Another week, another missed opportunity for Texas A&M. And now the heat on Jimbo Fisher may really start to intensify.
On the heels of a disappointing home defeat at the hands of Alabama, the Aggies went on the road and blew another halftime lead in a low-scoring 20-13 loss to No. 19 Tennessee. The loss drops the Aggies to 4-3 overall and 2-2 in SEC play heading into the bye week.
The Aggies, in Year 6 under Fisher, have now lost eight consecutive road games and have a combined 8-12 conference record dating back to the 2021 season.
In this one, the Aggies had a 10-7 lead at the break and a chance to break that road losing streak but they allowed Tennessee to take a 14-10 lead when UT’s Dee Williams returned a punt 39 yards for a touchdown. Texas A&M was punting from its own end zone after Tennessee’s special teams unit downed the ball at the 1. After the Aggies couldn’t even muster a yard, the door was opened for Williams to make a big play.
"Dee Williams is going 'Please, just kick one to me.'"
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) October 14, 2023
Texas A&M would get a field goal on the ensuing drive, cutting Tennessee’s lead to 14-13, but would never put another point on the board from that point forward.
Neither side played a clean game and the Vols had multiple opportunities to create some distance from the Aggies on the scoreboard. That wouldn’t happen until late.
Texas A&M had a chance to go ahead with a 50-yard Randy Bond field goal with 8:34 to play, but the kick sailed wide left. That gave Tennessee the chance to take some time off the clock and add on a field goal of its own, a 31-yarder from Charles Campbell to give the Vols a 17-13 lead with 3:48 to play.
From there, the struggling Texas A&M offense would have two more opportunities. Neither went well.
Tennessee sent pressure at Aggies quarterback Max Johnson all day, and he had a tough time handling it. Following the Campbell field goal, Texas A&M still had a chance to drive the field and take the lead with a touchdown. But the Vols sent heavy pressure Johnson’s way and he sailed a pass that was intercepted by Tennessee’s Gabe Jeudy-Lally.
Jeudy-Lally returned the interception all the way to the A&M 6, but the Vols could not cash the turnover in with a touchdown. Tennessee took only 54 seconds off the clock and added another Campbell field goal to make it 20-13 with 2:31 to play.
Still, the Aggies had a chance. On this drive, A&M drove out to midfield but Johnson was intercepted yet again — this time on a fourth-and-10 play by Kamal Hadden. Hadden’s interception sealed the victory for the Vols, who improved to 5-1 overall and 2-1 in the SEC with a trip to Alabama coming next weekend.
The A&M defense gave the offense chance after chance as Tennessee had six different drives that advanced into A&M territory but came away without points.
Johnson finished the day 16-of-34 for 223 yards with two interceptions and a rushing touchdown. He was sacked only twice, but sustained 11 quarterback hits in an ugly performance from the A&M offense, which could muster only 277 yards and went a combined 5-of-17 on third and fourth down.
Jimbo Fisher continues to under-deliver at Texas A&M
When Texas A&M hired Jimbo Fisher away from Florida State, the school had national championship expectations. Fisher hasn't even come close to delivering.
The high mark for the Fisher era was a 9-1 record in 2020, the pandemic-affected season. Other than that, the Aggies are a combined 34-23 overall with a 17-29 mark in SEC play. And over the past three seasons, the Aggies are 8-12 versus conference competition. Last year was the low when A&M went 5-7 overall and 2-6 in the league.
Fisher has a 10-year, $95 million fully guaranteed contract with a gargantuan buyout. But it's fair to wonder how much longer the wealthy A&M brass will want to stick with Fisher, whose conservative decision-making has held his team back in consecutive weeks.
Last week's examples in the Alabama game were more egregious, but Fisher again had a chance to try to add onto his team's lead before halftime. And again, he folded.
After the A&M defense got a third-down stop, Fisher could have called a timeout with around 1:30 left in the half. He instead let the clock tick down before Tennessee punted. And once the ball was back in A&M's hands, Fisher decided to take a knee and go into the locker room with a 10-7 lead.
It's a small thing, but it's evidence of a larger problem in the program. No matter how much talent you assemble, there's a limit on your team's potential to achieve when you don't put your players in position to succeed. Fisher is guilty of that far too often.
So where does Texas A&M go from here? A well-timed bye week is ahead as the Aggies won't return to action until Oct. 28 at home vs. South Carolina. From there, Fisher's team will go back on the road to face No. 13 Ole Miss on Nov. 4 before two more home games — Mississippi State and Abilene Christian. The Aggies then have to go back on the road to close out the season at No. 22 LSU.
There are several toss-up games in there. Will Fisher be able to survive an 8-4 or 7-5 season?