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Tangent should be Mike Leach’s middle name, not Charles, which doesn’t seem to fit.
He went off on one Saturday, but he did just perhaps turn his Mississippi State’s team back around with a 26-22 win at falling fast Texas A&M. And he is open this week before the Bulldogs (3-2, 1-1 SEC) host No. 1 Alabama (5-0, 2-0) on Oct. 16.
Leach also won for the fourth time out of his last five games at Texas A&M’s 102,733-seat Kyle Field.
“It’s always good to win at Kyle Field, and I’ve done it more than most people have,” he said.
Leach is 4-2 in Kyle Field — 1-0 as Mississippi State’s coach and 3-2 as Texas Tech’s coach from 2000-09. His “Air Raid” offenses — developed as offensive coordinator at Iowa Wesleyan, Valdosta State, Kentucky and Oklahoma — tend to put up points in bunches there. His Texas Tech team won 48-47 at Kyle in 2002, 31-27 in 2006 and 43-25 in 2008.
“It’s awesome to win at Kyle Field,” he said. “Kyle Field’s one of the greatest places. I’d be willing to hear your list if you wanted to offer it of better stadiums to play, but if this is below that top five, I mean you’re going to have to get another line of work. It’s not going to be better than this.”
Leach has also been pretty good against A&M elsewhere. When he was Oklahoma’s offensive coordinator in 1999, the Sooners won 51-6 at home against the Aggies. Texas Tech beat visiting A&M, 59-28, in 2003, 56-17 in 2005 and 35-7 in 2007.
But there is something about Kyle Field to him.
“It’s not going to get better than this,” he said. “Saying there’s better than Texas A&M, good luck with that as far as game day environments.”
He even likes that east Texas heat.
“I knew it would be a hot game, and it always is here,” he said. “I get a kick out of how some places in the traditional SEC think they’re hot. But Texas A&M’s really hot.”
Then the tangent hit.
“I remember a lady, she lived in San Luis Obispo, California,” he said of the tourist destination known for vineyards and Spanish architecture 90 minutes south of Santa Barbara near the coast. “She lived there her whole life. She said, ‘I’m tired of this. I can’t wait to get out of this little town — this little hick town.’ She thought she was going to a big city — somewhere more scenic.”
Leach knows California. He is a native of Susanville in the northeast corner of the state, and his first coaching job was on the offensive line in 1987 at Cal Poly, which is located in San Luis Obispo.
“Look, it doesn’t get much more scenic than San Luis Obispo,” he said. “It’s a little bit like Kyle Field — stadium-environment wise.”
That is what is called a reach. San Luis Obispo and Kyle Field are not at all alike. In fact, Kyle Field’s population on Saturdays when the Aggies are home is more than twice as large as San Luis Obispo.
But Leach’s point — in his mind — is that Kyle Field’s game day experience is very cool and may be a tad underrated compared with more famous stadiums in the SEC.
Either that, or he is subtley campaigning for the Texas A&M job and a return to Texas. He is in Starkville.
The 3-2 Aggies are 0-2 in the SEC for the first time since they joined the SEC in 2012 in year four of Jimbo Fisher and his $7.5 million annual salary that will rise to $9 million a year as of January. And with Alabama coming as 17.5 favorite, according to FanDuel, the Aggies will be 0-3 in a conference for the first time since 2008 in the Big 12.
Fisher is 29-12 overall with A&M and 17-10 in the SEC. Previous coach Kevin Sumlin was 33-11 and 15-11 through five games of his fourth season in 2015.
“We’ve got to coach better and find ways to help them just find their plays,” Fisher said after the loss to State, repeating much of what he said about his lackluster offense after a 20-10 loss to Arkansas the previous week.
“I know it sounds like,” Fisher said, then audibled out of a cuss word. “But that’s it.”
After A&M loses to Alabama, which will bring coach Nick Saban’s record against former assistants to an even two dozen, Fisher will have a chance to finish strong. The schedule lightens with a trip to Missouri (2-3, 0-2), home games against South Carolina (3-2, 0-2) and average Auburn (4-1, 1-0) and road trips to Ole Miss (3-1, 0-1) and struggling LSU (3-2, 1-1) around a home game against Prairie View.
“We have to become a good football team,” Fisher said. “Let’s line up an keep playing and see where the year takes us.”
Leach, meanwhile, has seen improvement.
“I think we should have won the last two games, to be honest with you,” he said of losses to LSU, 28-25, and to Memphis, 31-29. “I think we took a step today. We’ve got a ways to go, but we took a step.”