COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Last time they shared a field was Thanksgiving 2011.
Texas A&M was headed to the SEC. Texas was staying in the Big 12. At Kyle Field, in the 118th meeting, Justin Tucker kicked a 40-yard field goal as time expired to secure a 27-25 Longhorn victory — and the last laugh. One last reminder of who ruled the pasture.
That’s the Texas-Texas A&M relationship we Nebraskans knew for 15 years. That’s the kind of night that inspired the Aggies to run away from home. You can talk about new opportunities in the SEC, but there’s no denying it: A&M was tired of Bevo’s shadow.
Less than two years later, Thanksgiving 2011 may as well be the Dinosaur Age.
Saturday I’ll be at Kyle Field to cover the most anticipated regular-season game in years. Alabama, two-time defending national champ, meets the one foe it hasn’t conquered. Will Johnny Manziel light it up? Will Nick Saban’s defense shut him up? The storylines are irresistible.
It’s likely the biggest moment in A&M football history.
Two hours west, the mood couldn’t be more different. The ’Horns will try to avoid a disaster Saturday. Last week they gave up 550 rushing yards at BYU, a performance that cost defensive coordinator Manny Diaz his job.
A loss to upstart Ole Miss and Mack Brown might be run out of town, too. He isn’t alone.
On Friday, OrangeBloods.com’s Chip Brown, a mouthpiece for Texas’ administration during the conference realignment scramble, reported that Athletic Director DeLoss Dodds would step down at the end of the season. Dodds, 74, vigorously denied the report.
“I love my job, I love the people I work with, and I love The University of Texas,” Dodds said in a statement. “I have no immediate plans to retire, but when I do, we will let everyone know well in advance so that people do not have to speculate. Now let’s go out and beat Ole Miss.”
A win won’t solve all the problems. Texas’ athletic department is a mess, symbolized by The Longhorn Network, a $300 million initiative that’s still hard to find on cable packages, even in Texas. When the ‘Horns lost to BYU, the LHN scrapped plans to replay the game, showing Ricky Williams highlights instead.
Texas can’t hide from the present, just as it can’t ignore A&M. Now the Aggies have the Heisman winner, Johnny Football. Now the Aggies have the young, charismatic coach in Kevin Sumlin. Now the Aggies are rolling in money — Kyle Field is set for a $450 million expansion, boosting capacity from 83,000 to 102,500.
They could use the extra seats. Friday the Houston airport was sprinkled with ’Bama fans. The cheapest A&M ticket on Stubhub.com was $440. Seats on the 50-yard line were selling for more than $1,000.
That November night in 2011, Manziel was a redshirt, Sumlin was the coach at Houston and the state color was burnt orange. Aggie fans watched in horror one more time as the ‘Horns spoiled Thanksgiving.
Now who’s the turkey?