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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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A&M defense rides slippery slope against Appalachian State

Sophomore+DB+Jardin+Gilbert+%2820%29+walks+across+the+field+at+Kyle+Field+on+Saturday%2C+Sep.+10%2C+2022.
Photo by Photo by Cameron Johnson

Sophomore DB Jardin Gilbert (20) walks across the field at Kyle Field on Saturday, Sep. 10, 2022.

On Saturday, Sept. 10, Texas A&M faced Appalachian State in a defensive standoff laden with fumbles, sacks and fourth down conversions — all not in favor of the maroon and white. However, despite the 17-14 loss, the Aggie defense fought hard until the very end.
The A&M defense faced a decisive redshirt senior quarterback in Chase Brice. The Mountaineers made use of nine different receivers throughout the game and totaled 134 passing yards and one passing touchdown. Brice and the App State offense made four attempts on fourth down and completed three. In addition to the aggressive tactics by the Mountaineers, in a shift from normal results the defense held most of the Aggie penalties with face masks, pass interferences and offsides.
“When you get penalties, whether you hold, grab, or do something, it’s because you’ve gotten
your body out of position and you’re extending and pulling and that’s kind of what happens,” coach Jimbo Fisher said. “We’ve got to do a better job on technique, and that’s on us as coaches to get our guys to understand how to [do] that.”
In a shift of results from the Sam Houston State shutout on Sept. 3, the Aggie defensive line managed to push through the App State offensive line to rush Brice in the pocket. By the end of the first half, the maroon and white held four quarterback hurries — awarded when a quarterback is forced to throw the ball earlier than intended or is chased around/out of the pocket as a result of defensive pressure, according to Pro-Football-Reference.com. However, A&M’s first sack of the game did not occur until early in the second half from senior linebacker Chris Russell Jr. and sophomore defensive lineman Shemar Turner.
Questions about the defensive roster remained as both junior defensive back Jaylon Jones and freshman defensive lineman and five star recruit Walter Nolen were out of play. They were quickly answered by the standout performance of freshman defensive lineman Tonmise Adeleye who landed five total tackles, four solo and accounted for three quarterback hurries.
“We depend on a lot of young guys to play,” junior defensive back Antonio Johnson said when asked about the freshmen’s role on the team. “First week, okay. Freshman mistake. Second week, okay. Now you’ve been playing for a while now. It’s just one of those things as just playing ball. Like, when you’re on that field, they don’t care if you’re a freshman or not. They don’t care if you’re an older guy or not. You’re a ballplayer. Everybody out there is to do their job, make their assignment.
The third quarter became a slippery slope for the maroon and white defense following a fumble recovered by App State. Missed tackles and blown coverage led to Brice and the Mountaineers driving down the field for another touchdown to put them up 14-7. While the run game remained locked, A&M’s defense continued to struggle against play-action passes with a 21-yard catch from Mountaineer redshirt sophomore wide receiver Dashaun Davis and a 9-yard touchdown from senior tight end Henry Pearson.
“That freshman mentality, we just have to kick that out the window and treat everybody as equal, which we do already,” Johnson said. “But there’s more [to] it. Make sure everybody know their assignments. Make sure everybody know what their purpose is and why they’re out there, and we can just all execute.”
Revived by a 95-yard punt return from junior running back Devon Achane, the Aggie defense returned to the field for the fourth quarter with a renewed spirit to hold the line. During which, the Aggies pressured a fumble that was ultimately recovered by App State. The showdown continued on A&M’s 15 yard line as Brice and the Mountaineer offense tried to reach the endzone for a third time. A&M walled them out resulting in only a 3-yard gain and a dropped pass, forcing App State to take the field goal.
“We have a standard, no matter what happened the play before, the next play is the most important play,” Johnson said. “And even if they get down the field, we refuse to let them get in the end zone. And if they do get in the end zone, they’re not going to get in the end zone again. And this is how we roll as a defense.”
The last few minutes of the game showed what the rest of the match had already proved, A&M offense came in and went right back out, and App State dominated the possession. With the Aggies only holding the ball for 18:31 of the hour-long match, there was only so much the A&M defense could do before they were exhausted to their limits: a team can only get so close to the peak on will alone. As strong as the first half looked for the A&M defense, without the kickstart on the offense that stalled. The four quarterback hurries from the early half of the game remained the only ones of the game.
Despite the results against App State, A&M looks to keep their head up going into its first ranked matchup against the Miami Hurricanes. According to Fisher, the team plans to spend the week reevaluating what needs to be done and shifted before the matchup and working hard to fix the mistakes they made on all three sides of the ball.
“Right now is the time to come together,” Fisher said. “Right now is the time to go back to fundamentals, and believe in each other. There’s a lot of football left, a lot of seasons we’ve been together. Just because you lost one game, you’ve got to put it behind you, you can’t let one become two. You’ve got to look in what you have, go back to the fundamentals and trust in each other … Every detail matters. Hopefully, we can understand that and do a better job coaching.”

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