Jerrod Johnson can only think of one game worse than the one he played on Saturday, a forgettable, four-interception affair against Florida International. It featured one more interception and came in high school.
But Johnson knows he's fortunate that this one didn't cost him a loss. All four of his interceptions came on consecutive possessions in the third quarter and left the Aggies down 20-6 heading into the final period.
"I got into a funk and FIU had my number I think," Johnson said. "It was just kind of a daze. I don’t know exactly what was going through my head. I had a couple interceptions where I didn’t know a guy was there and a couple bad throws."
Kyle Field, coach Mike Sherman and Johnson's teammates stayed loud and encouraged their third-year starter, and the Aggies looked to re-establish the run with Christine Michael and Cyrus Gray. They did, both breaking long touchdown runs sandwiched around a Johnson touchdown pass to outscore FIU 21-0 in the fourth quarter and escape at a spotless but flawed 3-0.
"It’s adversity. It was my first real game like that. It was a struggle, and I’m not used to that, I’m used to doing well," Johnson said. "It was kind of me over thinking the situation, thinking they were doing things they weren’t, over analyzing the situation. In the fourth quarter, we kind of simplified things and just said go out there and play football. Take all the coverages and blitz schemes and checks out of your head and just go play football. That’s what we did."
Whatever seal the Aggies broke in the fourth quarter will have to stay open for the next 12 days before the conference opener against Oklahoma State in Stillwater. The run set up the pass and the defense held to keep the Aggies alive.
"Everything just kind of came together for us," Johnson said.
But the fourth-quarter dominance doesn't erase the early, uncharacteristic floundering from one of the conference's best offenses, a strength that helped the media tab the Aggies third in the Big 12 South in the preseason. Everyone in College Station knows improvement and avoiding a Saturday repeat is necessary to carry that preseason prediction into a postseason reality.
"We definitely thought we were going to go into that game and win by a lot more than we did, but you can’t discredit FIU. They played well on offense, on defense and played us tough," Johnson said.
The most obvious improvement needed? Limiting turnovers. And Johnson is shrugging his shoulders -- yes, he can shrug his throwing shoulder that underwent minor offseason surgery -- at the idea that the lack of a full recovery contributed to the struggles.
"I’m not limited, I just missed a couple throws and that’s on me," he said. "I’ve just got to get it done, there’s nothing wrong with my shoulder. I’m 100 percent."
The Aggies seem to know what went wrong and managed to fix it in time to salvage an ugly win. They're willing to chalk it up to a bad day when a lot went wrong and they had too many 2nd and 3rd-and-longs. But until a Thursday night date with the Cowboys on Sept. 30, they won't be able to prove it.
"Everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. We're still confident in who we are and what we do," Johnson said. "I think it’s definitely going to help us out in the long run, just going through that, finding out we can dig ourselves out of a tough game where things are kind of going against us.
"Our team grew up a lot after that game."