COLLEGE STATION (AP) – Texas A&M has won five straight games. The last two wins for the 20th-ranked Aggies have been far from perfect.
They had six turnovers in a 30-27 win over Ole Miss two weeks ago and piled up 19 penalties in a 59-57 victory against Louisiana Tech last Saturday. Winning ugly has worked the past two weeks, but coach Kevin Sumlin knows his team will need to be much better this week when it hosts No. 6 LSU (6-1).
He believes changing that starts well before his team steps on the field.
“How you approach a game and how you approach what you’re doing is important,” he said. “Our guys are starting to understand that approach to the game doesn’t start late in the week, it starts early in the week. The three areas of preparation (are) emotional, mental, physical — you’ve got to have all three. In games that are close, you’re going to get tested in all three areas.”
The most upsetting of A&M’s mistakes were the four personal fouls in the second half of last week’s game. Those are errors that Sumlin told the team were selfish and he wants to make sure they are eliminated as the Aggies (5-1) get into the heart of their Southeastern Conference schedule.
“We plan on getting that fixed,” senior offensive lineman Patrick Lewis said. “We can’t be selfish football players and expect to win. Fifteen yards can really hurt us against a team like LSU.”
The first-year Texas A&M coach has made it clear that penalties like that will not be tolerated and has implemented things in practice to let the team know he is serious.
“There’s a lot of consequences being put out there right now for those type of penalties,” Lewis said. “You have to see the strength coaches and do some extra running and some punishment work. Just to get us prepared and make sure we don’t make those mistakes again. Because they can cost us a lot of games.”
Texas A&M is averaging more than 72 yards of penalties a game, which is tied for 17th most in the country. It’s not just the offense that is being reminded about getting that number down. The defense knows double-digit penalties won’t be acceptable against LSU.
“If we have 19 penalties against this team and keep their offense on the field and allow them to sustain drives with what we’re giving them and not what they’ve earned, then it will be a very long day for us defensively,” linebacker Jonathan Stewart said.
The Aggies took better care of the ball against Louisiana Tech than they did two weeks ago against Ole Miss. But they still had two turnovers last week, including an interception by Johnny Manziel which was returned for a touchdown, and didn’t force any turnovers. Their turnover woes are a new development, after they had just one giveaway in their first four games combined.
Now they’ll face a team tied for 12th in the country in forcing turnovers with 16. The Aggies don’t have to remind Manziel, their freshman quarterback, of the importance of ball security against one of the top defenses in the country.
“Whatever we ask him to do, he is going to do to the best of his ability,” offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury said. “It doesn’t matter if he’s perfect, but he is going to fight and fight to try to help his teammates win the game.”
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