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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 struggles in first half, excels after halftime

Photo by Photo by Megan Cusick

Senior Landis Durham made 3 assists against the Blazers.

The Texas A&M secondary struggled on Saturday night in the Aggies’ 41-20 win over University of Alabama-Birmingham.
Even while allowing over 300 yards in the air, A&M was able to limit the Blazers’ scoring by producing turnovers.
“It was a good solid game, but we need to play better,” A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher said. “We don’t need to give up that many yards and give up that many third down conversions. We need to keep learning to play the passes better.”
The Aggies allowed UAB to convert 10 third downs throughout the game — the most of any game this season.
With UAB starting quarterback A.J. Erdely out with a shoulder injury, the Aggies faced Tyler Johnston III in his third consecutive start for the Blazers. Coming into the game, the freshman totaled 504 yards, four touchdowns and five interceptions on the season, completing 54.7 percent of his passes.
Against A&M, Johnston added 306 passing yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions to those totals. Fisher said improvement is needed after what he saw in the secondary.
“Didn’t play very well,” Fisher said. “Didn’t cover well. Didn’t tackle well in space. We need to tackle better. We need to cover them tighter, and we need to get a better rush.”
In last week’s game against Ole Miss, the SEC’s leading passing offense, A&M’s secondary gave up 373 passing yards and a touchdown to quarterback Jordan Ta’amu. In Saturday’s game, the Aggies allowed over 300 yards and two touchdowns — this time to a Conference USA team.
In the first half, the Aggies’ allowed 193 passing yards, including a nine-yard touchdown caught by senior Andre Wilson early in the first half. UAB also had three passing plays of 25 yards or longer. Despite the yardage, A&M held the Blazers to only seven points, but UAB kicker Nick Vogel missed two important field goals that would’ve boosted the score.
Senior safety Donovan Wilson had the biggest defensive play of the first two frames when he intercepted Johnston at midfield near the end of the first half. The turnover lead to seven points for the Aggies and extended their lead to 17 points at the break.
“That’s one of my guys right there,” senior defensive end Landis Durham said of Wilson. “That’s a real greedy dude right there. I love playing next to him. He’s got really great leadership skills, and for this team he’s got a lot of guys doing what they’re supposed to do. He takes care of the secondary. I really admire the type of player and the type of guy he is.”
Early in the fourth quarter, senior DeShawn Capers-Smith snagged A&M’s second interception of the game. Fisher said he excited to see both Wilson and Capers-Smith come up with interceptions on senior night.
“Those two seniors got those two big picks,” Fisher said. “That was huge, and that was big by Dono at that time. We needed it big time.”
Junior safety Larry Pryor said he believes the turnovers were a result of the team’s preparation during the week.
“All week, coach harped on getting turnovers,” Pryor said. “He told us this game we were going to need to get about four turnovers. We almost did that, but all week that’s what we practiced on was getting turnovers and working hard at that.”
The Aggies showed some improvement in the second half, allowing one play of 25 yards or more in the air, while Johnston threw for just 113 yards and matched his interception with another touchdown to Wilson.
In the end, A&M got the job done with a double-digit win, but Fisher said there needs to be an overall change if the Aggies want to compete with LSU next weekend.
“[It will take] a great game,” he said. “We’ll have to look at the film, but we’ll have to play better in all three phases. That’s no disrespect to UAB, who’s a great team … but LSU is one of the top teams in the country. They’re as talented a football team across the board as anybody in America.”

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