COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- It wasn't pretty.
Texas A&M has lost five games in the Kevin Sumlin era but none more decisive and ugly than the 34-10 beating the Aggies took on Saturday at LSU.
"We're in a situation that we really haven't been in since we've been here," Sumlin said on Tuesday. "I don't think we handled the environment very well, we didn't handle everything very well."
Now the Aggies must put that behind them and focus on what's left: another road clash against a top 25 team. No. 5 Missouri (10-1) has something real to play for, a berth in the SEC championship game and the outright SEC East Division title. The Tigers will bring a level of intensity to Saturday's clash, with an expected sellout crowd and a stadium "blackout" for the game. It's a chance for the Tigers to make history.
The challenge is clear and it won't be easy. Texas A&M defensive coordinator Mark Snyder sees a lot of poise in Missouri senior quarterback James Franklin, who returned to action last week after missing time because of a shoulder injury.
“He’s a very experienced player," Snyder said. "That’s what he brings to the table. He is very patient in the pocket and does a really good job of running their offense. When you watch the film on him, he is a very poised kid in the pocket and can throw it. He does a great job within that offense."
Snyder's also plenty familiar with Maty Mauk, who started in Franklin's place while he was out and saw action last week against Ole Miss. The offense is similar to what the Aggies saw from Missouri last year in terms of scheme, but the unit is playing at a higher level.
“The style is the same," Snyder said. "They are doing the same things. They are just doing them really well right now. They are playing with a lot of confidence and getting their quarterback back was a shot in the arm. I think Mauk is a good player, too. I’ve known him since he was a little kid. He used to come to Ohio State camps when we were looking at Ben, his older brother. He is a very competitive kid. They are playing really well right now."
Sumlin sees a defense that is not only good at getting to the opposing quarterback, but also opportunistic.
“They’ve really improved from last year, obviously, and statistically lead the league in sacks," Sumlin said. "They lead the league in interceptions too, which is an underrated stat. It’s a big statistic to say that your team leads the league in sacks and interceptions. Missouri is using all their pieces very well right now."
With the Thanksgiving week in full swing, the Aggies will modify their schedule on Thursday and move practice and meetings to an earlier time to allow players and coaches to get home to their families on Thursday night. But with the travel day to Columbia, Mo., on Friday, the turnaround will be quick.
"Our practice schedule will change a little this week so the guys have the opportunity to go home if they live close enough," Sumlin said. "We have a big Thanksgiving meal here Thursday for guys who can’t get home and back in time for Friday’s meeting. Thursday is family time but if they can’t get home in that time, we have something here and will have plenty of good food and we will be ready for this weekend."