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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 looks to slow down Alabama’s passing attack

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Photo by FILE

With the third SEC matchup for the Aggies set for Saturday, Oct. 9, the Aggies will be tested defensively against a strong Alabama running and passing game. 

Coming off another disappointing loss, the Aggies have their work cut out for them.
After a 26-22 home loss to Mississippi State that moved Texas A&M to 0-2 in SEC play, the freshly unranked squad is tasked with stifling the top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide on Saturday, Oct. 9.
This game will be the 10th installment of the A&M-Alabama rivalry since the Aggies joined the SEC in 2012. In this span, the Crimson Tide boasts an 8-1 record in the series. The Aggies have surrendered an average of 41.8 points per game in the annual meeting, by far their highest among yearly SEC opponents. A&M’s 52-24 defeat in Tuscaloosa in 2020 was its lone loss of the season and was largely responsible for the team’s exclusion from the College Football Playoff.
This year, the squads enter the matchup with varying backgrounds. Alabama is sporting a 5-0 record, including wins against three ranked opponents. In those three wins, the Tide averaged an 18-point margin of victory.
Alabama’s offense is led by sophomore quarterback Bryce Young. The California native has emerged as a Heisman favorite, tossing 17 touchdown passes, the most in the SEC, and just two interceptions through five games. Junior wide receivers Jameson Williams and John Metchie III have been his favorite targets, combining for 639 receiving yards and five touchdowns.
The Tide’s electric passing game is complemented by a bruising running back committee. Senior running back Brian Robinson Jr. has led the way with 379 yards and six scores, but sophomores Jase McClellan and Roydell Williams have picked up the slack, combining for 345 yards and two house calls.
Last week, Alabama dismantled the No. 12 Ole Miss Rebels at home, winning 42-21. In the win, the squad leaned heavily on its running game, as Robinson tallied 171 yards and four touchdowns on 36 carries.
After the win, Alabama head coach Nick Saban said his offense emphasized the run to combat Ole Miss’ strong pass defense and that the team would not continue to stress the ground game to that degree going forward.
“[Running the ball] is not really the personality of this offense,” Saban said after defeating Ole Miss. “It’s not really how we want to play, it’s not how we’ve played all year and it’s not going to be the style that we continue to play with. We have to do things to win the game, and playing the offense that we played today was how to win the game.”
A&M enters the weekend after a humbling end to September. After starting the season 3-0, the Aggies suffered two straight losses to Arkansas and Miss. St. In the skid, their defense has looked lethargic, specifically against the Miss. St. Air Raid offense.
Against the Bulldogs, the Aggies surrendered season highs in completions at 46, passing yards at 408 and three passing touchdowns. While the Aggies recorded three sacks, two from junior defensive lineman DeMarvin Leal and one from senior defensive lineman Michael Clemons, the pass rush was underwhelming given that Miss. St. finished with just 30 yards on the ground.
In the Monday, Oct. 4 press conference, A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher said the team needed to get more pressure on the quarter back to stop big plays before they started.
“We’ve gotta find ways to get a better pass rush,” Fisher said. “We brought pressure at times and didn’t get there. They blocked us pretty well … but we’ve gotta find ways to get more pressure and mix it up.”
Sophomore defensive back Antonio Johnson said the secondary needs to do a better job in coverage to allow the defensive linemen to generate pressure against the Bulldogs.
“We knew we were going to have to cover longer,” Johnson said. “We knew that [the defensive line] would do its best to get to the quarterback and throw off his timing. They did a good job, we just have to do our part on the back end.”
Johnson leads the team with 41 season tackles. Leal and senior linebacker Aaron Hansford have also been disruptive, combining for 58 total stops.
The Aggies will need to generate consistent pressure to keep Young from airing the ball out. The Tide has tallied 27 total touchdowns in its first five games of the season, fifth in the nation among teams appearing in five games.
Fisher served as the offensive coordinator under Nick Saban’s Louisiana State Tigers for four years, including the school’s national title run in 2003.
Fisher said he respects the continued success of his former collaborator and the talented personnel the Crimson Tide boast.
“He’s done a great job,” Fisher said. “They’re extremely talented, but they’re very fundamentally sound. When you watch them, they’re a fundamentally sound football team. Like I always say, they do the ordinary things very, very well.”
The game is set to kick off on Saturday, Oct. 9, at 7 p.m. at Kyle Field in College Station.

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