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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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Aggies prepare for regular season finale at LSU

Photo by Photo by Samantha Mahler

After rounding out the final home game of the season, the Texas A&M football team will take on the LSU Tigers in Baton Rouge, La. on Saturday, Nov. 27. 

After moving to 3-0 against teams with cat-themed mascots, the Aggies are just one Tiger away from a clean sweep.
On Saturday, Nov. 20, Texas A&M football completed its home slate with an emotional 52-3 victory over Prairie View A&M. Now, the Aggies must shift gears toward their final game of the season: a road matchup against SEC West-rival LSU.
The rivalry between the Aggies and the Tigers dates back to a time long before the programs first butted heads in the Southeastern Conference. In 1899, the Aggies won the inaugural match of the series in College Station by a score of 52-0. The squads had a chaotic rivalry throughout the 1900s, switching between annually scheduled games and decade-long stretches without meetings.
After halting the series after the 1995 season, the teams would not meet again until they faced off in the Cotton Bowl Classic on Jan. 7, 2011, which LSU won 41-24. A year later, the Aggies joined the SEC, resuming the annual conflict. The Tigers won the first six games in SEC play, but a 74-72 shootout in 2018 broke the streak.
While the Aggies won the most recent meeting, 20-7, the Tigers hold a 34-22-3 lead in the all-time series.
A&M travels to Baton Rouge, La., with an 8-3 record. After starting the season 3-2, the Aggies found their stride, going 5-1 in their next six games. The streak was highlighted by a 41-38 upset against the previously top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide.
While the Aggies’ three conference losses take playoff and conference championship contention off the table, a win would help the squad stamp a ticket to a more favorable bowl game.
Redshirt sophomore quarterback Zach Calzada will start his 10th game for the Aggies on Saturday. In 2021, he has thrown for 1,943 yards, 14 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He is bolstered by one of the country’s top running back tandems, as junior Isaiah Spiller and sophomore Devon Achane have combined for 1,845 rushing yards and 15 scores.
During Monday’s press conference, head coach Jimbo Fisher said the team has emphasized the importance of stability in the passing game and the rushing game against teams that can stop the run like LSU.
“We’ve gotta have balance, just like we’ve had all year,” Fisher said. “You can’t just go throw it; they’re too good and they have different blitz packages. Their guys up front can rush, they can play the run and they can tackle well in space. We’re gonna have to win our battles in both regards, run and pass, to move the ball and score.”
The squad’s receiving corps has dealt with injuries in the latter half of the season, as freshman Demond Demas will miss the remainder of the campaign, and sophomore Chase Lane’s status is unclear, although he will miss Saturday’s game.
The unexpected turmoil at receiver has given several wideouts more opportunities to make plays on the field, including junior Jalen Preston. During Monday’s press conference, Preston said the team’s intense routines at practice have allowed them to reload at receiver following the unexpected injuries.
“It has been really tough to have our guys go down,” Preston said. “Everyone has been practicing hard, so when the next man comes up, he is always prepared … It has been awesome to be able to be that guy sometimes.”
The A&M defense has been a bright spot for the team, as the squad ranks third in the SEC in average points allowed per game, with 21.7, and fourth in total sacks, with 33.
Senior linebacker Aaron Hansford leads the team in total tackles with 81 on the season. He also notched his first career touchdown last week against Prairie View, as he returned a fumble 18 yards to the house.
Senior defensive lineman Tyree Johnson leads the team in sacks with eight. Junior defensive lineman DeMarvin Leal is close behind with 7.5 sacks of his own.
LSU enters the weekend with a 5-6 record. That mark carries desperation of its own, as a victory would give the Tigers the sixth win necessary to clinch a spot in a bowl game and give a proper send-off for an LSU icon.
In 2019, head coach Ed Orgeron led LSU to a 14-0 record and a national title with one of the most talented rosters in recent memory. Less than two years after the confetti fell, Orgeron’s days are now numbered, as the team announced it will part ways with the coach after the conclusion of the 2021 season.
Despite his team’s rapid fall from grace, Orgeron, who is commonly known as “coach O,” said he is proud of the resilience his squad has shown through a chaotic season.
“Life is going to throw you a bunch of curveballs, and I’ve told the guys that,” Orgeron said. “This team has learned how to fight to the end through adversity. No matter what the circumstances are around you, you’ve got to get up in the morning and decide to fight, and this team has done that.”
Despite its losing record, LSU’s offense has fired on all cylinders this season. Sophomore quarterback Max Johnson, who is the son of former Super Bowl-winning quarterback Brad Johnson, has thrown for 2,509 yards, 24 touchdowns and six interceptions.
Junior running back and Baton Rouge native Tyrion Davis-Price has carried the rushing attack, totaling 919 yards and six touchdowns this season.
The team’s biggest weakness has been its defense, which has surrendered an astounding 34.9 points per game this season. Much of the bleeding has come through the air, as the squad gives up 363 passing yards per game.
On Monday, Fisher said he did not buy into the notion the team treats the LSU rivalry differently than other games, but the familiarity between the schools will always make the matchups special.
“They’re all rivalries to me,” Fisher said. “But we’re so close in proximity, and they recruit [players from] Texas, and we recruit [players from] Louisiana … They’re a great team, and they’re a team that we’ll have to compete with year in and year out because they’ll always have great players.”
Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 27 at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, La.

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