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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 Monday’s football press conference

Photo by Photo by Meredith Seaver

Sophomore tight end Jalen Wydermyer had two receptions for 19 yards.

Ahead of the Aggies’ trip to AT&T Stadium to take on the No. 16 Arkansas Razorbacks on Saturday, Sept. 25, Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher and players met with the media to discuss the matchup.

Here’s what we learned:

Coach Fisher’s standards

Even after dominating New Mexico in a 34-0 whollopping, Fisher was not happy with his team’s offensive performance. The Aggies started strong, scoring 14 points in the first quarter alone, but slowed to a halt when the maroon and white offense failed to put a single point on the scoreboard in the fourth quarter. The “average performance” filled with “sloppy mistakes” by A&M’s offense caused Fisher to hold his players even more accountable in their gameplay.

Sophomore punter Nik Constantinou said his coach’s heightened expectations have pushed the Aggies to train even harder in their final week of practice before Southeastern Conference competition begins against the Razorbacks.

“We have a standard,” Constantinou said. “That standard is placed very high by coach Fisher. It’s always going to be a challenge to reach that, but we have to. That starts with practice. We’re going to start today, make sure the fundamentals are done in practice and take it day by day so we can perform to [Fisher’s] standards on the weekend.”

Ranked opposition

The Aggies currently hold a No. 7 ranking in the AP Top 25 Poll and No. 5 position in the USA Today Coaches Poll. However, all three of A&M’s wins this season have been against unranked teams. Having yet to face a “real challenge,” the maroon and white’s conference opener against a No. 16-ranked Arkansas will ultimately make or break the team’s public perception while determining if the team is as good as its hype suggests.

Though A&M hasn’t played an opponent of this caliber since defeating then-No. 13 North Carolina in the 2021 Orange Bowl last January, senior defensive back Leon O’Neal said he believes the Aggies are still fully prepared to walk away from Saturday’s slugfest with a win.

“We’re as ready as we’re going to be,” O’Neal said. “It’s all about preparation. You can see it. There’s a lot of different ways on the field to do that. We have nine games left, so it’s really important that we take this a day at a time.”

Return of the Southwest Classic

Typically played at AT&T Stadium, last year’s Southwest Classic was relocated to Kyle Field as a COVID-19 precaution. The home field advantage last season allowed A&M to extend its series-best win streak to nine games over the Razorbacks. With the matchup’s homecoming taking place back in Arlington, a neutral game site — A&M’s second of the year — will have a different influence on the Aggies than a College Station faceoff would.

The maroon and white has won its last six neutral site matchups, leading sophomore running back Devon Achane to believe the game against Arkansas will not be any different.

“I don’t think [the atmosphere] will be any different [in Arlington],” Achane said. “As we saw in Colorado, the Aggie fans always come out, wherever we are. I feel like they’re going to come out [against Arkansas], so we should play the same.”

Further fortifying the defense

The maroon and white defense has had itself a stellar season so far, leading the nation by limiting opposing quarterbacks to average just a 62.16 passer rating per matchup. A&M has also allowed less than 100 passing yards per game — acting as the only team in the nation to accomplish this feat — and is one of just six teams to not allow a single passing touchdown. Defensive linemen DeMarvin Leal and Michael Clemons tacked on another 4.0 tackles for loss, five quarterback hurries and 2.0 sacks. It has been more than seven full quarters of gameplay since another team has scored on the Aggies.

Regardless of the defensive success seen so far, O’Neal said he believes A&M can and should be doing better every time it steps onto the field.

“We care about the process more than the results,” O’Neal said. “Just do your job, and do it fast. We’re the best defense in the country. We have talent on every level, so there’s no excuse for failure. We have to do a better job of … playing as the defense that we know we can play.”

Wydermyer’s time to shine

Junior tight end Jalen Wydermyer is one touchdown reception away from the program’s all-time top-10, and his career record of 12 scoring receptions already puts him in first place among tight ends at A&M. With redshirt sophomore quarterback Zach Calzada finding his footing as the resident shot caller, it is only a matter of time before Wydermyer hits the fast-approaching milestone.

Fisher said he believes Wydermyer has the ability to do so against Arkansas, saying the tight end’s focus in practice has been on making big plays when they count the most.

“Jalen is one of the best tight ends in the country,” Fisher said. “There’s nobody harder on himself than himself, and I have such high expectations [for Wydermyer]. I love him to death. He’s a great human being. Jalen will do fine; he’ll step up.”

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