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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Saturday: The tell-all

Photo by Photo by Kathryn Perez

Junior receiver Josh Reynolds celebrates with teammate Christian Kirk after game-tying two-point conversion.

In the Southeastern Conference, each week presents the biggest game of the year. That’s certainly applicable for the Texas A&M vs. Mississippi State matchup Saturday.

The Bulldogs already suffered defeat a few weeks ago to the LSU Tigers and will surely have to start running the table to keep their playoff hopes alive. With Alabama and Ole Miss on A&M’s schedule following Saturday’s contest, it’s a must-win for the Aggies.

So far, there are a myriad of similarities that can be drawn between the Aggies 2014-2015 squad and the team on the field this season.

Both fall camps saw the experienced sophomore quarterback beat out his younger competition. South Carolina and Arizona State were handled in impressive fashion but turned out to be overrated ball clubs. Lastly, Arkansas lost at the hands of A&M in overtime after a furious comeback. But despite the déjà vu, this year can be completely different.

In one of the Aggies’ most important games this season, Alabama, they will have two weeks to prepare coming off a bye. Before LSU, A&M coasts through four easy opponents in South Carolina, Auburn, Western Carolina and Vanderbilt. In 2014, the meat of the Aggies’ SEC schedule — which handed them three losses — came in four straight weeks with no rest.

Also, Kenny Hill had his fair share of dull moments, even when the team excelled. Against Arkansas Hill finished 21-for-41 with a rating of 66.7. Kyle Allen on the other hand passed 21-for-28 for 358 yards and two touchdowns with no picks, rounding his rating to 90.3 versus the Razorbacks.

Moreover, Allen ranks second in the SEC and eighth in the nation in passing efficiency at 179.9. It’s easy to dismiss his performance against Arizona State since it was 38-17 and the focus shifted to Christian Kirk, but Allen tallied 21 fourth quarter points when it mattered most. The clutch remained his strong suit against the Razorbacks as well.

The Aggies play truly revolves around the sophomore quarterback. In the two closest games against ASU and Arkansas, the team was stagnant until Allen sparked the offense late. But, if certain aspects aren’t adjusted, it won’t take long until the A&M attack is exposed and easy to hinder.

Josh Reynolds and Christian Kirk can provide the perfect one-two punch. While Kirk embarrasses secondaries with his shiftiness in open space, Reynolds is the ultimate red zone and deep threat. Without Kirk, Reynolds isn’t enough. And if there’s no Reynolds, Kirk, yes Kirk, isn’t enough.

Since the two contrasts in style, they can keep defenses on their heels. Cornerbacks and safeties can’t sag off inzone coverage, or it will free up too many gaps for Kirk. Press coverage and a man-to-man approach wouldn’t work either, or Reynolds would easily escape his one-on-one. So why hasn’t the offense been efficient?

While the lack in running the football against Arkansas looms in as an issue, the main concern resides with not utilizing Reynolds and Kirk to their fullest potential. Forget Ricky Seals-Jones and Speedy Noil at this point; what matters is these two.

Against Arkansas, Kirk dashed for over 100 yards and a score in the first half, while Reynolds notched just one target, which fell incomplete. Conversely, Kirk amassed 18 yards on three receptions in the second outing, but Reynolds picked up the slack with two receptions, 70 yards and a two-point conversion.

Even with the two sporadically contributing without the other, it was enough to knock off a desperate SEC opponent. There’s no telling what this offense can do when both are involved each drive.

What made A&M’s offense spectacular in 2012, besides Johnny Manziel, was the duo of Ryan Swope and Mike Evans. Kirk resembles Swope with his speed and playmaking ability with the field in front of him. Reynolds relates to Evans with his 6’4” frame and with the specialty of abusing corners for long plays.

The pieces are there for Kyle Allen, who unlike last year’s Kenny Hill, has been far from questionable through the first handful of matchups. 

Mississippi State has allowed a mere two touchdowns in the past 11 quarters, which weighs heavily over a predictable and inefficient Aggie attack. The Bulldogs will either expose or inspire a breakout performance from the Aggie offense. If it’s the former, expect the déjà vu to continually creep into this season. But if it is the latter A&M’s offense will replicate the Evans/Swope combo, thus granting success.

Pay attention to the involvement of the two top receivers, for they will give us the tell-all Saturday night. It’s a must-use scenario with Reynolds and Kirk in a must-win game. 

Carter Karels is a journalism sophomore and sports editor for The Battalion.

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