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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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5 takeaways from A&M-Mississippi State

Jimbo+Fisher+and+the+Aggies+taking+the+field+before+the+game.
Photo by Photo by Robert O’Brien

Jimbo Fisher and the Aggies taking the field before the game.

After a persistent back-and-forth, No. 13 Texas A&M football dropped its second consecutive Southeastern Conference matchup to the Mississippi State Bulldogs, 26-22. The Aggies showed promise on both sides of the ball, but a lack of momentum after falling to then-No. 16 Arkansas in the Southwest Classic spelled the ultimate demise of the maroon and white.

Here are five takeaways from the game:

‘Shot in the foot’

Under head coach Jimbo Fisher, the Aggies are 21-4 when they score first. Unfortunately for the 2021 roster, the maroon and white has given up the first lead to its opposition in three of the five games played thus far. Of those, two ended in an A&M defeat, and another saw the Aggies sneak away with a win by just one field goal. In contrast, both games in which the Aggies scored first ended with a win by a margin of at least 31 points.

Sophomore running back Devon Achane said the Bulldogs scoring early was reminiscent of Arkansas’ attacking success. The maroon and white must begin honing in on its ability to score before opponents, allowing the team to break away with a greater lead, he said.

“We haven’t been scoring on the first drive we’ve got the ball,” Achane said. “We have to go to practice and work on … coming out fast and strong.”

Vulnerable to the air

Led by sophomore quarterback Will Rogers, the Bulldogs passed for a combined 408 yards to nine different receivers. Though it was expected for Mike Leach’s Air Raid approach to cause problems for the Aggies, few predicted the visitor’s offense would prove to be so successful. In their last meeting, A&M held Miss. St. to 219 receiving yards across the entire game; the Bulldogs surpassed this number by the end of the first half on Saturday. Should the maroon and white’s inability to cover the pass foretell a long-term issue, the upcoming challenge of the Alabama Crimson Tide becomes all the more threatening.

This type of performance is unacceptable, sophomore defensive back Antonio Johnson said. Because, “you can’t win like that in the SEC,” Johnson said; the Aggies need to spend every second of training working toward improvement.

“Any defense that gives up 400 yards, that’s not the goal,” Johnson said. “We knew that’s not our goal. We just have to go back, look at the film and see where our mistakes were at. We’ll come back next week and fix them.”

Wyder-mania

Junior tight end Jalen Wydermyer finished A&M’s 2020 season as one of the most influential members of the maroon and white offense. His six receiving touchdowns on the campaign left the Dickinson native just one shy of breaking into A&M’s top-10 among program history. However, his first four games in 2021 were considerably less successful, failing to find the end zone even once. With redshirt sophomore quarterback Zach Calzada finding more confidence in the play-calling role, Wydermyer’s long-overdue touchdown catch against Miss. St. could foreshadow more attention being given to the tight end moving forward.

Fisher said he was happy with Wydermyer’s performance, adding that the tight end deserved the success seen on the field against Miss. St.

“It seemed like [this was Wydermyer’s most complete game],” Fisher said. “We tried to get him the ball … and they double-covered him, so we had to work the other side. I thought he had a good, solid week of practice, and he seemed to play a good game.”

O-line struggles

After losing four starters with the conclusion of its 2020 campaign, the A&M offensive line debuted a new set of young athletes set to defend play callers in the pocket. These players have taken their time to settle into their new roles, allowing opposing defenses to record more success than in years past. Against A&M, the Bulldogs notched two sacks and a safety en route to its nine defensive stops for loss. 

To help with this lack of experience, all A&M players on the field must do their part to provide additional blocking and help the ball carrier find the end zone, Achane said.

“We need all 11 of us on the field blocking,” Achane said. “We need a lot of leadership and a lot of people that want to play. That’s what we need.”

Third down inconsistencies

The Aggies successfully converted on only four third-downs across their entire matchup against the Bulldogs. By averaging a distance-to-go of 7.5 yards on each third-down attempt, the A&M offense essentially backed itself into a corner and gave little chance to recover and push forward on the drive.

Johnson said this created unnecessary difficulties for the A&M offense. However, he mitigated the criticisms by adding that the offense works to pick up slack on the defense’s end as well.

“We know we had to help the offense,” Johnson said. “And in the times when we’re not playing good, the offense has to help us. That’s just how it goes. We just have to do our job, honestly.”

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