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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 seeks redemption in final home matchup

Jalen+Wydermyer%2C+Isaiah+Spiller%2C+Chase+Lane%2C+Caleb+Chapman+and+other+players+on+the+offense+preparing+before+a+game.
Photo by Photo by Robert O’Brien

Jalen Wydermyer, Isaiah Spiller, Chase Lane, Caleb Chapman and other players on the offense preparing before a game.

After watching the slim chance to sneak into the College Football Playoff vanish on the road after falling to Ole Miss, the Aggies are looking to finish strong at Kyle Field.
On Saturday, Nov. 20, the No. 16 Texas Aggies will host Prairie View A&M in the maroon and white’s final home game of the season. The matchup will serve as Texas A&M’s annual “Maroon Out” game, in which the school encourages students and fans to pack the stands decked out in Aggie maroon.
This will be A&M’s second matchup with Prairie View in the schools’ histories. The inaugural showdown occurred in 2016, when the Aggies dominated the Panthers at home to the tune of 67-0.
The Panthers are the first and only Football Championship Subdivision opponent on the Aggies’ 2021 slate. Although FCS teams are usually heavy underdogs when facing Football Bowl Subdivision teams, that assumption has been less of a guarantee in the 2021 season. In the first 11 weeks of the season, 12 FCS schools have pulled off upsets against FBS squads, tied for the total number of such outcomes in the three previous seasons combined.
In the Monday, Nov. 15 press conference, A&M coach Jimbo Fisher said the team needs to prepare for “faceless opponents,” meaning the Aggies should practice with the same intensity every week, regardless of their upcoming opposition.
“[Prairie View] does a very good job,” Fisher said. “You’ve got to play [the same way] all the time, anywhere. Especially with the transfer portals, there’s guys at this level of football that are [FBS]-level players that left for different reasons. There’s players everywhere.”
Fisher’s caution is warranted, as the Panthers have carved out an impressive resume in 2021. They will enter Kyle Field with a 7-2 record, their best start since the 2015 season. They also boast a 6-1 record in the Southwestern Athletic Conference, placing them first in the SWAC West.
Senior quarterback Jawon Pass has dominated on both facets of the Panthers’ offense, passing for 16 touchdowns and rushing for four. The Panthers have also formed a punishing duo at running back, as freshman Jaden Stewart and senior Lyndemian Brooks have combined for 963 yards and nine scores on the ground.
Prairie View also has a stout defense, allowing the third-fewest points per game in the SWAC, at 23.6.
On Monday, Nov. 15, Prairie View coach Eric Dooley said his players are excited for the opportunity to compete against A&M and showcase their talent on a large stage like Kyle Field.
“It’s a constant grind,” Dooley said. “I don’t believe in a ‘season’ getting better; I think you get better everyday, and that’s what we set out to do. It’s going to be great for our guys to have this opportunity.”
The Aggies enter the weekend with a 7-3 record overall and a 4-3 record in the Southeastern Conference. Last week, they saw their four-game win streak come to an end in a 29-19 loss to No. 10 Ole Miss in Oxford, Miss., on Saturday, Nov. 13.
Fisher said the loss was the result of unforced errors from the Aggies on both sides of the ball. Despite those inconsistencies, he said he was proud of the team’s ability to fight for the full 60 minutes.
“It was encouraging to get ourselves back [in the game],” Fisher said. “It was disappointing that we didn’t keep the poise and execute in those critical moments … We had our opportunities, but we just didn’t play well enough in that game.”
Redshirt sophomore quarterback Zach Calzada has led the passing game for the Aggies for a majority of the season. He has thrown for 1,793 yards, 12 touchdowns and nine interceptions. His two favorite targets, junior tight end Jalen Wydermyer and junior wide receiver Ainias Smith, have accounted for a combined 942 yards and 10 scores.
A&M balances its passing attack with a running back duo of its own, as junior Isaiah Spiller and sophomore Devon Achane have given defensive coordinators fits all season. Spiller has rushed for 914 yards and five touchdowns while Achane has totaled 816 yards and seven house calls.
The Aggies balance their offense with a defense that terrorizes opposing quarterbacks. The team has rattled off 29 sacks in its first 10 contests, good for fifth in the SEC. Senior defensive lineman Tyree Johnson has led the charge, accounting for eight sacks. Junior defensive lineman DeMarvin Leal is also frequently in the mix, with 6.5 sacks to his name.
The squad also has playmakers in the secondary, as senior safety Leon O’Neal Jr. and sophomore cornerback Jaylon Jones each have two interceptions.
On Monday, Leal said the atmosphere at Kyle Field is special, and the team is excited for the opportunity to compete for one final win this season at its beloved stadium.
“I definitely feel like it will be very emotional,” Leal said. ”Our first time playing at Kyle Field was crazy, and the last is supposed to be [even more] memorable. I’m ready for this game and to have fun with it.”

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