It happens all too often.
A team trying to pull an upset that would send shockwaves through its sport just can’t quite finish. All they can muster is a “scare” of the heavy favorite.
That looked to be the case in Tuscaloosa last November. The Aggies had played brilliantly against the top-ranked--and undefeated--Alabama Crimson Tide through three-plus quarters, but it seemed to be slipping away.
After A&M upped its advantage to 29-17 with eight minutes remaining, AJ McCarron dropped two bombs on the Aggies. Bryant-Denny Stadium exploded with his 54-yard TD strike to Amari Cooper that pulled ‘Bama within five. The hallowed venue detonated again, when McCarron hit Kenny Bell for another 54, to the Aggie six-yard line, with four minutes left. The confident, crimson fan base could sense it. Their beloved Tide had toyed with the conference’s new kids long enough, now it was time to be the bullies once more.
But, these league rookies had no plans to get pushed around.
“I just knew we had to play defense, we had to get a stop,” then-sophomore DeShazor Everett said. “We have one of the best goal line defenses in the country if you ask me. Ten yards and in, it’s how bad do you want it.”
Dustin Harris made a play on third-and-goal, belting McCarron at the two and erasing his clear path to the end zone. That set it up. Fourth and goal with less than two minutes left. It was apparent to Everett the Tide would roll his way.
“Most of the receiving threats were to my side, and then we had another one coming,” recalled Everett, remembering he was lined up across from Cooper as Bell motioned his way. “Where else are they going to go? Unless they try some sort of option out the back door.”
When McCarron zipped a pass towards Bell in the endzone, Everett was essentially playing two men. The two that had just torched the Aggies.
“I kind of just split the difference between them, so I could play both. I didn’t exactly know if Steven (Terrell) was going to try to get all the way over the top. I looked at McCarron, he was looking at them. So I just jumped the route.”
Everett compliments the Tide on their play selection.
“It’s a good play because it will pick one DB if you don’t switch, and the other DB won’t have time to get to the other route if you do switch.” But ‘Bama wasn’t planning on Everett fiercely taking both.
And when he stepped in front of Bell, Everett made one of the biggest plays of the Aggies’ season.
The win over Alabama ended all drama in 2012. The Aggies cruised in their remaining three contests, easy defeats of Sam Houston State, Missouri and Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl.
The 11 victories from 2012 do not carry over, however--not even the monumental one at Alabama. Work has begun anew for the 2013 campaign. Everett and the Aggies haven’t won a game on the new slate. Kevin Sumlin and his staff often reminded them of this during spring drills.
Everett forcefully attacked the football to help seal the game in Tuscaloosa last November. This was an aspect of focus in March and April.
“It’s good to be aggressive, but sometimes I’m over-aggressive, and it gets me in trouble,” stated the rising junior from DeRidder, La. “Trying to get more hands than I should on a receiver, trying to be more physical than him, I’ll push him into his route. It kind of helps them out more than it helps me. (Assistant Coach Marcel Yates) has been coaching me up on that.”
Everett’s sophomore season is a foundation to build on. He was second on the team in pass breakups, and only he and Steven Terrell had multiple interceptions (two each). Everett had 56 tackles a year ago.
This secondary returns several key players. Toney Hurd, Howard Matthews and Everett all were in the team’s top 10 in tackles. When Everett and Matthews missed last season’s Louisiana Tech game, the defense easily had its worst performance (others missed the late-night fireworks display in Shreveport as well). Also, the last line of defense returns DeVante Harris (30 tackles, 1 INT), Tramain Jacobs (22 tackles, 1 INT) and Floyd Raven (16 tackles, 1 INT).
Before last season, ESPN.com ranked the A&M secondary dead last out of 14 in the SEC. Judging against such a poll, it’s easy to say these defensive backs went above and beyond in 2012. But this unit’s coach, Marcel Yates, would disagree, stating during spring ball he felt the secondary “underachieved”.
Everett isn’t concerned about questions of “over” or “under” in the past. He knows this group needs to leave no doubt in 2013.
“We’re supposed to be the best part of the defense, because we have the most people returning. We have to look at it like we’re going to be the leaders of the defense.” Everett speaks with confidence but rarely boasts. He is intent on maintaining that “leadership” title he’s applied to the secondary.
He didn’t allow the game to slip away in Tuscaloosa last November.
Now, Everett is determined to keep a firm grip on that lead role for his last line of defense.