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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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A&M defense looks to regain confidence against Ole Miss

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Photo by Photo by Meredith Seaver

The Aggie defense had 75 total stops on the day.

On Saturday, Texas A&M was most ineffective at handling the high-powered Alabama offense.
Facing the No. 2 scoring offense in the nation, the A&M defense couldn’t stop Alabama for most of the afternoon, giving up 47 points — the most given up through four quarters by the Aggies since they allowed LSU to score 54 points in 2016. The Tide’s scoring opportunities were aplenty, as Alabama only punted twice all afternoon with the first punt coming midway through the third quarter. In the first half, Alabama was able to move down field at will, with the only drive not resulting in a score ending with an interception deep in the red zone.
A&M coach Jimbo Fisher said he looks for the defense to improve on forcing stops on third down this week.
“We gotta do a better job of getting off the field on third down,” Fisher said. “They had some critical third and longs and we didn’t tackle in space as well.”
Against Alabama, the usually stout A&M run defense was unable to contain Alabama rushing attack. Throughout the game, Alabama kept feeding its running backs, finishing with 31 carries for 155 yards on the ground. Those five yards allowed per carry average is the worst by the Aggies all season.
An area the Aggies’ defense continues to struggle in is their pass rush. Facing an offensive line that has only allowed seven sacks this season, the Aggies were only able to manage one all afternoon. However, A&M managed to provide consistent pressure for the Tide, including forcing Alabama’s quarterback Tua Tagovailoa into a bad throw that became his only interception of the season.
Fisher said if the coverage can hold a second longer, the pass rush will be there.
“We were bringing pressure, we’re almost getting there,” Fisher said. “But you’ve got to make sure that coverage stays locked up long enough so that quarterback just has to hold the ball a split second longer so you can get that hit.”
Despite the painful loss, A&M will have to look forward, as they now face a similar, and yet philosophically different, team. Unlike Alabama’s pass-first attack, Ole Miss is a team that leans heavily on the run, averaging 230 rushing yards per game. Led by senior tailback Scottie Phillips, the Rebels’ rushing attack has thrived on rushing from all angles, especially from the quarterback position.
This season, the Rebels rotate between two dual threat quarterbacks in true freshman John Rhys Plumlee and redshirt freshman Matt Corral. While Plumlee is the better running quarterback, having rushed for over 100 yards in his three starts this season, both are equally a threat.
Fisher said both quarterbacks provide Ole Miss with a dynamic offensive system.
“One can really throw it and run well, and the other one can really, really run,” Fisher said. “I mean, he’s fast, 4.4 or 4.5 fast. And they’re doing a good job of just putting together what they have to do. [They have] young backs, they can throw it, keep you spread, and go no huddle. They’re dynamic players.”
Despite a focus on the run, Ole Miss has several wideouts who have the ability to pop in any game. Sophomore wide receiver Elijah Moore carries the bulk of catches on the team with 44 receptions on the season, including two 100-yard receiving games against Missouri and No. 23 University of Cal, Berkeley.
Fisher said he sees Ole Miss’s offense as a balanced attack.
“You look, they’re still throwing a couple hundred yards a game and they make enough plays that way,” Fisher said. “That’s why I say they run to throw. Alabama throws to run. They’re backwards. Both of them have balance, and they both know how to throw it. They’ll do it, so I hope it will match up well.”
Kickoff between A&M and Ole Miss is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Mississippi. The game will be broadcast on the SEC Network.

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