Moore, who is now with the Cowboys, told me. “I was fortunate to play with a lot of first-rounders, cornerstone guys, who brought A&M back and made A&M relevant again.”

He did. And those first round picks — Johnny Manziel, Mike Evans, a fleet of offensive linemen — were all recruited by former coach Mike Sherman.

Sumlin had his first first-rounder in Myles Garrett in this most recent draft class. No one should think A&M should win the SEC West every year, but to lose by an average of 25 points to Alabama over the last four years is embarrassing. To have never defeated LSU once as an SEC rival is inexplicable. To be swept last season by the Mississippi schools is indefensible.

When asked “What is missing?” Moore let out a loud noise of exasperation and looked far away. Then he shrugged.

“I don’t know,” he said. “You’ve got to ask them. It’s different being on the outside. Being on the outside looking in, it’s about finishing. Honestly. That’s it. You have to finish games.”

The Aggies have collapsed to four consecutive 8-5 records, and have failed to finish in the AP Top 25 since 2013. The only other SEC teams not to be ranked in the AP Top 25 in any of the last three years are South Carolina, Kentucky and Vanderbilt.

Texas A&M did not jump to the SEC to be put in the same sentence as South Carolina, Kentucky, Arkansas and Vanderbilt, but here Reveille sits among a group known for its gridiron inferiority.

As a Texan who wants to see a Texas team represent the state and its players well against the perceived best conference in the nation, this development inspires sports rage. No Aggie should defend these developments.

The same goes for Bevo in Austin.

UT has finished in the Top 25 once in the last eight years, when it reached a “high point” at 19th in 2012. And, you must never forget this: It reached a low that not even David McWilliams could find in that loss to Kansas.

“I know, for me, I played with experienced guys who understood how it was going to happen before it happened,” former UT cornerback Duke Thomas told me. Thomas played for four seasons at UT before spending his rookie NFL season last year with the Houston Texans. He’s now with the Cowboys.

“As a freshman, I learned that. When I got older, we were playing younger guys and they didn’t understand how to prepare or how to do it. I’m telling you, those kids that played with me could have gone anywhere in the nation. I see Alabama win the way they win, any one of the kids we had could have gone to Alabama. What I took from it was, ‘What are they doing that we are not doing?’ 

If Duke is right and the players at UT or A&M could have opted for a Clemson, Alabama or other name-power school that wins, something is missing in the weight room, film room or practice field at our schools.

That’s for Sumlin, Herman, Matt Rhule, Gary Patterson, Kliff Kingsbury and the rest to figure out.

A down cycle should be expected, if all but allowed, in sports. But it’s shameful for this down cycle to become a state-wide pandemic.

We all share a degree of football disgrace in this chapter.

Someone, preferably Sumlin: Please restore our faith.

It’s July Fourth and everyone, from College Station to Waco, to Austin, to Fort Worth, to Lubbock needs to Make Texas Football Great Again.

Mac Engel: @macengelprof

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