COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Texas A&M can't reach the goals it had at the beginning of the season.
The Aggies have lost their last three games and is one win shy of qualifying for a bowl with two games remaining heading into Saturday's matchup with Kansas.
The new goals? Beat the struggling Jayhawks and knock off archrival Texas next Thursday.
But for a team that was expected to contend for a Big 12 conference title and possible even a national championship, even the thought of finishing the season that way rings hollow.
"I'm not happy with where we're at," senior safety Trent Hunter said. "I'm disappointed, but that's just more motivation for us to work harder this week and win these next two ball games. I don't see us losing the next two games if we work and we do what we're supposed to. What do we have left to lose? We haven't accomplished what we planned to accomplish this year."
Texas A&M has lost two of their last three in overtime, including Saturday's 53-50 four-overtime loss to Kansas State. The Jayhawks also dropped their last game in overtime, 31-30 to Baylor.
That left Kansas winless in Big 12 play this season, with their last conference win coming on Nov. 6, 2010, against Colorado.
The Aggies know they're in no position to overlook or underestimate Kansas, despite its 2-8 record.
"They have a lot of heat on their backs," Hunter said. "We may think we have it bad losing three or four games in conference and three in a row here, but they've lost every conference game. They're going to be hungry and they're going to want it as much as anybody."
Kansas coach Turner Gill was proud of his team's effort against the Bears and has seen improvement recently, even as the losses have piled up.
"We just need to continue to build on the good things that have occurred, particularly for us in the last two or three ball games in every phase," Gill said. "The defensive side of the ball is making very good strides and improvement, building on from that. Then, it's just continuing to believe, continuing to work at it, continuing to teach and continuing to coach. That's how you do it."
Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman agrees with Gill's assessment of the Jayhawks and expects to see an even better team on Saturday.
"The last two weeks they've been playing some of the best football they've played all year," Sherman said. "They've made some transitional moves and played a couple younger guys and on defense its seemed like it's really helped them."
Despite the recent improvement, the Jayhawks are still giving up the most yards in the nation at almost 538 a game. The unit will have its hands full this week with a Texas A&M offense that ranks fifth in the country with just under 517 yards a game.
The group has been propelled by running back Cyrus Gray who is just 49 yards shy of reaching 1,000 yards rushing for the second consecutive year. Sherman has insisted all season that Gray runs better the more carries he gets. Gray proved his coach right against Kansas State in the first game since fellow running back Christine Michael suffered a season-ending injury by running 30 times for a season-high 218 yards and two scores.
"When he's in there and splitting time, he has a propensity to go in there and try to make huge plays and score a touchdown every carry, he would do a little more dancing around and wouldn't hit the hole just right," Sherman said. "This week we asked him to take it more north and south and he did a great job and responded well ... and we should have won the game with the way he was performing."
Sherman is confident the Aggies can back on track against Kansas, but has had difficulty figuring out what to tell them this week after their fourth loss by a touchdown or less.
"I've never quite experienced what we are experiencing this year," Sherman said. "To be as close as we are and then lose a ball game — four out of our five losses we lost by a total of (15) points. To be in the position to win those games numerous times and not take advantage of that I've never experienced that before. So there's a first for everything and I hope I don't have to go through that again."
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