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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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Aggies look to fry Gamecocks for 3rd straight SEC victory

The+Aggies+will+take+on+the+Gamecocks+when+they+return+to+Kyle+Field+on+Oct.+23.
Photo by FILE

The Aggies will take on the Gamecocks when they return to Kyle Field on Oct. 23.

After a successful trip to Columbia, Mo., the Aggies are looking to continue their dominance over a familiar foe: the South Carolina Gamecocks.
The Aggies have a short but commanding history with the Gamecocks. Ahead of the teams’ first encounter in 2014, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry met with South Carolina’s governor at the time, Nikki Haley, to create the John Bonham trophy for the A&M-South Carolina rivalry. The trophy was intended to honor Bonham, a native South Carolinian who lost his life during the Battle of the Alamo.
Since 2014, the programs have crossed paths annually. In those seven meetings, the maroon and white holds a 7-0 record and 17-point average margin of victory. The Aggies won a 48-3 blowout in Columbia, S.C., during their most recent encounter in 2020.
Texas A&M enters the weekend with a 5-2 overall record and a 2-2 record in SEC play.
The Aggies return to College Station fresh off a road test against Missouri. The result was never in doubt, as the Aggies jumped out to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter and eventually flew home with a 35-14 victory over the Tigers.
One of the most notable storylines in College Station over the past two weeks has been the team’s improved passing game. Redshirt sophomore quarterback Zach Calzada has shown statistical improvement in his past two games, which has been vital for the team’s success. After throwing four touchdown passes through his first three Saturdays, Calzada has thrown five in his last two starts.
Junior wide receiver Ainias Smith has been Calzada’s favorite target this season, leading the way with 29 receptions, 319 receiving yards and six touchdowns — all team-highs among pass catchers.
Smith said he attributes Calzada’s improved play to the Georgia native becoming more relaxed and comfortable with his place in the offense.
“Zach has definitely gained a lot of confidence,” Smith said. “He is not trying to do everything for everyone else. He believes in his teammates and he is standing in the pocket and delivering. [Zach] has shown great progression and has come a long way.”
The Aggies have matched their success through the air with success in the trenches. The running back duo of junior Isaiah Spiller and sophomore Devon Achane had its most productive outing of the season against Missouri, combining for 300 rushing yards and three touchdown runs.
The maroon and white has also been disruptive on the defensive side of the ball, forcing a total of 21.0 sacks in its first six contests, tied for 19th in the nation and second in the SEC. Junior edge rusher DeMarvin Leal has led the way with 5.5 sacks, with senior defensive linemen Tyree Johnson and Michael Clemons also standing out, claiming 4.0 and 3.5 sacks, respectively.
Leal said the players’ progression through the season started with the habits they built during the spring and summer.
“We’re just applying what we worked on all through the offseason,” Leal said. “It’s all about countering back to the quarterback’s level, and then it’s just getting after it.”
South Carolina will come to Kyle Field with a 4-3 record and a 1-3 resume in the SEC. After allowing 101 total points in their first three conference losses, the Gamecocks stopped the bleeding with a 21-20 victory over SEC East rival Vanderbilt.
South Carolina sophomore quarterback Luke Doty has been inconsistent during the 2021 campaign, tossing five touchdowns and three interceptions in his five starts. In his most recent performance against Vanderbilt, the signal caller finished with a season-high two touchdowns and quarterback rating of 147.9.
Senior wide receiver Josh Vann has carried the visiting team’s receiving game with a team-leading 399 yards and two scores. The Gamecocks have found limited success on the ground, averaging under 4 yards per carry and totalling just three touchdown runs as a team this season.
Defensively, the Gamecocks have been ballhawks, leading the SEC with 10 intercepted passes. Senior defensive back Jaylan Foster has been the team’s leading disruptor, accumulating four picks and two forced fumbles this season. The squad has also shown an ability to create pressure on the opposing quarterback, registering 18 sacks. Senior defensive end Kingsley Enagbare has been the squad’s leader, with 4.5 sacks.
Based on the Aggies’ history of success against the Gamecocks and the hot streak the team has been on during the past two games, fans have labeled this weekend’s game as a “trap game,” or a game in which the favored team could find itself underprepared.
Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher said speculators should assume the A&M squad will be prepared for the weekend, because the team has made an effort to not let an opponent impact how they prepare.
“All games are trap games,” Fisher said. “You’ve got to understand the importance; it doesn’t matter who you play. That’s when you start to become a program that doesn’t have practices that reflect who you play, but instead affect how you play.”
Kickoff is slated for 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 23, at Kyle Field.

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