Texas A&M has won its last four games, setting up the biggest matchup of coach Mike Sherman's tenure in College Station. A month ago, the Aggies season hit rock bottom as fans filed out of Kyle Field late in the team's three-touchdown loss to Missouri that made them a .500 team on a three-game losing streak.
Monday morning, students camped out to pull tickets in hopes of nearing a student section of 30,000 strong, the biggest student section ever. It's all a part of what Texas A&M is calling "12th Man Day." As of Tuesday afternoon, a record of nearly 14,000 tickets had been pulled for the team's final home game, when No. 8 Nebraska comes to town.
A switch to quarterback Ryan Tannehill has paralleled Texas A&M's rise to No. 19, but the biggest reason for the streak and the excitement that's followed as Texas A&M has become the league's hottest team? The return of the Wrecking Crew.
"That’s not a name we can dub ourselves. It has to come with the way we play. The 12th man, the Aggies, they call us that, but it feels good to hear that out of all of them, all the time it’s been going, to feel like it’s starting to come back," said senior linebacker Von Miller. "It feels good because it means we’re playing good football."
The fans chanted "Wrecking Crew" after three goal-line stops and a first-half shutout led to a top 10 upset of Oklahoma, and players left the field flashing the familiar hand sign reserved for the elite Aggie defenses.
Against Baylor on Saturday, giving up 30 first-half points left an encore in doubt, but the defense pitched a second-half shutout to keep the winning streak intact and help the Aggies fans who made the trip to Waco celebrate on the way home.
"I decided to come back because I wanted to be part of something special like that, and to see it start to happen, it feels great to be part of a fraternity, a brotherhood like the Wrecking Crew is, and to see it start to come back feels great," said Miller, a senior who'll play his final game at Kyle Field on Saturday.
For the last month, everything's come together for the Aggies. A young offensive line with two true freshmen tackles has jelled, giving Tannehill time to make plays and plowing holes for running back Cyrus Gray, playing without the second half of his backfield duo, Christine Michael, who will miss the rest of the season with a broken leg.
"Instead of a liability early in the season, it’s becoming a strength for us," Sherman said.
The gaps that were there for Baylor's offense in the first half weren't there in the second, and the early success Texas A&M experienced in first-year defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter's new 3-4 scheme has only grown as the year's progressed.
"Our defense has gone through quite a transition...there's quite a volume to it and it takes awhile to get it down," Sherman said. "Our players are really feeling comfortable in the scheme and when they hear a call from the sideline now, there's some familiarity with it, so I think there's a new comfort level."