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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 offense looks to expose South Carolina defense

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Sophomore WR Evan Stewart (1) scores a touchdown during the Southwest Classic against Arkansas on Saturday, Sept. 30, 2023. (Ishika Samant/The Battalion)

After disappointing showings against Alabama and Tennessee in its last two matchups, Texas A&M football’s offense returns after a bye week to face South Carolina in a matchup that —- on paper —- looks favorable to the Aggies.
It’s generous to describe the Gamecocks’ defense as leaky. South Carolina is giving up an average of just over 446 yards a game and just under 32 points a game and sit at last and second-to-last in each category.
That’s not to say the Aggies will be able to take a casual stroll through the Gamecocks’ side of the field. There have been flashes of brilliance defensively from South Carolina, including holding No. 1 Georgia to 24 points, and three members of the Garnet and Black — freshman and sophomore defensive backs Jalon Kilgore and D.Q. Smith and junior linebacker Debo Williams fall in the top ten of SEC players in total tackles, respectively.
But those performances have come amidst a series of embarrassing defensive efforts in the past few weeks, conceding an average of 36.5 points to the likes of Mississippi State, Tennessee, Florida and Missouri in their past four games.
South Carolina’s greatest vulnerability is its secondary. The Gamecocks rank dead last in the SEC in terms of passing defense, giving up an average of 304 yards a game through the air.
But games aren’t played on paper, and exploiting that vulnerability is also where A&M must be the most careful. Careless mistakes and turnovers are the reason the Aggies are on a two-game skid, and sophomore quarterback Max Johnson has thrown four interceptions in the past four games since taking over the starting job after sophomore Connor Weigman’s injury.
In Johnson’s defense, a good amount of the mistakes he has made can be blamed on defense pressure, especially considering his last two starts have come against the teams forcing the second and third-most sacks in the SEC.
That’s another area that South Carolina has struggled in, ranking 12th in the conference in that category, which should make things easier for Johnson and the Aggies’ offensive line. But avoiding turnovers at all costs will still need to be a crucial focus for the A&M offense this week.
The Gamecocks, for their part, have six players who have an interception so far this year, and their -1 turnover margin can be blamed more on their offense than their defensive performance.
If everything goes according to plan, A&M’s wide receiver corps led by graduate Ainias Smith and sophomore Evan Stewart — who are tied for 13th in the SEC in receiving yards, each with 451 — should be in for a field day on Saturday.
But this is a South Carolina defense that has had a tendency to go hot and cold this year. All it takes is a few mistakes, a few good plays and a little bit of luck for any defense to catch fire. It’ll be on the Aggies to make sure that doesn’t happen against the Gamecocks.

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About the Contributor
Ian Curtis
Ian Curtis, Sports Reporter
Ian Curtis is a journalism freshman from College Station, Texas. Ian has written about football, men's basketball, women's basketball, baseball, hockey, gymnastics, volleyball and more for The Battalion. Ian's work has also appeared in The Bryan-College Station Eagle and over the airwaves on WTAW and BCSball.com. 
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