Aggies look to bounce back against Alabama

Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin watches from the sidelines during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Mississippi State in Starkville, Miss., Saturday, Oct. 4, 2014. (AP Photo/Jim Lytle)

COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) – No. 21 Texas A&M has moved on from consecutive tough losses and is focused on bouncing back this week at No. 7 Alabama.

They’re using the challenge of playing in front of a hostile crowd as motivation to get back on track and remembering that they’re the last team to beat the Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa.

In their last trip in 2012, Johnny Manziel led the Aggies to a 29-24 upset of the nation’s top team at the time.

Senior receiver Malcome Kennedy, who grabbed a 24-yard reception for the go-ahead touchdown in that game, spoke to the Aggies (5-2, 2-2 Southeastern Conference) at a practice this week. He told them to stay positive, ignore outside noise and fix the mistakes from the last two weeks.

More: Previewing the Alabama and Texas A&M match-up

“Some guys might not be sure about themselves at certain positions or as players so you’ve … got to tell them: ‘You came to Texas A&M for a reason. We play SEC football, there’s going to be some tough games,'” said Kennedy, who missed the last two games with a separated shoulder but expects to play Saturday.

Quarterback Kenny Hill, who has had six turnovers in the last two weeks, is ecstatic to have his best receiver on the field again.

“He’s a person that’s been there and has a lot of experience and leadership for us and to have him back I think will be huge,” Hill said.

Coach Kevin Sumlin is looking for more than the Aggies showed in a 48-31 loss to Mississippi State on Oct. 4 followed by last week’s 35-20 defeat by Mississippi. But he has been impressed with the attitude of his players and says he isn’t worried about his team’s psyche after two tough games.

“Nobody said this was going to be easy,” Sumlin said. “It’s a difficult league and there’s no doubt, based on the last couple weeks against these type of opponents, we’ve got to coach better and we’ve got to play better. … Confidence is something you don’t gain overnight and you don’t lose overnight. It’s something you build.”

Though Hill has struggled to hang onto the ball recently, Sumlin is far more concerned about his team’s inability to run the ball against Ole Miss. Texas A&M managed just 54 yards rushing on 35 attempts.

“In order to be consistent, we need to be able to run the ball efficiently,” Sumlin said. “Does that mean we’re going to rush for 200, 300 yards? I don’t think that’ll be the case, but we’ve had games where we were efficient.

“We weren’t efficient the other night at 1.5 yards a carry,” he said. “Getting four or five yards a carry puts pressure on defenses.”

More: Nick Saban’s Texas A&M week press conference

Hill is second in the nation in both yards passing (2,511) and touchdown passes (23), but knows he has a lot of work to do to help A&M win more.

He rates his performance in his first season as a starter as OK, but is looking to eliminate turnovers and be more accurate as the Aggies prepare for Alabama (5-1, 2-1), who ranks third in the country in yards allowed – just 277.2 per game.

“We could go in there and get a win and have momentum going into the bye week and hopefully roll for the rest of the season,” Hill said.

(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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