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New Wrecking Crew Propels Aggies Past Kentucky

By Matt Smith
SouthernPigskin.com
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Texas A&M honored its 1998 Big 12 championship team during Saturday night’s home game against Kentucky.

Texas A&M honored its 1998 Big 12 championship team during Saturday night’s home game against Kentucky, even donning throwback uniforms to the team that cost Kansas State a chance at the national title 20 years ago with a huge upset in the Big 12 Championship Game.

R.C. Slocum coached that Texas A&M team, and his Aggies defensive units were known as the Wrecking Crew during a sustained run of success in the ‘90s in both the Southwest Conference and the Big 12.

In recent years, Texas A&M became much more known for its offense, as it was opponents doing the wrecking when facing the Aggies defense. 49-42 and 50-43 game had become the new normal in College Station.

That mostly forgettable era of Texas A&M football might be over.

Kentucky arrived in College Station 5-0 and 3-0 in SEC play. It left with its first blemish of the season, as the Aggies held Benny Snell and a hot Kentucky offense to just seven points in a dramatic 20-14 overtime victory under the lights of Kyle Field.

The lone Kentucky offensive score came on a 54-yard pass from Terry Wilson to Lynn Bowden. That play from the Wildcats’ own 46-yard line was the closest they came to running a play in Texas A&M territory in regulation.

By rule, of course, Kentucky began overtime with the ball at the Aggies’ 25-yard line, which was the first play it ran in opposing territory the entire night. Coordinator Mike Elko’s defense held its ground yet again, as a third-down sack forced a long Kentucky field goal attempt that bounced off the crossbar.

Four plays later, Trayveon Williams was in the end zone for Texas A&M, and the Aggies had fittingly honored the 1998 team, whose win over Kansas State ended on a Sirr Parker touchdown in overtime, with walk-off touchdown run of its own.

For the night, the Wildcats finished with just 178 yards of offense. They averaged 2.3 yards per carry and 5.4 yards per pass attempt.       They came into the game averaging over 250 yards per game on the ground, including 303 against Florida and 229 against Mississippi State.

Wrecking Crew, indeed.

Elko came to College Station with a sterling resume, producing three solid defenses at talent-deprived Wake Forest and turning around a punchless Notre Dame defense in 2017 in his one year with the Fighting Irish. So far, he’s done the same for Texas A&M, and the Aggies now sit at 4-2 as they prepare to hit the road for the next month beginning next week at South Carolina.

The Aggies offense was far more efficient than Kentucky’s, but mistakes in opposing territory and an egregious Kellen Mond fumble late in the game with the home team clinging to a 14-7 lead was returned by Darius West for the game-tying touchdown.

Kentucky’s defense bent, but it never really broke. Texas A&M’s wouldn’t even bend, standing tall for more than 60 minutes in a must-win game if the Aggies have any hopes of finally winning nine regular-season games again for the first time in 2012. With the offense in a funk the past two weeks, the defense has carried the load, and now Texas A&M should find itself back in the Top 25 as they get ready to head to Columbia.

The Wrecking Crew defenses of the ‘90s won conference titles in both the Southwest Conference and the Big 12. This Texas A&M defense isn’t going do to that this year, but coupling Elko with a national title-winning head coach’s offense has Aggies fans thinking that paying Jimbo Fisher $75 million over 10 years and outbidding Notre Dame for Elko was worth every Texas-size check that they had to write.

The old-school ‘90s uniforms won’t stay around at Texas A&M, but the old-school ‘90s defense just might.

Matt Smith - Matt is a 2007 graduate of Notre Dame and has spent most of his life pondering why most people in the Mid-Atlantic actually think there are more important things than college football. He has blogged for College Football News, covering both national news as well as Notre Dame and the service academies. He credits Steve Spurrier and Danny Wuerffel for his love of college football and tailgating at Florida, Tennessee, and Auburn for his love of sundresses. Matt covers the ACC as well as the national scene.