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Autopsy of a Lost Season

I'm on board with the coach's season theme. This season is all about proving last season wasn't a fluke and the Ags are truly on the right path.

If that was the objective then this season can only be classifed as an EPIC FAILURE.

Autopsy of a Lost Season

Like most, my expectation has always been that 2011 would be better than 2010. This season, @norman is the only game I would currently pencil in as a likely loss (that's a probability, not a concession of defeat. Nor is it a prediction of an one-loss regular season.) Here are the pillars I think the Ags will build on this season.

The Running Game - Good things happen when you can run the ball. While its foolhardy to predict anything beyond the immediate season, it seems to me that the pieces are in place to have a strong running game for the next several years.

. . . Offensive Line - Nobody could have reasonably hoped that the offensive line would come together any better than it actually did in 2010. The two fish tackles acquitted themselves admirably and should form the foundation of a defining team strength for years to come. The Ags ran the ball well as the season progressed and were at times able to impose their will as the game wound down. I am more encouraged about this development than any other.

. . . Backs - Cyrus was just outstanding in 2010, his talent only surpassed by his class. And as far as physical tools, you can't ask for a much better specimen than C-Mike. Hopefully he will be able to come back from the broken leg at very close to his previous level.

Continued Improvement on Defense - I said I wouldn't be surprised if the Ags finished around 60th in total defense in 2010 with or without DeRuyter and they finished at 55. But that pedestrian ranking doesn't give the full picture of some scenes that hopefully foreshadow future greatness. Holding Mallet and the pigs to 3 second half points. Shutting RG3 and the cubbies out in the second half to enable the comeback. Keeping the corn out of the endzone for the entire game. And my personal favorite, defensively shutting the sooners out for 3 quarters and playing some of the most intense, inspired, impactful goal-line defense we've seen from the Ags in a long time.

. . . Another year in the system - DeRuyter back on the sidelines for another year is huge. While the defensive installation went possibly faster than I anticipated (probably due to the excellent "quarterbacking" of Hodges), I still believe there is year 2 upside as the new scheme fully takes holds and the players play a little faster with that higher comfort level. Though it was a weak point in the Cotton Bowl where the Ags allowed 9-out-of-15 conversions, one of the huge improvements the Ags made in 2010 was on defending 3rd downs where they cracked the Top 25 in that statistical category.

Experience at quarterback - When looking ahead a year ago, the biggest anticipated issue facing the 2011 Ags was breaking in a new quarterback. Due to the unfortunate development of a compromised JJ this year, RT was forced to step in and answered the call in respectable manner. I believe (hope) he will finally break the seeming hex on our senior year quarterbacks and turn in a strong season in 2011. The return of Jeff Fuller probably deserves its own bullet but will definitely be a boon to Ryan and the passing game.

Overall experience - The flip side of being forced to play all the youngsters we have the last two years is that you end up with some battle-tested warriors. We will have upperclassmen next year that are just as physically mature as their counterparts on the other sideline next year but with much more game experience.

This is not meant to be a comprehensive list of 2011 pillars just some of the biggest. Feel free to add your own. Of course, as there always will be, this season comes with its own set of challenges.

Impact of losing NFL-level talent - I believe 2002 was the last time the Ags had a player drafted in the first round. You just don't lose a freakish talent like Von Miller and not feel it.

Ball security - The Ags were 80th in turnover margin last season. The problem was not takeaways where we had 25 for the season vs an NCAA average of ~22.5 but in giveaways where we turned the ball over 30 times vs the average of (as the engineers already knew...) ~22.5. While I won't be surprised if the defense ups the takeaway number this year, the thing the Ags absolutely must improve on is protecting the football. This is one of the things that killed us in the Cotton Bowl. BTW, the top 10 teams in turnover margin in 2010 averaged a season record of 10.4 W's vs 2.8 L's.

Depth - Our 2nd-tier position in the recruiting world recently especially compromises us when injuries raise their ugly head. Hodges injury in the Cotton Bowl is an example of the big dropoff that exists at some positions. The poor accept rate during early Feb-2011 recruiting offers was a red flag but if Sherman can get the current class delivered in Feb-2012, he will go a long way to answering the questions about his ability to recruit at the highest level.

Team chemistry and character - I don't mention this because I anticipate an issue but because you can't just assume that the outstanding chemistry and character on display in 2010 will reformulate this Fall. I think the type coach/person Sherman is contributes strongly to a good team dynamic but I don't underestimate what impact the loss of a "glue" component like Hodges can have on a team.

The Running Game, Backs and OL

This was the one pillar that stood up this season. The OL was a team strength and Cyrus and C-Mike were good until injuries sidelined them late in the season. Even Malena turned in an admirable performance against the sips. Even this pillar was not perfect with uneven performance in short-yardage situations. But the main drawback here was the coach's propensity to shelve the team strength at inopportune times.

Continued Improvement on Defense with another year in the system vs. The Loss of Von and Hodges.

