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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 season analysis: bye week means it’s time to look back

Junior+defensive+back+Charles+Oliver+has+one+interception+during+the+2018+season.
Photo by Photo by Jesse Everett

Junior defensive back Charles Oliver has one interception during the 2018 season.

By Angel Franco
@angelmadison_
This season has been a roller coaster of a season for Texas A&M. But that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
While there have been highs and lows this season, the one constant for A&M has been their ability to stay in games despite being down — with the exception of the Alabama game. With the past coaching staff there was an overwhelming sense of defeat once they were down.
Jimbo Fisher has instilled something that hasn’t been seen in a while – grit. Both the Clemson and the Kentucky games were very good for the team in terms of showing their grit. While A&M lost to Clemson by two points, its important that A&M wasn’t left behind by the No. 2 team in the country. Additionally, several DBs have been ejected for targeting which hasn’t been good for A&M.
However, while those are bright spots in A&M’s program this year, there have been a lot of weaknesses in the program. The biggest being A&M’s secondary which has given up explosive plays in several games. Additionally, there has been times where the A&M run game has stalled. Rendering the offense one dimensional, which relies heavily on Kellen Mond.
Mond has had the most intriguing individual performance. There are days where he looks like a veteran quarterback who has had multiple seasons in Fisher’s offense and there are days where he looks completely lost and makes questionable decisions, some of which have paid off while others have been costly.
A&M will have to find ways to keep the run game from stalling out to avoid adding pressure to the wide receiving corps and Mond. The better the offense is balanced the more success A&M will have down the stretch.
By Abigail Ochoa
@AbigailOchoa88
In my first year covering Texas A&M football there has been dominant tight end play, a punter redefining the position, nail-biting matchups and a coach willing to do what it takes to care for his players. Needless to say, it’s become quite the football season in Aggieland. With two road games ahead and three home games to close out the year, A&M’s season is far from over.
Penalties and turnovers have become a recurring problem for the Aggies, racking up 47 penalties for a total loss of 418 yards this season, not mention the eight fumbles also on record. Behind center, sophomore quarterback Kellen Mond has had his struggles since playing No. 1 Alabama in week four. Mond has thrown five interceptions since, and has had a rough time staying in the pocket with 16 sacks since Alabama to prove it. If the Aggies are able to get penalties, sacks and defensive ejections under control, the team will be in good shape to win games without being in close margins.
Despite their troubles, A&M is showing they have what it takes to play against highly-ranked teams. The A&M defense is leading the SEC in holding offenses, only allowing opponents an average of 81.6 rushing yards per game. The Aggies also rank second in the nation in stopping teams from scoring during third down conversions. As for the offense, they are dominating time of possession and yards per game. A&M is averaging 486.7 offensive yards per game, and leads the SEC in time of possession averaging 36 minutes and 32 seconds per game. With both the offense and defense taking the SEC by storm, the Aggies are a force to be reckoned with going into the second half of the season.
By Grant Spika
@GrantSpika
As they head into the bye week, the No. 17 Texas A&M football team is off to a solid start under new head coach Jimbo Fisher, with a starting record of 5-2 (3-1 SEC). So far, the run defense has been spectacular for defensive coordinator Mike Elko. Thanks to a strong front seven led by senior defensive lineman Kingsley Keke and junior linebacker Tyrel Dodson, the run defense is No. 4 in the nation, with the Aggies at No. 21 in total defense. On the offensive side of the ball, junior tight end Jace Sternberger has shined. Sternberger has already broken A&M’s single-season tight end record for receiving touchdowns, with six on the year. With the special teams, punter Braden Mann has been an absolute weapon for Fisher and the Aggies. Mann leads the NCAA in punting, averaging 54.5 yards a kick, and has been the best punter in college football this season.
Looking forward, two things the Aggies need to fix are the secondary play and red zone offense. The defensive secondary has allowed 1,692 passing yards in just seven games, which is 92nd in the nation. The Aggies had trouble closing out Arkansas, Kentucky and South Carolina in their last three games due to their lackluster red zone offense. A&M’s red zone offense ranks 78th in the country with only 21 touchdowns in 35 red zone attempts. After the bye week, two key SEC West road games await the Aggies in No. 24 Mississippi State and Auburn.
If the Aggies are able hold quarterbacks to a respectable amount of yards and finish drives without having to kick field goals, they should see a lot of success in the second half of the season.
By Dylan Poitevint
@Poitite
The Good: In their seven games this season, Texas A&M has only lost to Clemson and Alabama. The Aggies are looking like a solid team with a bright future under Jimbo Fisher. The defense has surprised many, especially in the run game, where the Aggies are currently leading the SEC in yards allowed. Junior and senior linebackers Tyrel Dodson and Otaro Alaka have brought prestige back to a position that left plenty to be desired under Kevin Sumlin. On the defensive line, senior defensive end Kingsley Keke and sophomore defensive tackle Justin Madubuike have been punishing any back that challenges them. On the offensive side of the ball, sophomore quarterback Kellen Mond has made strides in his game following his freshman campaign, and has really developed as a team leader. Junior running back Trayveon Williams leads the conference in rushing yards, and he might just be the heart and soul of this offensive unit. Overall, A&M has done exceptionally well thus far, and if they continue this trend, we could be seeing them in a New Year’s Six bowl game.
