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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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One step away
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After slow first half, A&M defense did its part against Ole Miss

Photo by via @AggieFootball Twitter

On Saturday, Nov. 13 the Texas A&M football team took on the Ole Miss Rebels. The Aggies performed well defensively, holding the Rebels dominant offense to only 29 points. 

In the first half, Texas A&M surrendered 408 yards of offense to the Rebels.
For most teams, this would be a clear indicator of an insurmountable blowout. However, the Aggies jogged into the locker room down just 15-0. They went on to allow just 94 total yards in the second half.
Junior defensive lineman DeMarvin Leal said the fact that the Aggies were able to keep the game competitive in the first half was a testament to the team’s defensive aggressiveness when the opponent is in scoring position.
“Yeah, they definitely got a lot of yards [in the first half],” Leal said. “But we were able to keep them from scoring every time they got in the red zone.”
Although the maroon and white would eventually fly home from Oxford, Miss., with a 29-19 loss, the dominant defense that carried them from unranked to No. 11 in the nation in four games continued to rear its daunting head.
Ole Miss presented an unfamiliar challenge to the Aggies from the first possession. All but abandoning traditional huddles and audibles, the Rebels bolted to the line after every whistle and snapped the ball before the defense had time to comprehend the last play, much less get into proper positioning.
The rapid change of pace was unseen territory for the Aggies. Sophomore defensive back Antonio Johnson said it changed all aspects of the team’s normal defensive routine.
“It’s difficult,” Johnson said. “You [do not have time] to celebrate. Especially as a defensive back, you have to find your man, fly into coverage and look at the plays.”
Even though the Rebels seemed to drive down the field without much resistance on their opening drive, they were held to just three points after junior running back Jerrion Ealy was stopped after a gain of two yards on third-and-7.
On its next offensive possession, Ole Miss found the end zone after a methodical drive spanning 14 plays. Junior quarterback Matt Corral found senior wide receiver Dontario Drummond on a slant route from two yards out to make the score 10-0.
After facing the early deficit, the A&M defense made a plethora of stops, including two forced punts, a fumble and a turnover on downs. The fumble halted a promising drive by the Rebels, as Corral was stripped by Leal at the Aggies’ 26-yard line to prevent further bleeding on the scoreboard.
The turnover on downs came after an even more disastrous r, when a late hit penalty gave the Rebels a first down at the Aggies’ 1-yard line. The A&M defense stepped up again as junior running back Snoop Conner was unable to gain the pivotal three feet on three straight carries. The Rebels opted for a play-action pass on fourth-and-goal, but the dish to sophomore tight end Casey Kelly was snuffed out, and the Ole Miss offense left the field scoreless once again.
The A&M defense carried its momentum into the second half, forcing two punts on Ole Miss’ opening two possessions of the third quarter.
Near the end of the third quarter, the Aggies’ defense faced adversity once again when the Rebels marched deep into maroon and white territory. Facing a fourth-and-2, the Rebels ran a fake field goal. After a lengthy review, it was determined senior punter Mac Brown was short of the first down marker, giving the Aggies another critical stop.
After the Rebels forced an interception inside the A&M red zone, the floodgates began to burst, as it took just two plays for Conner to give Ole Miss a two-possession lead. Another pick by redshirt sophomore quarterback Zach Calzada was returned to the house, and the Rebels gained overwhelming control of the contest.
While it can be difficult to credit a unit that surrendered 504 total yards in a loss, the Aggies continued their trend of bend-don’t-break style defense that proved to be paramount in their wins against Alabama and Auburn earlier this season.
Ole Miss knocked on the door many times throughout the evening, trudging inside the A&M 30-yard line seven times. In these seven trips, the Aggies surrendered just 20 points.
Following the loss, A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher said Ole Miss was able to move the ball efficiently in the first half because of the ineffectiveness of the A&M offense, which punted on every drive in the first 30 minutes excluding the safety near the end of the half.
“They got 58 plays [in the first half], but that’s because we didn’t get first downs on offense,” Fisher said. “They just executed and got the ball out. We didn’t make the plays we needed to make. They outplayed us.”

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