COLUMBIA — The game seems much longer than a year ago.
Last October, Missouri went into College Station and beat Texas A&M 30-9. It was a highlight of the Tigers’ season, topped only by their victory over top-ranked Oklahoma on Homecoming the next weekend. For the Aggies, it was their third consecutive loss, leaving them without a win in the Big 12 Conference.
The circumstances have changed dramatically. This year, it is Missouri who comes into the game with a poor record (1-3 in the Big 12, 3-4 overall). When the Tigers travel to College Station again this weekend, they will play a Texas A&M team that is 3-1 in the Big 12 and ranked No. 16 in the country at 5-2 overall.
The Aggies have been on a roll since last year’s game.
In its aftermath, the Aggies tallied six consecutive wins, including victories over Oklahoma (by then No. 11) and No. 9 Nebraska. The Aggies also won a share of the last Big 12 South Division title. Their two losses this season have been by a combined five points to No. 3 Oklahoma State and No. 8 Arkansas.
“We played them last year at the right time,” Missouri offensive coordinator Dave Yost said. “We went down there and played really well. After that they drew a line in the sand and said what they were about.”
“(Missouri) was a telling game for us,” Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman said. “It was a terrible game for us. We got our butts kicked, but it did turn around after that. We learned a lot about ourselves from that loss.”
Sherman learned that he needed to bench Jerrod Johnson, who had struggled since being picked as a preseason All-Big 12 quarterback. Johnson had 322 yards against Missouri, but the Aggies’ nine points were the least they had scored since November 2008 against Texas.
The coach had an unusual substitute in Ryan Tannehill, then a wide receiver. Like Missouri’s T.J. Moe, Tannehill had played quarterback in high school before switching to receiver in college. Tannehill set freshmen records for catches and receiving yards.
The week after the Missouri game, Tannehill split time with Johnson against Kansas. In his first start the following week against Texas Tech, he threw for a school-record 449 yards and four touchdowns.
The switch evidently worked.
“Maybe they probably should have a little bit earlier,” Missouri coach Gary Pinkel joked.
Moe was one of the many who took notice and were impressed.
“He’s a really unique talent out there,” Moe said. “Being able to transition midseason … I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone have that kind of success. That’s really special.”
Granted, Tannehill has had help. Running backs Cyrus Gray and Christine Michael are among the top seven in yards in the conference, and Texas A&M's offensive line has come a long way.
When the Aggies played Missouri last season, one true freshman, Luke Joeckel, was starting on the offensive line and another, Jake Matthews, was splitting time. The offensive line got eaten up by a Missouri defense that Tigers defensive tackle Terrell Resonno called “hot” and “unstoppable.” Missouri had seven sacks, 11 tackles for losses and held Texas A&M to fewer than two yards per carry.
After that game, however, the Aggies offensive line gave up an average of two sacks the rest of the season. In seven games this year, Texas A&M has given up a total of six sacks.
“They have some offensive linemen that have matured a lot,” said Missouri defensive end Brad Madison, who led Missouri with three sacks against the Aggies last year. “Your true freshman year is crazy for anybody. Now when you’ve improved from true freshmen year to second year. They’re going to be a good offensive line, and we’ve got to be ready for them.”
Meanwhile, Texas A&M's defense leads the nation in sacks. Although its passing defense has given up the most yards of any Division I team in the country, Yost pointed out those figures are distorted. Both Oklahoma State and Arkansas threw more often because the Aggies had big leads early in the games.
That is not a situation Missouri wants to be in but could be if Texas A&M's players are out to avenge last season's embarrassing home loss.
"Certainly they know that was a very difficult home loss," Sherman said. "Missouri played lights out. That was last year, this is this year. We want to have a great ball game."