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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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One step away
June 8, 2024

A&M football drops second-straight SEC matchup

Photo by Photo by Robert O’Brien

Junior wide receiver Jalen Preston being tackled by defenders.

Texas A&M football has continued to struggle to find its place in the SEC West.

A&M lost its second-straight SEC game on Saturday, Oct. 2, as Mississippi State and sophomore quarterback Will Rogers outgunned A&M 26-22 at Kyle Field. The Bulldogs dismantled A&M defensive coordinator Mike Elko’s secondary with 408 yards through the air to win their third game. 

A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher said his team is not playing at their best when it matters the most in crucial moments, adding that the coaches need to do a better job of helping the players. 

“We’ve got to play better in those games where every possession matters, every play matters and every situation matters,” Fisher said. “We’ve got to play better, execute, coach better and find ways to help [the players]. We’ve got to help them, and they’ve got to play better.”

Things got rocky when redshirt sophomore quarterback Zach Calzada’s pass was intercepted in A&M territory on just the second play of the game, leading to a Miss. St. field goal that gave the Bulldogs a 3-0 lead. 

But Calzada and junior running back Isaiah Spiller took back the lead with a five-play, 65-yard drive that ended with an 11-yard touchdown pass to junior tight end Jalen Wydermyer on a corner route. Spiller had a 44-yard scamper to set the offense up in the red zone.

Mississippi State fired back and scored its first touchdown of the night to go up 10-7, and the Aggies answered with two drives ending in field goals from senior kicker Seth Small to grab a 13-10 lead. A&M’s running game was the offense’s focal point in the first half, with Spiller and sophomore running back Devon Achane combining for 99 yards and averaging over 7.5 yards per carry at halftime. 

Achane said he and Spiller were glad to get the ground game back, attributing their success to the duo’s ability to not force anything that “wasn’t there.” 

“It felt pretty good to get the running game going,” Achane said. “I think we weren’t focused on making big runs, we were just taking what they were giving us.”

Meanwhile, Rogers, who came into Saturday with 11 touchdowns and only two interceptions, remained efficient by going 23-27 with 233 passing yards in the first half. He threw his second touchdown pass with just over a minute left in the second quarter and gave the Bulldogs a 17-13 advantage.

Miss. St. struck first in the second half with just under seven minutes left in the third quarter on another Rogers touchdown pass to junior receiver Makai Polk. The score capped a ten-play, 77-yard drive and gave the Bulldogs a two-possession lead at 24-13. The duo of Rogers and Polk was nearly unstoppable on Saturday, connecting 13 times for 126 yards and two scores. 

Fisher said the A&M secondary was too lax in man-to-man coverage and that Miss. St. was able to control the majority of the game by chewing up the clock, limiting A&M’s second-half scoring opportunities. 

“I think we gave up too many controlled drives and it ate so much clock,” Fisher said. “We only had four possessions in the second half … I think we’ve got to find a way to get some more three-and-outs, and we’ve got to play better man coverage.”

The A&M offense went three-and-out in its first drive of the second half, but Calzada regained his confidence through the air by completing four straight passes after Mississippi State’s scoring drive. Facing third down in Mississippi State territory, Calzada was flushed out of the pocket to his right where he then scrambled for a 25-yard touchdown run. However, a failed two-point conversion kept the score at 24-19 in favor of the Bulldogs. 

A&M was then gifted with a second missed field goal by freshman Miss. St. kicker Nolan McCord, keeping the Aggies within five points. On the first play of the ensuing A&M drive, Achane broke a tackle and took it 41 yards into Bulldog territory. But they were relegated to a Small field goal with just under six minutes remaining to make it a 24-22 score. 

The A&M offense managed to get the ball back with 2:19 left after a Mississippi State punt. Freshman defensive back Tyreek Chappell was one of the bright spots of A&M’s secondary as he led the team with four pass breakups, including one on third down that forced the punt. 

Sophomore defensive back Antonio Johnson said Chappell handled his duties well as a freshman playing outside cornerback in the SEC. 

“Tyreek made great plays tonight,” Johnson said. “They kept trying him, but he held his own.” 

But Calzada was sacked for a safety on the third play of A&M’s attempt to take a late lead. Rogers was able to kneel out the clock thereafter to secure the win and give the Aggies an 0-2 conference record. A&M is now 3-2 through five games this season. 

The Aggies will have to recover from Saturday’s loss fast with the Alabama Crimson Tide coming to College Station on Oct. 9. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Kyle Field, and the game will be broadcasted on on CBS.

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