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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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5 takeaways from A&M-Missouri

Photo by via @AggieFootball on Twitter

Sophomore running back Devon Achane ran for 124 yards and scored 2 touchdowns.

Even as the visiting team, the maroon and white dominated the game, playing top dog in nearly all tangible statistics.No. 21 Texas A&M football defeated the Missouri Tigers, 35-14, in the Aggies’ fourth week of Southeastern Conference play after breaking away with an early lead. 

Here are five takeaways from the game:

Defense continues to fortify

A&M’s offense shined against Missouri, but it only had the chance to do so because of a standout showing by the maroon and white defense. Not only did defensive coordinator Mike Elko and his squad limit the Tigers to 14 points, but they also dominated the third-down game; Missouri converted just 6 times on 17 attempts. Freshman linebacker Edgerrin Cooper led the game with eight tackles, seven of which were completed solo. Sophomore defensive backs Antonio Johnson and Jaylon Jones each snagged an interception, contributing to A&M’s seven points off turnovers.

Having recorded his first career pick against the Tigers, Johnson said A&M’s defense served its purpose and accomplished the goals the players set for themselves and the team before the matchup.

“We came in on defense with the mentality that we just had to stand up and play,” Johnson said. “That’s what we did.”

Devon moving chains

Sophomore running back Devon Achane paced the rushing game, scoring a game-high two touchdowns on the ground. Averaging 7.8 yards per carry, Achane totalled 124 yards on the ground. The dual-sport athlete also recorded a reception for 27 yards, paving the way for the maroon and white to outgain Missouri by over 100 total yards of offense.

Junior running back Isaiah Spiller — the only receiver with more yardage than Achane, at 178 — said the game was the perfect opportunity for Achane and himself to stand out. This is because Missouri’s defense is known to struggle with ground coverage, he said.

“Coach made a big point [before the game] that the run game would be very important,” Spiller said. “Me and [Achane] are just always focused on winning. We’re a very winning-oriented team. Putting the team before ourselves … that’s kind of our motto.”

Avoiding the trap game

In last week’s media press conference, head coach Jimbo Fisher said A&M would not underestimate Missouri because the matchup against the Tigers could be a “trap game,” or a game in which a higher-ranked team loses because it is unprepared or underestimates its opposition. A&M’s ability to focus on the present matchup instead of being distracted by the past promises maturity in a time that has otherwise been uncharacteristically young this season.

Johnson said it was the Tigers’ impressive offense which most kept the Aggies wary of a potential upset in Columbia.

“As players, we knew that … this [could be] a trap game,” Johnson said. “We knew that [Missouri] has a really good offense; at any point, they could turn it up on us [and take the lead].”

Dueling quarterbacks

Both teams saw a similar matchup in the play-calling position, as A&M’s Zach Calzada and Missouri’s Connor Bazelak finished with similar passing ratings. Bazelak outhrew Calzada by 82 yards, but the A&M figurehead passed for two more touchdowns and one less interception than his Missouri counterpart. With the stat board evened in this respect, the running game became all the more prevalent.

Proud of the former backup for stepping up as an SEC quarterback, Fisher said Calzada is finally playing at the caliber necessary to lead one of the best teams in the nation. This does not mean Calzada is without room for improvement, Fisher said.

“[Calzada] still played really well,” Fisher said. “In the big plays of the game … he’s still making some critical plays. Are there things he can do better? Yes, and he’s got to. But he’s still progressing. I thought he played a solid game.”

Building momentum

After starting its SEC campaign with two losses, A&M football looks to be back on track, notching its second consecutive week in the win column with the victory over Missouri. Having gained the momentum to move forward, A&M still has a chance at postseason play: the SEC Championship. Though rare for a two-loss team to reach this point, it would be A&M travelling to Athens if the Aggies win out and Alabama loses just one more time, thanks to Arkansas falling to unranked Auburn at home on Oct. 16.

Recognizing A&M has to play with a near-perfect field presence for the remainder of the season, Spiller said the Aggies are determined to do whatever it takes to continue defeating opponents.

“We didn’t want to be a one-hit wonder,” Spiller said. “We’re going to do what we have to do next week, too.”

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