How the Aggies’ fourth straight loss surprisingly delivers hope

Jimbo Fisher
Let's look at some positives. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.
Jimbo Fisher

The Aggies broke their streak of scoring less than 25 points. The Aggies had excellent quarterback play. Devon Achane had over 120 yards of total offense. A&M had a 100-yard receiver. All of these factors are usually key to the Jimbo Fisher-led Aggies winning games. However, on Saturday, the often trustworthy Wrecking Crew, or the Ags’ defense, let the over 101,000 packed into Kyle Field down.

The Rebels gashed the Aggies for 390 yards rushing, scoring 31 points and adding to Head Coach Jimbo Fisher’s longest losing streak during his tenure at Texas A&M. Quinshon Judkins rushed for over 200 yards alone as the Maroon and White could never seem to catch up offensively. One thing was different for Texas A&M on Saturday however, for the third time this season, A&M had a new starting quarterback. This time, it was the 5-star true freshman Connor Weigman. Yet another member of the historic 2022 recruiting class, he, like many others has had an instant impact on the field in his first start. Weigman was 28-44, 338 passing yards with 4 touchdowns and no interceptions. No Texas A&M freshman QB has done that since 2013, when Johnny Manziel threw for 300-plus yards, 3 or more touchdown passes and no turnovers. If Connor Weigman is starting his career already in that company, then it is not surprising why so many Aggies are so optimistic even after another loss.

One of the three storylines I wanted to keep my eye on coming into this season was quarterback play. Quite frankly the season up to this point has yet to see any good QB play from anyone wearing Maroon and White. Then enter Connor Weigman, who might single handily take A&M from a 4-5 win team to a 6-7 bowl-eligible team. If Weigman can provide decisive and confident play from here on out and the A&M defense plays to their regular standard, I think Texas A&M can somehow pull out a bowl game appearance. That was a wild statement just a week ago and provides some hope to a fan base who is reeling for it.

Now the Aggies will welcome in the Florida Gators who are coming off a decent showing against the #1 ranked Georgia Bulldogs. Florida provides a similar challenge that Ole Miss gave the Aggies, that being the ability to run the ball well. If the Gators can utilize Anthony Richardson on the ground and not have to use his arm, the Gators should be in good shape against the Aggies. If the Ags can get back on track defensively Saturday morning, I think Connor Weigman has provided a spark offensively and could only get better from here for Texas A&M. The Aggies snap the four-game skid with a 35-27 win over the Gators to improve to 4-5.

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Allen had high praise for Diggs. Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images.

Impersonal as it might seem to have their dynamic on-field relationship end with an exchange of phone texts, Bills quarterback Josh Allen made it clear on Thursday how much receiver Stefon Diggs meant to him during their four seasons together in Buffalo.

Allen made no mention of Diggs’ mercurial temperament or the occasional sideline flare-ups by expressing only praise in his first opportunity to discuss his now-former teammate being traded to the Houston Texans earlier this month.

“Just thanking him for everything that he did for me, and (I’ll) always have a spot in my heart for him. I’ll always love that guy like a brother. And I wish him nothing but the best,” Allen said, in disclosing what he texted to Diggs. “My lasting memory of Stef will be the receiver that helped me become the quarterback that I am today.”

Brought together in March 2020, when Buffalo gave up a first-round draft pick to acquire Diggs in a trade with Minnesota, the duo went on to re-write many of Buffalo's single-season passing and scoring records, and lead the team to four straight AFC East titles.

Diggs, now 30, also brought an inescapable sense of drama with him in raising questions about his commitment to the Bills and whether his tight relationship with Allen had soured.

A day before being traded, Diggs posted a message, “You sure?” on the social media platform X in response to someone suggesting he wasn’t essential to Allen’s success.

Whatever hard feelings, if any, lingered as Buffalo opened its voluntary workout sessions this week were not apparent from Allen or coach Sean McDermott, who also addressed reporters for the first time since Diggs was traded.

“Stef’s a great player, really enjoyed our time together. Won a lot of games and he was a huge factor in winning those games. We’ll miss him,” McDermott said. “You never replace a player like Stef Diggs, and we wish him well.”

Allen turned his focus to the future and a Bills team that spent much of the offseason retooling an aging and expensive roster.

Aside from trading Diggs, salary cap restrictions led to Buffalo cutting respected center Mitch Morse, the breakup of a veteran secondary that had been together since 2017, and the team unable to afford re-signing No. 2 receiver Gabe Davis.

“I don’t think it’s a wrong thing or a bad thing to get younger,” said Allen, entering his seventh NFL season. “I think it’s an opportunity for myself to grow as a leader. And to bring along some of these young guys and new guys that we’ve brought in to our team. And that’s an opportunity, frankly, that I’m very excited about."

Despite the departures, the Bills offense is not exactly lacking even though general manager Brandon Beane is expected to target selecting a receiver with his first pick — currently 28th overall — in the draft next week.

Receiver Khalil Shakir enters his third year and tight end Dalton Kincaid enter his second following promising seasons. Buffalo also added veteran experience in signing free agent receiver Curtis Samuel and Mack Hollins.

While Beane acknowledged the Bills lack a true No. 1 receiver, he noted there’s less urgency to fill that spot now than in 2020 because of how much the offense has developed under Allen.

“Now that Josh has ascended to the player he is, is that a requirement? I don’t think so,” Beane said.

Diggs’ role also began diminishing in the second half of last season, which coincided with Joe Brady replacing Ken Dorsey as offensive coordinator. Brady placed an emphasis on adding balance to a pass-heavy attack and getting more receivers involved, which led to an uptick in production for Shakir and Kincaid.

While Diggs’ numbers dropped, Buffalo’s win total increased.

With the Bills at 6-6, Diggs ranked third in the NFL with 83 catches, seventh with 969 yards and tied for third with eight TDs receiving. Buffalo then closed the season with five straight wins in which Diggs combined for 24 catches for 214 yards and no scores.

”(Diggs) meant a lot. You look at the statistics, they don’t lie,” Allen said, in referring to Diggs topping 100 catches and 1,000 yards in each of his four seasons in Buffalo. “I don’t get paid to make changes on the team. I get paid to be the best quarterback that I can be and try to lead the guys on this team.”

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