The Bad: While the Aggies have put together an impressive defensive front, the secondary is playing well under par. They rank only 92nd in the nation in passing yards allowed, and this has hurt us in games, such as our losses to Alabama and Clemson. For the Aggies to compete, they must clean up their secondary. Offensively, A&M has been rather inconsistent, whether it be penalties or red zone efficiency. In order to win tight games, they need to produce consistently.
The Key: Kellen Mond’s performance going forward will make or break this team. If we get Clemson-Mond we could see the Aggies run the table, if Arkansas-Mond appears, this season could slip right from A&M’s fingers.
By Brian Bass
@brianbass4
It has been a series of ups and downs for the Aggies, but things are looking rather bright right now. A&M has played very well on the defensive front, currently holding the fourth overall rush defense in the country. Mike Elko has created a monster in his first season as defensive coordinator, but the secondary has not lived up to those championship expectations just yet.
Junior punter Braden Mann has also been a major strength of this team. He creates opportunities for the defense and gives the opposing offense frustrating field position nearly every punt. Mann is on a quick track to the most 60-yard-plus punts ever put up by a punter, and he’s undoubtedly the best punter in Aggieland since Shane Lechler.
Offensively, inconsistencies have held A&M back from being a truly great team, but they have significantly improved since Jimbo Fisher arrived. Most specifically, Kellen Mond has seen a lot of improvement from week-to-week and has put together big drives when its mattered.
Trayveon Williams is first in rushing yards in the SEC. He remains a clutch factor that can be dangerous when given space and has patience when waiting for gaps. Williams does need to see more consistency because more than 100 yards per game goes a long way. Penalties, third down conversion rates and decision making by the offense are the key problems that have to be addressed to go unscathed through the rest of the season. Fisher has done a good job cleaning some things up, but it matters now more than ever.
By Jack Holmes
@Jack_Holmes98
Texas A&M is third in the SEC in total offense so far this season, with 3,407 yards. The Aggies have been able to run the ball well, as junior Trayveon Williams has charged to the top of the SEC rushing list, totaling 798 yards and eight touchdowns. A&M’s passing game has also looked strong at times, as sophomore quarterback Kellen Mond has totaled 1,800 yards. Junior tight end Jace Sternberger has been the star of the show, with 496 yards and six touchdowns The Aggies also have a group of young and talented wide receivers; four of which have totaled at least 200 yards this season.
Despite looking stellar on occasion, A&M has allowed 23 sacks this season. Those have played a part in the offense’s inability to move the ball at times. Jimbo Fisher will want to see some better protection up front for their quarterback in the second half of the Aggies’ campaign.
A&M’s defense have been top-class in stopping the run this season. The Aggies rank seventh in the nation in rushing defense, allowing only 78.4 yards per game. The Aggies have played some talented running backs so far, including Kentucky’s Benny Snell Jr., who totaled only 60 yards on the ground at Kyle Field in week six.
It is a different story when it comes to defending the pass. The Aggies rank 108th in the nation in passing defense, allowing 241 yards per game and 13 total touchdowns this season. Not making things any easier, A&M has only forced two interceptions. Targeting has also been a problem for the Aggies. Senior safety Donovan Wilson has already been tossed three times this season, and in last week’s game against South Carolina, both Wilson and Debione Renfro were ejected for targeting calls. That is something that will need to be a focus for A&M’s coaching staff heading into the rest of the season.
By Matthew Barnhill
@MBarnhill19
This has been a good year for Texas A&M football, and a great start for Jimbo Fisher as head coach. The team has played well. To start, slowing down the tempo on offense has been very beneficial. The Aggies have competed with some top defenses because of their tough, gritty style. Another highlight has been the defense, especially the run defense. Through seven games, A&M is the fourth best run defense in the nation, even after playing the likes of Alabama, Clemson, and Kentucky– some of the best run offenses in the country. Junior Braden Mann has also been the country’s best punter thus far. Having a great punter has helped the team win the field position battle, an underrated part of winning..
However, the team is not without its faults. Some things the Aggies could improve during the second half of the season are pass protection and turnover margin. To their credit, the offensive line has done quite well run blocking, and they have competed against some of the toughest defensive lines in the game. But have allowed 23 sacks,something that can improve. A&M is also negative five in turnover margin. A few forced turnovers by the defense could make close games more comfortable.
Despite this, the good outweighs the bad for the Aggies, and project that they will finish 9-3 or 10-2. This is a team with great coaches and players; a recipe for a success in Aggieland.
