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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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The BattalionMay 4, 2024

A&M turns the page against ULM after a Week 2 loss

Graduate+WR+Ainias+Smith+%280%29+returns+a+punt+during+a+game+vs.+New+Mexico+on+Saturday%2C+Sept.+2%2C+2023.
Photo by Photo by Kyle Heise

Graduate WR Ainias Smith (0) returns a punt during a game vs. New Mexico on Saturday, Sept. 2, 2023.

Expectations around the Texas A&M program are different than they were a week ago.
After last week’s 48-33 defeat to Miami, the Aggies have one more non-conference matchup before conference play, with the focus being on Louisiana-Monroe in Week 3.
“There’s some things we have to clean up and after two games of the year, it’s going to be very important we make those transitions and corrections very quickly,” coach Jimbo Fisher said. “We move on with the rest of our schedule.”
Fifth-year wide receiver Ainias Smith said he is taking the loss to Miami personally and that other players are as well.
“I’m gonna make sure that we don’t let that happen again,” Smith said. “The way that my mentality is on winning, I’m a winner, I want to win and I’m gonna make sure that everybody around me has the same mentality.”
The Aggies appear to match up well against the Warhawks. Louisiana-Monroe comes into the third week 2-0 after a 17-13 victory over Army in the opener and a 24-14 win over Lamar last week.
Through two games, ULM has relied on the rushing attack with sophomore running back Hunter Smith and graduate running back Isaiah Woullard. Both backs combined for 163 and 217 yards rushing in the first two games, respectively.
Fortunately for A&M, the rush defense has looked solid throughout the first two weeks, holding New Mexico to 89 yards on the ground and Miami to 77 yards. The soft spot of the Aggies’ defense has been defending the pass. The Hurricanes exploited this last weekend, throwing for 374 yards and five touchdowns.
Smith said he is confident that the Aggies can get their defensive woes cleaned up.
“I know they’re going to come stronger than ever, they always bounce back from tough days during practice,” Smith said. “We have some real good leaders on our defensive side and I know we’re going to get those guys right.”
The Warhawks have failed to eclipse over 100 yards through the air in their first two games. Graduate quarterback Jiya Wright started against Army while sophomore quarterback Hunter Herring started against Lamar. It is unclear who will take the first snap come Saturday afternoon.
Whoever is taking the snaps may lean on sixth-year wide receiver Tyrone Howell, who leads the team in receiving with 137 yards and a touchdown grab on the season.
The defensive side of the ball has been the bright spot of the Warhawks’ season thus far, giving up 27 points. The unit has been balanced, allowing only one touchdown through the air and one touchdown on the ground.
“Defensively, they’re unorthodox,” Fisher said. “They play a lot of different fronts, mix guys, you’ll see one of their backers come and play safety, mixing coverages, different looks up front, stunts inside a lot, bring a lot of pressures, create double legal fronts and they mix their coverages very well.”
Smith knows that they had broken plays during the Miami game that it could have made, he said, but still being able to provide an efficient offense still leaves them with confidence.
“The fact that we were still able to score 33 points, even after some of the things that were happening throughout the course of the game, that just shows our resiliency, being able to still go even when things aren’t going right,” Smith said. “[We’re] still going to have to do the exact same thing that we’ve been doing in practice and go even harder at it.”
Despite matching up well against the Warhawks, Fisher said he believes the Aggies have a challenge on hand this weekend.
“You say dominate a game, but this team’s a good team,” Fisher said. “We want to dominate everybody we play but that can be tough at times.”
After the Miami game, Smith said the locker room was tense.
“The only thing that can take that tension out of the locker room is going out there and practicing and making sure we go home on Saturday just releasing all that negative energy,” Smith said.
On many football teams, the quarterback is looked at as the leader of the team. Sophomore Conner Weigman is looked upon as a leader by his teammates, Smith said.
“He cares, he wants to win, he tries to bring everybody along with him and he’s gonna go hard no matter how he feels,” Smith said. “This loss, I know, is going to push him to make sure that everybody around him goes even harder. I know he’s going to push me.”
The Aggies will need to be focused on beating the Warhawks first as they come to Kyle Field for a 3 p.m. matchup on Saturday, Sept. 16.

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