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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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The BattalionMay 4, 2024

Bad beat in Starkville: Aggies fall 42-24

Sophomore+WR+Moose+Muhammad+III+%287%29+attempts+to+catch+a+pass+from+junior+QB+Max+Johnson+%2814%29+during+the+Southwest+Classic+on+Saturday%2C+Sept.+24%2C+2022%2C+at+AT%26amp%3BT+Stadium+in+Arlington%2C+Texas.
Photo by Photo by Robert O’Brien

Sophomore WR Moose Muhammad III (7) attempts to catch a pass from junior QB Max Johnson (14) during the Southwest Classic on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022, at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

Different week, similar story for the Aggies. Slow start. Abysmal offense. Behind early with a 14-0 deficit, needing a miraculous comeback from a sputtering offense. 

Two lost fumbles in the first half killed the Aggies. Texas A&M ran a measly 23 plays in the first half, while Mississippi State doubled them with 46. Tack on two interceptions in the second half, one of them returned for a touchdown, and things got ugly. 

A final score of 42-24 fails to illustrate how disappointing of a performance the Aggies had on Saturday, Oct. 1 in Starkville, Miss. Coming in without do-it-all star senior wide receiver Anias Smith, the Aggies knew it would be a tough task to pull out a victory over Mississippi State. A&M had struggled to get anything going on offense all season, made a quarterback change mid-season and depended on a bend-but-don’t-break style of defense with timely takeaways. After falling to Appalachian State in Week 2, the maroon and white took down Miami and Arkansas in back to back weeks. Things appeared to be trending up for the Ags.

However, like Week 2, Saturday marked another massive setback for head coach Jimbo Fisher’s program.

A&M was embarrassed by their SEC maroon counterpart. The cow bells in the stands rattled all afternoon, and Fisher’s squad looked rattled on the field. MSU junior quarterback Will Rogers had all day in the pocket, the Bulldogs ran the ball effectively and A&M struggled to gain any yardage. A tough sight to see, the Aggies were beaten in all three phases of the game.

Mississippi State began the game with the ball, but was forced to punt after a pair of first downs and a dropped interception from senior safety Demani Richardson. The Aggies first play involved junior running back Devon Achane split outside as a receiver and hauling in a 9-yard catch. Achane evaded linebackers in the Aggies’ backfield multiple times and ran for two first downs before the drive fizzled out at Mississippi State’s 48 yard line.

The Bulldogs’ ran up the middle for a first down on fourth-and-4 on the next drive. Even the pass happy head coach Mike Leach established the ground game on Saturday against A&M’s struggling rush defense on the interior. Mississippi State amassed 144 total yards on the ground between 24 carries. On the next set of downs, a timely stop forced State to punt back to sophomore wide receiver Moose Muhammad III at the 10-yard line. The very next snap, Achane, the only sign of life on A&M’s offense, broke off a 20-yard rush and was grabbed by the facemask which tacked on 15 extra yards. However, subpar pass protection left junior quarterback Max Johnson with no time to get anything going, leading to another Aggie punt. 

The Bulldogs had many self-inflicted wounds, including four false starts and poor throws from Rogers. However, the Aggies did not capitalize on these opportunities. On third-and-10, junior safety Antonio Johnson dropped an easy interception and probable pick-6. Aggie defenders got their hands on the football on four different occasions, but were unable to secure the interception on any of those. Getting the ball back after the ensuing punt on fourth down, the Aggies moved the ball down the field, leaning on Achane like a bell cow back. The Aggies seemed to have a hold of the momentum until Achane ran forward to the 10-yard line and was stripped of the ball by senior defensive back Collin Duncan.

The Bulldogs jumped on the ball and the pivotal turnover changed the trajectory of the game. Rogers drove down the field, and then challenged true-freshman Aggie cornerback Denver Harris on two consecutive throws in the endzone, with the second resulting in a touchdown pass. 

Needing points before half, A&M had one minute and good field position. In the red zone, Johnson dropped back, was hit and lost the ball. The other team in maroon jumped on the ball and kept all momentum. Nothing seemed to be going the Ags way.

Down 14-0, A&M needed a touchdown on their opening drive of the second half. They drove down the field with the help of a targeting call on Mississippi State. On third down, Johnson eluded defenders and threw to wide open true-freshman wide receiver Evan Stewart who dropped the ball in the endzone. 

A sophomore kicker Randy Bond field goal put A&M on the board, and a fumble recovery by true-freshman defensive tackle Walter Nolen had the Ags back in business. This was the turnover and spark they needed to get back in the game, just like the fumble recovery last week in Jerry World. 

However, the Aggies moved backwards from where they started, and had their field goal attempt blocked and returned for a touchdown. All hope seemed to be swatted away with the ball. This series of events was a good representation of the game for the Ags, and a good representation of their season thus far. 

A deep ball touchdown to Muhammad was a positve but trivial to the result of the game. To add insult to injury, Johnson left the game after hurting his hand and the former starter turned backup sophomore quarterback Haynes King entered the game. King had a nice touchdown run, but two interceptions in what was garbage time at that point.  

A&M converted only two of nine third-down conversion attempts, had four turnovers and gave up touchdowns on offense and special teams. These critical stats are often the deciding factor of wins and losses, and no team can expect to win with a performance like that. The issues of this team extend far beyond singular players. 

Fisher will likely be under fire from the media once again. “We’re not executing,” Fisher said. Multiple dropped interceptions, dropped passes and even bad snaps stood out while watching the Aggies. The level of execution on Saturday was poor to put it kindly and this loss leaves questions about the status of the program in Fisher’s fifth year. The Ags are now sitting at 3-2 with an extremely underwhelming product on the field. After Saturday’s blunder, the Aggies will try to right the ship and improve. 

“We have to keep growing up. We have to keep coaching, and we have to keep putting them in those positions,” Fisher said.

Fisher remains confident about the status of his program moving forward. 

“We’re not where we want to be, no doubt. We got to get better,” Fisher said.
A&M will have an opportunity to get better when they travel to Tuscaloosa, Ala. to play the Crimson Tide on Oct. 8 at 7 p.m. 

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