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

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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June 8, 2024

A&M’s offense prepared to bounce back

Photo by Photo by Robert O’Brien

The Texas A&M offense has reached the light at the end of the tunnel: their last non-conference game.

Texas’ two oldest public universities will face off for just the second time in their football programs’ histories

A struggling Texas A&M offense will get an opportunity to right the ship against a lower-level opponent. Of all the teams in the Football Championship Subdivision, or FCS, Prairie View A&M is one of the tougher to face.

Before its loss to Alcorn State on Nov. 13, Prairie View was ranked 24th in the FCS by the STATS poll. The Panthers dropped out after their 31-29 loss, but still sit just outside the top 25.

“This team is 7-2,” A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher said. “I’m telling you, Prairie View is a very good team. Their coaches, offensive and defensive coordinators have been together on two [historically Black college and university championship teams] at Arkansas Pine Bluff and Southern.”

In a similar vein, Texas A&M was hovering just outside the top 10 heading into Week 11. A 19-29 loss to Ole Miss dropped the 7-3 Aggies down the AP rankings. The team will look to solve the offensive woes in the final home game of the season against a Panthers team equally aspiring for a bounce-back win.

“Every game is the exact same with its own merit,” sophomore punter Nik Constantinou said. “It’s a little bit more special with regard to the Senior Day.”

Since the A&M offense’s four-touchdown outing against South Carolina in Week 8, the team has scored just one offensive touchdown across two games. Between Weeks 6-8, the offense was averaging 40 points per game; since then, that average sits at just under 20 points per game.

A&M’s passing game has been a large contributor to the ebbs and flows. Redshirt sophomore quarterback Zach Calzada has had special moments throughout the season, but has struggled with inconsistency. He has thrown an interception in all but two games this season and has only completed more than 60% of his passes in a game once. With the lowest completion percentage and second-lowest passer rating in the conference, Calzada needs to find his rhythm again in order to finish the year on a winning streak.

The one aspect of A&M’s offense that has remained consistent is the running game. Running backs junior Isaiah Spiller and sophomore Devon Achane have combined for 10 different 100-yard games and have punched in 12 touchdowns on the ground. The Aggies average over 186 rushing yards per game, only 23 less yards per game than through the air.

“Having two versatile backs, really just having a versatile offense, you can do a lot with your weapons,” junior wide receiver Ainias Smith said. “It’s definitely needed. Definitely something that we’re very thankful for.”

Prairie View’s defense has been one of the teams’ strengths this year. Allowing only 103.6 yards per game on the ground, the Panthers are 15th in the FCS in rush defense. They’ve been equally impressive in pass coverage, giving up just 176.6 yards in the air, the 13th best mark in the FCS. 

Junior defensive back Jamias Presley, a transfer from Jacksonville State, has looked like one of the better coverage players in the Southwestern Athletic Conference with 11 pass breakups, 10th highest mark in the whole FCS. Senior safety Drake Cheatum is 11th in the FCS in interceptions as well with four interceptions in nine games.

The Aggies have had trouble putting points on the board lately. They have a chance this week to turn things around in front of their home crowd, but if they underestimate their opponent, their struggles may continue.

“You respect your opponents, you prepare for your opponents, but you play to your standards,” Fisher said. “You play to your level of how you got to play, which is something we had really done for four straight weeks.”

Kickoff at Kyle Field will take place at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 20.

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