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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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Strong start, disappointing end

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Photo by Photo by: Jenna Rabel

Texas A&M football lost the final game of the 2015 season to LSU 7-19.

Another year in the books, and for the second year in a row, the Aggies faltered in SEC play after a strong 5-0 start.
With what was supposed to be one of the SEC’s most talented offenses, the Aggies still couldn’t get over the hump against Alabama or LSU, and two mistake-riddled games cost them a win over Auburn and Ole Miss.
A system with so much upside seemed to self-destruct when it needed to make plays. Whether it was from poor play-calling or problems with protection up front, all factors point back to an offensive coaching staff and an offensive line that severely underperformed this year.
The Aggies faced another year of quarterback controversy that kept the offense from establishing an identity or a consistent game plan each week. The replacement of Kyle Allen with Kyler Murray seemed like the answer after the South Carolina game. The running game was more diverse, and the passing game featured quick throws from Murray to help a struggling offensive line and allowed the talented receiving corps to make plays.
But the play calling began to veer from what worked against South Carolina and pander more towards the plays Murray struggled to make against ASU and Alabama, and he proved unable to protect the football when it came time to play Auburn. Whether intentional or not, offensive coordinator Jake Spavital called plays that didn’t match Murray’s style, and the offense paid the price for it.
Allen returned to the field, and after beating an inferior Vanderbilt team, the Aggies encountered the same issues when playing LSU that they had against Alabama and Ole Miss. They established a good balance at the beginning of a drive until their run game became predictable or until they committed a silly penalty on first or second down, creating too many obvious passing situations. And when they found themselves at third and short, the plays called were unnecessarily aggressive, which more often than not would stifle a drive and mess with the rhythm of the offense.
On the other side of the ball, the addition of new defensive coordinator John Chavis before the season brought hope for a drastic turnaround from last year’s group. But before success comes progress, and the defense made progress this year. The additions of Myles Garrett, and Daylon Mack were a first step but this was a unit that still did not have all the pieces to play the caliber defense that Chavis envisioned.  
There were signs of improvement in the run defense towards the end of the season however, particularly against Vanderbilt and LSU. The Aggies were able to hold the Commodores to 125 yards rushing, and they were able keep Leonard Fournette of LSU in check, not allowing a run longer than 23 yards from the Heisman candidate. It is common for a team to have an adjustment period before clicking in a new system, and this defense now has the opportunity to develop in this system after their bowl game.
Establishing a dynasty in college football means creating consistency and balance up front, and that begins with the offensive line. When head coach Kevin Sumlin first took over with Mike Sherman’s offensive line, four of the starting offensive linemen at the time ended up as first-round picks. Now it is unlikely that any Aggies from this group will be drafted. An o-line that features inside runs combined with the play-action pass has to become a main focus in recruiting.
The first sign of a poor rushing defense is when the safeties lead the team in tackles, and that was certainly the case this year with Armani Watts recording a whopping 111. The linebacking corps struggled week in and week out to fill their gaps, shed blocks and hit the running back at the point of attack, but Chavis now has a chance to gather some talent to bring to the position.
All in all, this team is still on the brink of a breakout season. But until the Aggies can maximize their potential offensively and stop the run, they will not be able to stand atop the SEC, and will continue to plateau at the middle of the pack.
Brady Langston is an electrical engineering sophomore and sports reporter for The Battalion.

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