No contest here. It turns out Von and Hodges were running their own informal Big Brother campaign last year and it masked what were a host of other "at-risk" youngsters. Without that backbone, the defense slipped back to a deficiency.

Experience at quarterback

While we've certainly had less talented QBs than Tannehill, I'm not sure I recall one who was worse in clutch-time. I don't doubt the kid's character and my guess is this was a case of "trying too hard", but that doesn't change the end result.

I also mentioned the return of Fuller under this bullet point as well and what a disappointment his senior season turned out to be. I wish him well in the pros and in hindsight he might as well have gone last year given his impact on the team this year. Just goes to show that "sure things", at least of a positive nature, don't exist in the world of Aggie Football.

Overall Experience

Despite the overwhelming number of returning starters, the team regressed this year. Player development came to a standstill as senior after senior disappointed in their final campaign.

Ball security

Turnovers were once again an Aggie nemesis as the Aggies currently rank #97 in turnover margin. The problem was on both sides of the ball as the defense struggled to capture turnovers and Tannehill consistently gave teams new life in the second half with un-conscionable interceptions with the pick-6 to the sips putting a punctuation mark on the issue.


Once again proved paper-thin as the season outcome deteriorated even more as back-ups were pressed into service.

Team chemistry and character

This was probably the biggest step back from 2010. A team that "found itself" in the home stretch last season became a bunch of mentally weak basket cases this year. This was a team with ZERO killer instinct that couldn't stand prosperity. They always seemed to be looking over their shoulder for the disaster lurking and it so often overtook them. The signature weakness for the season was a half-time hangover where the team consistently re-took the field with a lethargy that reflected on their head coach.

The Future

I have lost any hope I had for this regime. However it will save me time in making future season predictions. While it may be a little optimistic for next year, just put me down for a perennial 6-and-6 with a bowl loss as long as Sherman is at the helm.
In the words of Sammy Hagar:

"You can analyze the situation, but to me it is all just mental masturbat***."
Dr. Phil could not have said it better!
Depressing. Good analysis.
Words. Don't. Change. Anything.

Waste of your time, but thanks?
Tannehill put the team up with less than two minutes to play. All the defense had to do was stop Case from running the ball down the middle of the field.
It still galls me we fell for a trick play they had used I believe two other times this season. Ignorant plays by mediocre players on both sides of the ball. Add on sorry play calling on both sides and that pretty much sums up the season.
Good analysis, Agalyst. I think it boils down to Mojo. Like Austin Powers, this team lost is Mojo this year. Whether it was an INT, dropped pass, fumble, blown assignment, failing to bring in an onside kick, not wrapping up a tackle, muffed punt or critical penalty this team found a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
In reality the defense only returned 5 starters from the 2010 unit

Players missing from the 2010 defense:

- Von
- Hodges
- Judie (essentially because of injury)
- Campbell (ditto)
- Mathis (ditto)
- Garrick Williams (shell of his former self)

Patterson, too.
that's right

[This message has been edited by W (edited 11/26/2011 5:07p).]
Waste of your time, but thanks?

The biggest disappointment this year was our complete inability to make plays when it counted.

Oklahoma St. - Failed to capitalize on a 20-3 halftime lead. Our D comes out, plays timid, and gives up a quick TD. Our offense collapses, and Sherm seems to have lost all control. We don't capitalize on the Blackmon turnover in the endzone and end up punting right away. After a total disaster of a half, we still have a chance to win, and end up throwing a pick.

Arkansas - After playing one of the best halves of football, we have to chance to come up and stomp on their throat. We have the ball to start the second half, and instead of making it 42-17, we go 3 and out. Failing to make plays the whole third and fourth quarter.

Missouri - Leading 28-14, we again get scared and can't finish them.

OU - Down 13-10 at halftime, we come out of halftime acting like the game is over, and give up about 65 points in the third, until it actually is over.

KSU - Leading 14-0 early on, we have a chance to drive and take a 21 point lead. Instead, we give up 14 quick points, and can't ever take control. Then somehow, in the 4th with 5 minutes left we're leading by 10. There's a real problem with your team when you don't like your chances and you're leading by 10 with 5 left.

tu - this team started with about 8 three and outs. Instead of crushing them early, we complete choke. We could have taken a 20-0 lead, and instead muff a punt and give up TD on a retarded Harsin play. The guy is a retarded OC, you know he's going to run trick plays, stick to your man and you get a TO (like the Miles INT).

6 losses, and we should have won 5 of them. Our team is afraid of success, and that begins and ends with Sherman. Until he's gone, we will never win anything substantial.
All the defense had to do was stop Case from running the ball down the middle of the field.

all the refs had to do was acknowledge the holding on the play, too...

did you have a point?
"bring out yer dead"
This team quit at the first sign of adversity.

Look at the difference in our team before and after the muffed punt. It's like night and day. And we had no leaders, players or coaches, doing anything on the sideline to fix it.

Look at the good teams, the players fire each other up, even when sh*t doesn't go their way. The coaches and coordinators smack someone upside the helmet (figuratively) for dropping a pass or missing a tackle. That is what kept this 6-6 team from being an 11-1 team.

