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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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Texas A&M outfielder Jace Laviolette (17) robs a home run from Florida infielder Cade Kurland (4) in the top of the ninth inning during Texas A&M’s game against Florida at the NCAA Men’s College World Series at Charles Schwab Field in Omaha, Nebraska on Sunday, June 15, 2024. (Hannah Harrison/The Battalion)
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A&M’s offense has found identity, poise for South Carolina defense

The+Aggie+offense+has+rushed+for+1%2C214+yards+and+passed+for+1%2C477+yards+this+season.
Photo by FILE

The Aggie offense has rushed for 1,214 yards and passed for 1,477 yards this season.

Texas A&M’s offense has hit its stride with standout performances in back-to-back wins.

After putting up only a combined 32 points in its two losses to Arkansas and Mississippi State, A&M totaled 76 points in the following wins over Alabama and Missouri. The running game — led by junior running back Isaiah Spiller and sophomore running back Devon Achane — has been consistent and potent, while redshirt sophomore quarterback Zach Calzada built up more confidence. 

Head coach Jimbo Fisher said his offense had success against the Tigers because of both their ability to establish the ground game and finding a steady balance between running and passing as the contest unfolded.

“Offensively, we got the run game going,” Fisher said. “We are getting better, establishing the run and finding balance. [Calzada] had a couple bad throws, but also, we had a couple drops. There is still a lot of room for improvement.”

The duo of Spiller and Achane will have another opportunity to show off its talents against a South Carolina defense that ranks ninth in the SEC in rushing yards allowed per game. The Gamecocks’ aerial defense, however, is more formidable, allowing the third-least passing yards in the conference. The Aggies are 7-0 all-time against the Gamecocks, with the series dating back to 2014.

Fisher said it is extremely beneficial that Spiller’s and Achane’s styles can contrast with each other. This allows them to get adequate in-game rest while facing the level of physicality seen across the SEC.

“You can’t [have one player] carry it 35 to 40 times a game,” Fisher said. “You’ve got to have that diversity. You can’t have enough running backs because this league is physical. You’ve got to have multiple running backs — it’s critical.”

Fisher mentioned South Carolina defensive linemen Jordan Burch, former five-star recruit Zacch Pickens and Kingsley Enagbare as standout defenders who may cause problems for A&M. The visiting team’s defensive backs are also talented in various ways, Fisher said.  

“They are a tough opponent; their defensive numbers are outstanding,” Fisher said. “The guys inside are very good, the backers are solid, their corners are good and can run and their safeties can really hit and tackle. They are doing a really great job with their scheme on defense.”

The Gamecocks were winless in conference play until just days ago, defeating Vanderbilt 21-20 on a last-minute touchdown on Saturday, Oct. 16. However, Fisher said the Aggies can’t take them lightly and expects the 12th Man to help the team come game time. 

“Coming back home against South Carolina, they had a great win,” Fisher said. “For them to be able to come back at the end of the game was big. It’s great to be playing here, hopefully in front of a great crowd with the 12th Man, and we’ll get a great environment and atmosphere going again for a great SEC game.”

First-year South Carolina head coach Shane Beamer said A&M’s ground game with Spiller and Achane is effective because of their unique ability to wait for holes to open at the line of scrimmage and then burst through to the third level quickly. 

“[I’ve] got a ton of respect for Jimbo Fisher — one of the great coaches in all of college football,” Beamer said. “The two running backs are dynamic. [I’m] impressed watching their video, they’re just so patient running the football. If you get out of a gap against these guys it’s a 30-yard explosive run.”

Junior receiver Ainias Smith said Calzada has grown as a signal-caller and leader, and he’s put more trust in those around him. This has resulted in 433 passing yards and five touchdown throws in the last two weeks for the Sugar Hill, Ga., native. 

“Zach has definitely gained a lot of confidence,” Smith said. “He’s not relying on trying to do everything for everybody else. There’s great progression that Zach has shown, and he’s definitely come a long way.”

A&M and South Carolina are set to kick off on SEC Network at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 23.

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