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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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Aggie defense looks to regain lost ground versus Miami

Photo my Ishika Samant

Freshman WR Chris Marshall (10) gets tackled to the ground at Kyle Field on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022.

With a 1-1 record before the start of conference play, Texas A&M is feeling the pressure on the program early. The saving grace at Kyle Field has been the defensive presence, pitching a season-opening shutout and holding an Appalachian State team who scored 61 in Week 1 to just 17 points in Week 2.

While App State proved they were no slouch of an opponent — beating the Aggies 17-14 on the road — A&M’s Week 3 opponent might be its toughest challenge yet: the University of Miami.

“I have to get the guys to put App State behind them,” senior safety Demani Richardson said. “I have to hold more guys accountable.”

Miami is currently 2-0 on the season with wins versus Bethune-Cookman and Southern Miss, and they will be the Aggies’ first ranked opponent of the year, something A&M will face a lot in the SEC.

The Miami offense is captained by sophomore quarterback Tyler Van Dyke, who ended the 2021-22 season on an elite run. In his last six games, Van Dyke threw for 300-plus yards and three-plus touchdowns each game, ushering him into the list of preseason Heisman candidates, with the 11th-best odds on BetMGM.

The Hurricanes also had two players listed on the Preseason All-ACC team: senior tight end Will Mallory and junior tackle Zion Nelson.

But the focal point of the offense so far this season has been sophomore running back Henry Parrish Jr., an Ole Miss transfer. In two games, he has rushed for 217 yards and four touchdowns, showing an ability to rush both inside and outside of the tackles.

The Aggies’ run defense had two different outcomes this year. Against Sam Houston State, A&M racked up six tackles for a loss, holding the Bearkats to just 13 rushes for 47 yards outside of sophomore quarterback Jordan Yates. The maroon and white plugged up the middle of the field.

In Week 2, though, the Mountaineers found plenty of success rushing to the outside. Junior running back Camerun Peoples took 19 carries for 112 yards as Appalachian State held the ball for 41 minutes and 29 seconds.

Miami’s rushing attack with Parrish could prove to be a point of emphasis for the Aggies, as the Hurricanes have clear intentions of heavily utilizing him this season, receiving 17 touches and 25 touches in the first two weeks, respectively.

“When the ‘Canes run hard, we are hard to stop and it opens up everything for us,” Miami coach Mario Cristobal said.

Miami also uses a second running back in its rotation, sophomore running back Thaddius Franklin Jr. The 6-foot, 240-pound back has taken 21 carries for 127 yards and three touchdowns in two games.

“You’ve got to get guys in the box, tackle well in space and get them down,” A&M coach Jimbo Fisher said. “You’re going to have to play a complete football game on defense and then keep the ball on offense.”

For the Aggies’ defense, pressure from the front seven will be important, both in the passing and rushing game. The Aggies have rotated a large number of defensive linemen, with sophomore Shemar Turner leading the unit in tackles and freshman L.T. Overton leading in sacks.

The centerpiece for A&M’s defense is junior defensive back Antonio Johnson. He has a team-high 17 tackles and one sack this season. Johnson will certainly be in the game plan for both teams, being the do-it-all player for the maroon and white: pass coverage, pass-rushing, blitzing and run-stuffing.

For A&M’s defense, the name of the game will be slowing down an offense averaging 50 points per game and 525 yards of offense. The Aggies allowed just 16 points per game last season under defensive coordinator Mike Elko. Now under the captainship of defensive coordinator DJ Durkin, the maroon and white appear off to a good start, but they will need to maintain and improve as the competition gets steeper.

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