[This message has been edited by TheCougarHunter (edited 11/26/2011 8:16p).]
I think you missed conditioning - it appeared each team we played had better conditioning. Again, it all goes back to coaching. This entire staff is pitiful and needs to quit.
How many prime time meltdowns and senior quarterback jinxes will we have to endure?
OP's analysis lacks a category called 'coaching.' Ironic, our football program also was missing this category - in every other aspect of the program except payroll. Sherman earned his firing this season. Give him what he earned.
ckwarren33, I am too familiar with Aggie "patience" to have much hope a move is going to be made despite this disastrous year, but here are my thoughts on the coaching situation.

This season is all about proving last season wasn't a fluke and the Ags are truly on the right path.

I would normally save this for the end of the season but since nothing that transpires the rest of this season can change my opinion at this point, here goes. I wasn't excited about the Sherman hire to begin with, had strong doubts about him after ou-2009 and practically had him buried after mizzou-2010. But after that strong stretch run to end last season, I was hopeful and eager to see what would transpire this year. However, I think what we have seen this year has proven that the sooner and corn games last season were an abberation and this program is headed nowhere fast. So even if we win out this season (and we should beat ku; and I don't know why but I still think we beat the sips; and even if we won a bowl game - I'll believe it when I see it.), as the old saying goes: "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me."


I am not a Sherman hater, per se. I was willing to give him a chance and even now I see good qualities.

First off, he seems like a man of good moral character. As recent events have shown, you can never be sure of anything by outward appearances, but Sherman seems like a man who is going to run a program within the rules, have expectations of his athletes concerning character/behavior, and in general do things by the book.

Secondly, despite the "clutch time" woes this season, what he has done with the offense and the OL in particular are very impressive. After the Pop Warner passing scheme and gaping OL holes Fran left for him, finishing #5 in Total Offense as quickly as 2009 was borderline miraculous.

Finally, given our current place in the recruiting pecking order, Sherman as a recruiter, player developer, and GM in general has done better than I expected (which admittedly was not much). To make a racing analogy, Sherman can put a pretty high potential car on the track. While I think there is a clear step between us and lsu and bama, in our head-to-head match-ups, there was not a dimes worth of difference in our potential versus that of the pokes or the pigs. We could very easily be 9-and-1 right now.


There are several directions one could go here. There is the fact that four years into his tenure, the Ags are still well below average on defense (currently #90 in Total Defense) with no credible roadmap to future improvement. There are the many blowout losses over the four years one could point to. There is the fact that the bowl bugaboo is still upon us after two convincing defeats. There are the consistent turnover margin issues. I'm sure there are a myriad of other negatives but when I consider why I don't believe Sherman will lead this team to ultimate SEC success, I am almost a one-issue voter...

The Sherman GameDay Tax

I think Sherman has shown himself to be a below average gameday coach. Throw out all the other negatives, and just look at the games we have lost that were there for the taking druing his tenure. Here is the current toteboard.

The Sherman GameDay Tax

2008: arkie state;  you can write off 2008 in general but don't lose a 2nd half double-digit lead to a Sun Belt team at home

2009: osu, buffsslow to address void at LT

2010: osuslow to address QB play

2011: osu, pigs, mizzou, ksu;  Offense regularly disappears after halftime.

Every game on that list with the exception of osu-2009 features a lost double-digit 2nd half lead. I don't know what other evidence is needed. Even when Sherman gets a high potential car to the track, the evidence says that car will never realize its full potential as long as he is the driver. Do you ever expect to have a talent advantage against the upper echelon of the SEC??? If the BEST you can hope for is equivalent talent, how do you think giving up an advantage in gameday coaching is going to play out? All that said, I don't expect a coaching change at the end of this season. And at this point, to be honest I don't think Sherman is making the program worse. Just pay your annual GameDay tax and move on. But never forget...

Recruiting is the Fuel That Makes It All Go

Hopefully a lesson was learned when Fran was kept around long enough to put sugar in the gas tank. Sherman has a pretty good class on the line for Feb-2012. While I'm not going to count my chickens before they hatch on that class given that Fobbs and Nelson bailed on us in Feb-2010 after a less disappointing regular season than this one (relative to expectations), IF Sherman gets that class in the boat, he is not doing structural damage yet. However, the second they see recruiting begin to slip, Aggie leadership needs to pick up the dice and make another roll in the coaching crapshoot.. Otherwise, the next head coach will be facing the same "bare cupboard" headwinds at the outset that the last two have.

Words. Don't. Change. Anything.

Waste of your time, but thanks?

Thanks. I'll take that under advisement 17,880+ post guy.
Quality post, Agalyst. Thanks for your comments and research. Slowly turning this Old Ags opinion on keeping Sherman.
I wanted to believe we had turned a corner last year. This year not only shows we didn't but highlighted again Sherman's weaknesses. A program that aspires to excellence can't expect to achieve it carrying a game-day coaching liability.
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