No. 17 A&M could use signature win against No. 8 Auburn
By KRISTIE RIEKEN
COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) Coach Jimbo Fisher wouldn't agree that No. 17 Texas A&M's game against eighth-ranked Auburn could set the tone for the rest of the season.
"I don't know if it's a tone setter," he said. "You set a tone but you got to reset that tone each and every week."
Still, the second-year coach could use a signature win against at top-10 opponent after losing to No. 1 Clemson two weeks ago as the Aggies embark on a Southeastern Conference schedule that includes games against No. 2 Alabama, No. 3 Georgia and fourth-ranked LSU. The latter two are on the road in consecutive weeks.
Fisher, who won a national title in 2013, went 9-4 in his first season in College Station after signing a 10-year, $75 million contract to leave Florida State after Kevin Sumlin was fired. He helped the Aggies to a 74-72 win in a marathon seven overtime thriller against LSU when the team was ranked eighth to wrap up the regular season last year. But losses to unranked Auburn and Mississippi State earlier in the year kept Texas A&M from getting a spot in one of the top bowl games, instead earning them a spot in the Gator Bowl.
The Texas A&M fan base understood when Fisher took over that it could take some time for him to get the Aggies where they could compete with the SEC's elite. But in Year 2 of that huge contract, how they perform against Auburn could be a measuring stick for what to expect later this season against the cream of the crop.
Though Fisher is big on saying they treat every game the same, a win on Saturday where the Aggies are four-point favorites at home would be huge in gaining momentum for the rest of the year.
"It's an interdivisional game, so it's an important game," he said. "It puts you in a great position if you can have success, but ... what goes on is I just take them one week at a time and none are bigger than the others. The biggest one's the one in front of us. But it's important that we have success, there's no doubt."
The Aggies seem to have bought into Fisher's mindset and the players often parrot the things he says about how they approach each week.
"The thing about this game is it's just as big as the last game against Lamar," quarterback Kellen Mond said. "We want to go 1-0 each and every week and it's going to take a big-time week of preparation. So it's really no extended pressure on anybody but we need a great week."
While Mond may insist that the pressure is the same for every game, the expectations for the junior to perform well on the big stage are high. Mond was hard on himself after making some mistakes in the 24-10 loss to Clemson, but Fisher doesn't think it did anything to lessen his confidence.
"His confidence was there," Fisher said. "Just because you don't play your best game that doesn't make an athlete's confidence ever go ... to say his confidence was going I don't ever think it was. Sometimes the games just don't go as well. Sometimes you don't make as good of calls. That's ball."
Though it was against a lesser opponent, Fisher was encouraged by Mond's play in the rout of Lamar, an FCS school in the Southland Conference. Mond had season-high 317 yards passing and threw a touchdown pass and ran for another score in just three quarters of the 62-3 win.
But Fisher said regardless of if Mond's last game went well or poorly, it's vital for him as a leader of the team to forget about what happened and look ahead to the next challenge.
"You have to have a short memory, I promise you that," Fisher said. "With quarterbacks, (defensive backs), they have the shortest memory of all because that's the most glaring places in which people know when you don't do right generally. But I think he'll be fine and he's playing really well. He had a good week of practice and I think he will (play well) this week."
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Updated September 19, 2019