What do you remember most about the Aggies 38-13 win at Mississippi State last season?
Certainly the all-black uniforms.
And who can forget Johnny Manziel’s flag-inducing Superman pose after a touchdown jaunt that was yet another Heisman moment?
Ryan Swope’s blistering block on a Bulldog defender was pretty good, too.
The 2012 victory in Starkville was as enjoyable as a win comes--on the road, against a ranked team, in comfortable fashion. With the game kicking at 11 a.m., the 12th Man had the rest of that Saturday to appreciate it. But, lost in all of it might be one or two plays that were necessary to keep the faithful at ease.
Incomplete passes out of the back of the end zone don’t make highlight reels (especially when they happen in the second quarter with the score 21-0). But the importance of a play should not be based on whether it appears on College Football Final or SportsCenter.
The Aggies had blasted away on the Bulldogs from the opening kick, building the three-TD advantage. Midway through the second, MSU started to show signs of life, moving the ball into the red zone. Needing a touchdown themselves, they went for it on 4th-and-3 from the Aggie 11.
Freshman defensive end Julien Obioha keyed in from the right side.
“I remember Coach Snyder dialing up another great play,” Obioha says. “There’s too many guys blitzing, they don’t have enough blockers. Somebody’s gonna get free.”
Obioha did, and teed off on Bulldog quarterback Tyler Russell. His pass fell harmlessly--and uneventfully--to the turf, with no receiver in sight. The fourth-down stop kept the Ags rolling.
“It was my turn to come free, and I just pressured the quarterback,” the New Orleans native recollects. “It’s huge for the confidence of the team, and demoralizes the other team. It’s a great play.”
This is what good teams do. When the opponent is down, they keep ‘em down.
After the Aggies’ lightning quick start, they never allowed the Bulldogs to believe again. It happened in the second half too, when State mounted another drive that could have helped them get up and gain confidence. DeVante Harris’ interception ended any thoughts of that.
Good teams make the plays that ensure momentum doesn’t venture to the other sideline. On several occasions, that’s what A&M was in 2012. Against SMU, Arkansas, Auburn, Mississippi State, Missouri and Oklahoma, the Aggies seized control, and never let it leave their grasp. This was a very good football team in 2012.
And they’re expected to be again in 2013.
Obioha and the defensive line will play a big role if the Aggies are successful this fall. But it’s hard to get a read on this unit. Obioha, Ivan Robinson and Kirby Ennis all missed spring ball due to injury, plus some newcomers who are expected to contribute were not present either.
Obioha isn’t worried. He believes in the man who leads this group, Terry Price.
“I love Coach Price to death. I couldn’t play D-Line in the SEC without Coach Price. He’s a great coach.”
Obioha knows where he will need to turn the corner when it comes to his own game.
“Coming in from high school I wasn’t the best pass rusher. I was more of a run defender, and if you watch tape you can probably figure that out. I need to improve on pass rushing, especially this year since DaMontre (Moore) is gone, and we don’t have that prominent pass rusher. I believe we need to be able to rush four and get to the quarterback, and that’s probably going to be my responsibility.”
He feels he needs to get quicker, and insists the work this summer with A&M’s Director of Football Sports Performance Larry Jackson will take care of that.
A season ago, he made valuable contributions as a freshman. But like his play against Mississippi State, his exploits may not jump to the forefront of your memory. Obioha made 12 starts in his first year of college football (and first in the SEC). He batted down six passes, and pressured the passer four times.
Now it’s time for more.In 2013, it’s time to be fully aware of what Julien Obioha means to the Texas A&M defense.