Originally posted on Fox Sports Southwest  |  Last updated 9/12/12
The good news for Texas A&M is that they head to Dallas Saturday to face an SMU team the Aggie coaching staff is very familiar with. The bad news is the Aggies are heading into the game coming off a game that was eerily similar to a disappointing 2012. Texas A&M, which blew five second-half leads last season, was shutout by Florida last weekend in the second and lost its season opener 24-17. Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin doesn't see any similarities between the two seasons because he wasn't at A&M last year. Still, finishing games stronger has been a point of emphasis this week in College Station. "We've tried to address the physical conditioning in the offseason," Sumlin said in the weekly SEC teleconference. "We tried to make them understand that physical toughness and conditioning all go into that. The ability to execute and close out games goes with experience. We were in position to win the game and could not get it done. Our defense gave us at least four opportunities with stops and that's a positive. Offensively we didn't execute enough." The Aggies have worked hard on replicating situations, including how to run a two-minute drill and finish a game. One thing Sumlin hasn't focused on is the past problems. His reasoning is simple. "It's like if you start talking about fumbling a lot, it can create other issues," he said. The issue for the Aggies Saturday is stopping the Mustangs. When Sumlin was the head coach at Houston, that wasn't a real problem. His Houston teams played SMU in each of his five years with the Cougars and won all five games. But Sumlin doesn't put much stock into the past success, especially since the Mustangs have a new quarterback this year in Garrett Gilbert, who was one of the top recruits in the country when he originally signed with Texas. Saturday's game will also give A&M its first test in a hostile environment after having its season opener against Louisiana Tech postponed because of Hurricane Isaac. Sumlin is eager to see how his team responds in its first trip to SMU since 1990. "It's an opponent a lot of our coaching staff is familiar with," said Sumlin, whose team is 10-0-1 in the last 11 meetings vs. SMU. "We've won a lot of games in a lot of different place. This is our first road test though. It's going to be a great learning experience for us. They have an experienced team with Garrett Gilbert at quarterback. This is a chance for our team to go on the road for the first time and play." How hostile the environment will really be at Ford Stadium remains to be seen. SMU has added temporary seating to the stadium to accommodate the expected big crowd, many of which figure to be Metroplex-based Aggies. If that wasn't a good enough omen for Texas A&M, the Aggies also finished well against SMU in 2011. A&M led 33-14 at halftime and then shutout the Ponies in the second half on its way to a 46-14 victory.
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