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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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After back-to-back road losses to Mississippi State and Auburn, Texas A&M defense looks to hold off Ole Miss

Photo by Photo by Cassie Stricker

Senior Otaro Alaka has played a piviotal role in the Aggies’ rushing defense, which allows only 81.4 yards per game. 

The Texas A&M football team is coming home after three consecutive SEC road games where the Aggies went 1-2 against South Carolina, Mississippi State and Auburn.
Now, the Aggies set their sights on Ole Miss as the 5-4 Rebels come to Kyle Field on Saturday for an SEC West showdown. Though Ole Miss has also lost two straight games, the Rebel offense presents serious challenges for the A&M defense.
In last week’s 48-44 loss to South Carolina, Rebel quarterback Jordan Ta’amu pushed his season passing yard total past 3,000, putting him at fourth in the nation. Ta’amu’s 3,001 passing yards put him at fourth in the nation.
The A&M defense has proven it can stop the run, but it’s still far from proving it can stop the pass. The Aggies have the nation’s second-best run defense but the 83rd-ranked pass defense. A matchup with a quarterback like Ta’amu is the last thing the A&M defense wanted to see.
“With their quarterback and the good receivers they have, it’s going to be a good challenge,” junior linebacker Tyrel Dodson said. “We need to go out there and say no one’s going to catch the ball, no one’s going to run on us. It’s just about having a mindset and going about your business.”
Ta’amu is a dominant quarterback, but his performance is strongly dependent on his group of receivers. Junior AJ Brown, sophomore DK Metcalf and senior DaMarkus Lodge are top five in the SEC for receiving yards. Brown has hauled in 66 receptions for 920 yards and five touchdowns. His 920 yards put him sixth in the nation in that category. Lodge has caught 47 passes for 587 yards and two touchdowns, and Metcalf has caught 26 passes for 569 yards and five touchdowns.
“Their receivers can all hit home runs,” A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher said. “Their back is a very good back. Their quarterback is athletic, [he can run] and can make throws. … You’re on pins and needles every play because whoever touches it can make a play.”
The A&M front seven is led by senior Kingsley Keke, who has 35 tackles, 8.5 for loss and six sacks on the year. The duo of Otaro Alaka and Dodson in the linebacker corps has been lethal all year as well. Alaka leads the team with 53 tackles and 9.5 tackles for loss. Dodson is third on the team with 40 tackles, including three tackles for loss. The secondary is led by senior safety Donovan Wilson, who is second on the team in tackles with 43 and leads the team with one interception.
“It’s a very very tough place to play,” Ole Miss head coach Matt Luke said. “They’re very physical on defense and very tough to run against, but we’ll have to find a way to get the run game going where it’s not all on [Ta’amu] and the receivers.”
Running back Scottie Phillips sits behind Williams on the SEC rushing list, with 923 yards on the season and 12 rushing touchdowns. The A&M front seven has shut down every running back the Aggies have faced this year, including Clemson’s Travis Etienne and Kentucky’s Benny Snell, and it’s unlikely that Phillips will be immune.
A&M will host Ole Miss on Nov. 10, looking to earn its 10th straight bowl appearance. Kickoff is set for 11 a.m. and the game will be televised on CBS.

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