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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 offense looks to bounce back against Mississippi State in SEC home opener

Photo by FILE

After a less than perfect performance against Arkansas, the A&M offense is looking to put their troubles behind them as they face off against Mississippi State.

After swallowing its first loss of the 2021 campaign, the No. 15 Texas A&M football squad’s offensive line is looking for redemption.

On Saturday, Oct. 2, the Aggies will take on the Mississippi State Bulldogs at Kyle Field, the first at-home SEC contest of the season. While MSU head coach Mike Leach is famous for his aggressive spread offense, his defense has played with intensity throughout the first third of the season. The Bulldogs have given up a pedestrian 26 points per game, but the team has forced at least one interception in each of its first four contests.

In Monday’s weekly press conference, A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher said the Aggies must respect Mississippi State’s talented defense to avoid facing a two-game losing streak heading into the matchup against No. 1 Alabama on Oct. 9.

“Mississippi State is playing outstanding defense right now,” Fisher said. “They are experienced; they’re physical up front. Their front seven is very physical and their secondary has athletic corners that are long and big.”

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A&M redshirt sophomore quarterback Zach Calzada finished the weekend going 20-for-36 for 151 yards and an interception. He averaged just 4.2 yards per completion and owns the lowest overall completion rate in the SEC, at 52.78 percent.

Calzada’s lone pick of the week, which was deflected off the helmet of an offensive lineman, came at a costly time, as the Aggies were down 17-10 and attempting to tie the score early in the fourth quarter. The turnover helped the Razorbacks to make it a 10-point game and allowed them to drain the clock.

Calzada started his second career game on Saturday, Sept. 25, after redshirt freshman Haynes King missed his second-straight game with a leg injury. 

Fisher said the team needs to put the young passer in more favorable situations.

“We’ve got to play better around him,” Fisher said. “Zach’s a new guy. We have more experienced backs, receivers, tight ends and all that. We have to play better around him.”

The running back duo of junior Isaiah Spiller and sophomore Devon Achane was also held at bay, with neither back surpassing 100 yards for the second time this season. Spiller’s 67-yard touchdown run in the third quarter gave the Aggies momentum on which they later failed to capitalize.

These key offensive rushers for the Aggies will need to key an eye on a few specific Mississippi State players. The Bulldogs’ defense is led by sophomore cornerback Emmanuel Forbes, who has compiled two pass breakups, two interceptions and a sack during the team’s first four games. Junior defensive end Randy Charlton and senior defensive end Aaron Odom have also stood out, with each pass rusher recording two sacks in the season thus far.

A&M junior receiver and running back Ainias Smith finished the game with just two receptions for 35 yards in the loss. In Monday’s press conference, Smith said the team needs to adjust its mentality during practice to generate better results on game days.

“You always go into [the season] with an expectation that you’re going to do big things, especially with the great players that we have,” Smith said. “We just need to raise our standards to another level, obviously higher than what they were, and we have to demand those standards.”

Mississippi State enters this weekend with a 2-2 record in the 2021 crusade. After starting the season 2-0, the Bulldogs faced two weeks of heartbreak, dropping games against Memphis and LSU by a combined five points.

As both teams look to recover after recent difficulties in their seasons, the A&M offense will need to play aggressively to overcome the physicality of the Mississippi State defense.

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