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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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ANALYSIS: Spirited Mississippi State defense halts lackluster A&M offense

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Photo by Photo by Hanna Hausman

Freshman quarterback Kellen Mond is sacked for a loss in yards.

Coming into the game, Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin knew that the Aggies would have their hands full against a stout Mississippi State defense that ranked No. 8 in the FBS in yards allowed.
“Defensively, [Mississippi State defensive coordinator] Todd Grantham is as respected a coordinator as you’ll find. They’re big and athletic up front. They always have good team speed. It’ll be a big challenge for us,” A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin said at Tuesday’s press conference.
In order for the Aggies to overcome the State front, they knew that they would need to lean on freshman quarterback Kellen Mond to make throws down the field, as State was likely to try to stack the box and neutralize their run game.
“They know that we can run the ball and they know that our quarterback can run the ball so they’re going to stack the box and play man to pressure our young quarterback to make plays on the perimeter,” sophomore running back Trayveon Williams said at Tuesday’s press conference.
Mond, however, struggled to develop any kind of rhythm Saturday night against a stout State defense, particularly in the opening minutes of the game as he was under pressure and didn’t have the time or space to create plays with his legs. Mond has found success using his speed to move the chains this season, rushing 74 times for 286 yards prior to Saturday’s game.
State was well aware of the dangers that Mond posed on the ground and thus rushed at least four guys the majority of the game. The top area of concern for State was Mond’s legs, which was emphasized the week of practice leading up to the game.
“Our main focus was keeping the quarterback in the pocket and not letting him run down the field,” junior defensive lineman Montez Sweat said.
The State defensive front was able to execute their gameplan, shedding the A&M offensive line with ease and putting Mond on his heels.
“They brought some fronts that we weren’t expecting to see as much of,” A&M right guard Connor Lanfear said. “It took us a little bit to adjust to that and get the correct people blocked.”
After forcing the Aggies to punt in each of the first four drives, Mississippi State got their first turnover with 5:04 remaining in the second quarter as junior defensive back Mark McLaurin picked off a pass from Mond that ricocheted off of freshman receiver Jhamon Ausbon’s hands and hung in the air.
“I was just doing my assignment. Coach always says ‘if you run to the ball good things will happen and the ball fell in my hands,’” McLaurin said.
The interception may have brought back bad memories for the Aggies as McLaurin had a similar interception in the two teams’ game last season. State then marched down the field and converted the turnover into a touchdown.
A&M then attempted to lean more on their run game, calling several outside run plays that proved fruitless as State linebacker Leo Lewis quick to get around the edge and get to the running back. Lewis finished the game with a team-high eight tackles.
State’s defense was robust in the first half, limiting A&M to a season-low 33 yards of total offense in the half.
“We executed at a very high level in the first half, defensively, not letting them get any rhythm going,” Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen said.
With the exception of two long drives, the Bulldogs continued their stout defense in the second half, forcing three three-and-outs and grabbing two interceptions.
The first interception of the second half was very similar to the one in the first half: a deflection that bounced off the hands of an A&M receiver, this time Damion Ratley, and was snatched out of the air by a State defensive back.
“We always do the tip drill on Thursdays in practice and tonight the tip drill took place on the field.” McLaurin said.
The second came in the fourth quarter when redshirt quarterback Nick Starkel attempted to throw a deep ball that was returned for a 90-yard touchdown.
One of just two scars on the night for the State defense came at the end of the third quarter as Mond was able to evade several tackles for a 33-yard run that set the Aggies up in prime scoring position. The only other mistake was a 70-yard A&M touchdown on a perfectly placed throw from Starkel.
Aside from these two plays, the State defense made the A&M offense look feeble.
The strong Mississippi State front overpowered the A&M offense, limiting them to just 3.4 yards per carry and a 39 percent completion percentage through the air. A&M running backs Trayveon Williams and Keith Ford were virtual non-factors, combining for just 57 yards on 18 carries. The State secondary was also lockdown, forcing the two freshmen quarterbacks to make very difficult throws, and capitalizing when the quarterbacks missed their mark.
The Aggies will look to revamp this week before hosting an Auburn team that put up 49 points against the State defense that just gave the Aggies headaches.
“We’re going to come back tomorrow, have a good week of practice and fix what needs to be fixed,” Lanfear said.

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