By Alex Lozano
@Alex_Lozano1025
The Texas A&M Football program has matured in the last year. The arrival of head coach Jimbo Fisher has created a cultural change for the Aggies. There is a real sense of belief that the Aggies can play with anyone in the country, but they soon hope that they will be able to topanyone in the country. This is the kind of attitude that is needed to win a national championship and can make aprogram successful for many years. Player’s attitudes have improved dramatically from last season.
With new additions such as Jace Sternberger, and a new offense the Aggies look confident and fearless. When forced into tight games, the Aggies don’t cower away as they seemed to do in previous years, but instead stand tall and take the challenge head on. For example, after struggling early against then-No. 2 ranked Clemson, the game seemed like it could be the one that got away from the Aggies, but instead they rallied back and were a play away from pulling off an almost unbelievable upset.
The biggest improvement, however, is the joy being had by everyone involved. I’ve had more fun watching and cheering for the Aggies this year then previously. My experiences in Kyle field and around the 12th man has become more enjoyable because of the increase in optimism revolving around the program and the future for Aggie football under Jimbo Fisher.
By: Alek Caro
@orackela
What A&M has done well: Develop their receiving targets.
The best thing that has happened to this football team has been the emergence of Jace Sternberger, along with other receivers stepping up. In football circles, you hear a lot about the importance of a viable “y” target or tight end. With Jimbo Fisher reintroducing the tight end position to our offense you directly see his effect on the field. Jace Sternberger has vaulted himself into talk as the best tight end in the nation, but most importantly revealed himself as the security blanket Kellen Mond needs. Along with Sternberger, wide receivers like Cameron Buckley, Quartney Davis, and Kendrick Rodgers have all stepped up in the receiving game. Buckley has also become dependable in the slot with the second most receiving yards on the team behind Sternberger. Along with Buckley’s development, Rodgers and Davis developing into targets on the outside certainly put some fear in other SEC defenses.
What A&M needs to improve on: Penalties.
The penalties, if they keep up, may cost A&M a game down the road. We pulled past South Carolina with over a 100 yards in penalties lost. That cannot happen against Auburn or LSU if we want a chance win those games. It’s the most aggravating thing about this team because Jimbo is known as a disciplinarian. This may be one of those things that can only improve with time.
What is A&M key to success for the remainder of the season: The offensive backfield.
It’s easy to see our success relies on the quarterback position because it’s something that can be said for several teams. I include the backfield because it’s important not to forget Trayveon Williams. If we can get Trayveon Williams going, and a consistent game from sophomore quarterback Kellen Mond, A&M would be good to go. If A&M can get Trayveon to play half as well as he did against Northwestern, then Mond won’t have to force the ball as much. A&M’s defense has been a rock all season, now it’s just about getting our offense to that level as well.
By: Hannah Underwood
@hannahbunderwoo
No. 17 Texas A&M faced a lot of changes going into this season after bringing in new head coach Jimbo Fisher, but they’ve managed to take the challenge in stride.
The biggest thing that they’ve shown so far this season is grit. Without that newfound toughness, A&M could never have competed the way they did against Clemson, defeated Kentucky in overtime or even scraped out a win in the final minutes against South Carolina.
This Aggie team boasts the best rushing defense in the Southeastern Conference, a tight end who leads the nation in receiving yards and touchdowns and — surprisingly — a nation-leading punter. With everything seemingly falling into place, the Aggies appear on track to grind through the slump they’ve seen in the second half of previous seasons.
There is a famous saying, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” In order to avoid the collapse this season, the Aggies cannot lose the never-quit mentality that they’ve displayed throughout the first half of the season. This mindset that Fisher has instilled in them has been the key to their success so far. If they falter and forget, the season is as good as over.
By: Colton Mannella
@ColtonM_11
The season is a little over halfway over, and the Aggies currently sit at a 5-2 record. There have been some noticeable improvements with this team compared to last years, including a new found toughness, a great time of possession and a top ranked rush defense.
There have been positives and negatives that have influenced A&M’s performance so far this year. Some of the positives include the rush defense, Kellen Mond’s performance, the superb punting and Trayveon Williams, who leads the SEC in rushing. Not only has the defense been great this season in rush defense, but they have been dominant against powerful rushing offenses such as Alabama and Clemson.
Although the team is very much improved, there are definitely still negatives that must be pointed out. The secondary has been one of the worst in the SEC and has not produced many turnovers this year, Kellen Mond has struggled to take care of the ball for most of the year, having thrown 10 touchdowns and five interceptions thus far. Lastly, A&M has played down to some of their lesser opponents. The way that Mond can decrease his turnovers is to just not try and force anything and just take what the defense is giving him. I know that is easier said than done, but it’s what’s necessary.
The keys to the Aggies’ success for the remainder of the season is to continue having lengthy drives to keep their defense off of the field and for Mond to take better care of the ball.

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