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The Battalion

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A&M’s offense is ready to battle Arkansas at Jerry World

Junior+RB+Devon+Achane+%286%29+attempts+to+stiff+arm+Miami+DB+James+Williams+%280%29+as+Williams+grabs+onto+Achanes+face+mask+during+Texas+A%26amp%3BMs+game+against+Miami+at+Kyle+Field+on+Saturday%2C+Sept.+17%2C+2022.
Photo by Ishika Samant

Junior RB Devon Achane (6) attempts to stiff arm Miami DB James Williams (0) as Williams grabs onto Achane’s face mask during Texas A&M’s game against Miami at Kyle Field on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022.

Saturday, Sept. 24’s game against 3-0 No. 10 Arkansas at AT&T Stadium in Arlington marks the start of SEC play for 2-1 No. 23 Texas A&M. Early on in the season, A&M’s offense has been out-performed by its defense. A&M’s matchup against Arkansas gives the team an opportunity to try to build some momentum behind new junior starting quarterback Max Johnson.

Last week against then-No. 13 Miami, A&M’s offensive production largely came from junior running back Devon Achane and senior wide receiver Ainias Smith. It didn’t help that the wide receiving corps was particularly thin due to talented freshmen receivers Evan Stewart and Chris Marshall missing the game due to violations of team rules. Both are expected to return against Arkansas.

Otherwise, the Aggies got solid production from Johnson, but the offense will need to be better because the SEC touts a number of talented programs. One such team just happens to be the Razorbacks. 

Arkansas’ defense hasn’t been great to start the season. The unit has given up at least 24 points in each of its first three games. Last week, Arkansas struggled to pull away from a pesky Missouri State team, but went on to win 38-27.

The majority of the damage against Arkansas has been done through the air, with the defense having allowed 300 yards passing in three consecutive games. To win on Saturday, A&M will need to be successful throwing the ball.

The Razorback defense has had success getting to the quarterback, with 17 sacks through three games. Junior linebacker Drew Sanders leads the team with 5.5 sacks.

While pleased overall with the offense’s performance, coach Jimbo Fisher still feels like the unit has more room for improvement.

“[We’ve] got to get better on offense [and] continue to run the ball,” Fisher said. “I thought the offensive line got better in the game, played more [physically] up front at times. Moved people, created some great running lanes. The running game got better, [giving] Achane some time to go. We’ve got to clean up some pass blocking and we’ve got [to] clean up our routes in our passing game and get the ball down the field a little more.”

In regards to Johnson, Fisher said the new quarterback controlled the game and converted a couple of important third downs against Miami.

“I think [Johnson] managed the game,” Fisher said. “The game wasn’t too big. He made good third-down throws. He led us, had good poise and played a very solid game … he’s developing, and I love his attitude and demeanor.”

Arkansas coach Sam Pittman has noted Achane and Smith as the two players its defense needs to key in on.

“[We] have to stop [Nos.] 6 and 0 on offense,” Pittman said. “It’s hard to do. Achane is really fast. Smith is dangerous running the ball, catching the ball and obviously on punt returns. Achane [is also dangerous] on kick returns.”  

Overall, A&M’s offense feels like it’s ready to open its conference schedule, and is preparing to go to battle against some formidable teams for seven straight weeks, not including the bye week, from this Arkansas matchup on Sept. 24 to Auburn on Nov. 12.

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