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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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4 takeaways from A&M’s loss to App State

Senior+yell+leader+Nathan+Drain+cheers+on+junior+RB+Devon+Achane+%286%29+at+Kyle+Field+on+Saturday%2C+Sept.+10%2C+2022.
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Senior yell leader Nathan Drain cheers on junior RB Devon Achane (6) at Kyle Field on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022.

No. 6 Texas A&M football hosted Appalachian State in a first-ever matchup between the two programs. The Mountaineers pulled out the 17-14 victory and the Aggies now sit with a 1-1 record for the season.
Though the game was slow and low-scoring, there was still plenty to learn from the contest, especially about where the Aggies stand with conference play approaching. After an upset loss early in the season, there are many takeaways to gather from A&M’s performance.
Offensive line struggled again
Junior running back Devon Achane had a breakaway touchdown in the second quarter, a 26-yard scamper, and redshirt sophomore quarterback Haynes King had a big 31-yard scramble of his own. Outside of these two plays, the running lanes were narrow, yet again. On 16 carries, the Aggies finished with 32 yards, excluding two long runs.
Beyond this, though, King was sacked twice, and snaps were high, low and everything in between throughout the game. The Aggies’ offensive line is young and still learning, and sophomore center Bryce Foster was absent for the second straight week, with redshirt freshman Matthew Wykoff in his place. The unit has carried the maroon and white in the past, but the Maroon Goons have been off to a slow start as they continue to gel.
Achane is magic with the ball in his hands
Even while the offensive line has struggled to give proper running lanes for Achane, the track star showed exactly why he is a dangerous weapon with the ball. Achane finished the game with 10 carries for 66 yards, a decent chunk of which came on his 26-yard score. He broke through the line, took a cut that left the Mountaineers’ safety lost and outsped the defense into the end zone.
“We have to keep getting him the ball,” coach Jimbo Fisher said. “He’s a very unique player, and we have to keep finding ways to get him the ball in space.”
But Achane is more than a running back. As a returner, he is game-breaking, which he showed last season against Alabama. He took a third-quarter kick return to the house, 95 yards, tiptoeing the sideline and making players miss along the way. Even in a poor offensive outing, Achane is always a threat to hit a home run, proving his value in the Aggies’ offense.
Defensive presence
The Aggies faced off against an App State team that was coming fresh off a 60-plus point performance against North Carolina in Week 1. The Maroon Curtain was in full effect on Saturday, though, holding the Mountaineers to 17 points on 305 yards of total offense.
“I felt like as a defense we played pretty good, [just] self-inflicting wounds,” junior defensive back Antonio Johnson said. “I feel like it’s a learning experience. It’ll help us with our preparation. Each week is its own week … It’s humbling.”
While the Aggies failed to force a turnover, they were able to get pressure on sixth-year senior Chase Brice who threw six touchdowns in Week 1. Brice finished with 50% completion for 134 yards. Last season under defensive coordinator Mike Elko, A&M exemplified a bend-don’t-break style of play, excelling at keeping opponents out of the end zone, allowing 15.9 points per game, third best in the nation. So far, in two out-of-conference games, the Aggies have allowed just 17 points, showing shades of the past, even if turnover production and defensive pressure is down from last season.
“That’s for sure a mentality. That’s a standard,” Johnson said. “The next play is the most important play. Even if they get down the field, we refuse to let them get into the end zone, and if they do get in the end zone, well, they’re not going to get in the end zone again. This is how we grow as a defense.”
Ball on the ground
The turnovers were down in Week 2. King had thrown five interceptions in his first two full starts across the 2021 and 2022 seasons, but threw zero in Week 2 against App State. However, the turnovers seemed to switch from picks to fumbles.
“Turnovers hurt regardless, you know,” Achane said. “If you play a good team, turnovers hurt. We were backed up in our end zone [in the first quarter], and after the turnover, they went to go score. It’s just fixing the little errors.”
The Aggies fumbled the ball four times during the length of the game, losing two and recovering two. The Aggies were unable to get away with it in Week 2, and with a ranked team in Miami ahead in Week 3 and SEC play beginning in Week 4, the sloppy ball control is a necessary focus if the team hopes to stay competitive in the SEC this season, especially with strong defenses across the conference.

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