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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

Bouncing back on offense

Running+back+Devon+Achane+running+through+the+end+zone+for+a+touchdown.
Photo by Robert O’Brien

Running back Devon Achane running through the end zone for a touchdown.

Following its bye week, Texas A&M football resumes conference play at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 22, with a road matchup against the South Carolina Gamecocks at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, S.C. As is the case with every bitter rivalry, Saturday’s game affords A&M the chance to make a statement following a slow 3-3 start to the season.

One of A&M’s main issues to start the season has been the performance of its offense. A&M’s style of offense has been one of the main through lines during its 2022 season. Head coach Jimbo Fisher’s play calling has been much derided by fans, but the unit showed notable improvements against Alabama.

Against the Crimson Tide, the main issue was the Aggie offensive line’s inability to block in either the run or pass game. This made life much harder for sophomore quarterback Haynes King against a talented Crimson Tide defense. King seemed to pick up an injury but did lead the Aggies to within 2 yards of beating the Crimson Tide. While freshman receiver Evan Stewart finished with an impressive statline of eight catches and 106 yards, the rest of the offense struggled to find any kind of consistency. 

South Carolina is coming off a 24-14 upset victory over No. 13 Kentucky. However, the victory came without Kentucky’s star senior quarterback Will Levis. 

Otherwise, South Carolina has built up its 4-2 record beating middling programs such as Charlotte and South Carolina State. Against talented offenses such as Arkansas and No. 1 Georgia, its defense gave up 44 and 48 points, respectively. This makes it difficult to gauge just how good South Carolina is, either defensively or in general.

Defensively, the Gamecocks are led by senior defensive lineman Zacch Pickens and junior edge rusher Jordan Burch. Fisher mentioned Pickens and Burch as players the Aggies will need to watch out for when on offense. Burch comes into the game with 2.5 sacks and five tackles for loss while Pickens has one sack and 1.5 tackles for loss. For the Aggies to have success on Saturday, their offensive line will need to protect King.

“[South Carolina has] experience on defense up front,” Fisher said. “Pickens and Burch up front, plus their D-line, do a great job. Linebackers are active. Secondary does a really good job.”

Fisher expects King to be ready to go for the Aggies on Saturday, and said the offense as a whole needs to do a better job of executing. Fisher illustrated this by making a comparison to a couple of all-time great NFL quarterbacks.

“The two greatest quarterbacks of our era, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers, have [been struggling],” Fisher said. “It shows you those two [are] as good as anybody, but you’ve got to play well around them for them to be able to function and do [well]. In time, as they get older and more experienced, they learn to clean up the messes of other people more and more. It’s still a team game, you know what I’m saying? But I think [King’s] grown, he’s matured and he’s practicing.”

Senior tight end Max Wright said the improvements of some of the younger players, specifically freshman offensive lineman Kam Dewberry, add to A&M’s offensive line. 

“Some young guys have really been taking some steps,” Wright said. “Kam Dewberry, for him to come in that game, get some crucial reps and be able to help us out on the offensive line was huge.”

Having depth on the line will help the Aggies deal with rigors of conference play, Wright said.

“We’ve had some guys go down on the offensive line, and being able to have some young guys step up is definitely really crucial,” Wright said. “You’ve got to be able to have depth, especially in such a long season in the SEC. You’re going to have guys [who] are going to get hurt and banged up, and you have to have young guys come in there, step in and not just fill the role but also perform really well.”

South Carolina coach Shane Beamer said A&M’s young talent across the board on offense is something their defense is going to have to contain on Saturday.

“Coach Fisher’s done a great job with those guys,” Beamer said. “[A&M’s] playing a lot of freshmen, and they’ve battled a handful of injuries like we have. Really, really, really talented and [jumior running back Devon Achane] on offense is dynamic. A heck of a player. [Also have a] big, physical offensive line. Athletic tight ends and highly recruited receivers.”

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