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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’s defense takes on run-oriented Minutemen

Photo by Robert O’Brien

Senior DB Demani Richardson (26) takes the field before Texas A&M’s game against Florida at Kyle Field on Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022.\

Texas A&M football has reached that point of the season where they can sit back, relax and enjoy a nice cup of independent football and take a break from the torture and abuse SEC football has been handing it the past seven weeks. 

On Nov. 19, the University of Massachusetts Minutemen will march onto a field that is similar in appearance to its own, however, lacks the size and magnitude of the opposing fan base. 

Massachusetts sits last out of independent schools with a 1-9 record and, coincidentally, has not held a lead for at least a minute in its past seven games. 

Is this a game that the A&M defensive coordinator DJ Durkin should take lightly, or a matchup that he should take advantage of and straighten out the numerous kinks that have been haunting the defense all season?

This Massachusetts offense is controlled by offensive coordinator Steve Casula who is best described as an individual with an analytical mind and calls a run-heavy offense. Casula was an offensive analyst at the University of Michigan for three years under a system that averaged over 200 yards rushing per game in his last season and earned a spot in the College Football Playoffs for the first time in the school’s history. 

Similar to the Aggies, the Minutemen are down to their third quarterback of the season. Sophomore quarterback Brady Olson is on his fifth game as quarterback and has been struggling to dig this Massachusetts team out of a hole. Olson has completed 51.4% of his passes out of 107 attempts and has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns with two and six, respectively. However, Olson is reportedly dealing with a head injury and is uncertain for the game against A&M, meaning redshirt sophomore Garrett Dzuro may be in line to play.

Unfortunately for A&M, this is not their game plan and hasn’t been all season. Casula loves the run, and it shows in the stat sheet as he has called runs on 448 out of the 677 total plays on offense this season.

Senior running back Ellis Merriweather has taken the majority of the snaps at the tailback position and leads the team in rushing yards with 479. The Georgia native had a season-high performance last week against Arkansas State as he rushed for 122 yards on 29 attempts and brought home two touchdowns. 

The Minutemen should be clicking their heels together in excitement, as they will compete against a defense that has given up, on average, 220.6 rushing yards per game. Durkin’s defense has continued to struggle against opposing rushers all season and has yet to find the answer for stopping the run.

With bowl contention now out of reach, this A&M defense now has nothing to lose heading into its last two games of the regular season. 

“I feel like we’re just playing for our names,” senior safety Demani Richardson said. “We’re competitors.”

In terms of who is available to play and who isn’t come game time, that has yet to be released as A&M coach Jimbo Fisher said everyone injured is listed as “day-to-day.”

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