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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One step away
June 8, 2024

Continuing defensive domination

Photo by Photo by Robert O’Brien

The Aggies’ defense has a much needed non-conference match to look forward to this weekend.

One aspect Texas A&M football fans have raved about all season is defensive coordinator Mike Elko’s standout defensive tactics and how his players have executed them.

On Saturday, Nov. 20, Texas A&M will host Prairie View A&M in the final game played at Kyle Field this season. The battle between the two A&M System schools will serve as this year’s Maroon Out game, where fans are encouraged to wear maroon to provide an extra boost of school spirit.

Prairie View’s offense has led the team to a 7-2 record in the Southwestern Athletic Conference and landed the Panthers the No. 1 spot in the Southwestern Athletic Conference West. Key players like senior quarterback Jawon Pass, paired with depth at the wide receiver position, have elevated their offense to reach the No. 1 spot. 

This season, Pass has completed 64% of his passes and averaged 8.4 yards per attempt. Leading the Panther’s consistent passing offense is senior wide receiver Antonio Mullins, who averages 11.8 yards per reception and is an offensive weapon when utilized. Additionally, senior wide receiver Jalion Howard averages 23.7 yards per catch and adds to the Panther’s success in their division. A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher said the Panthers are a quality team that should not be counted out.

“This team is 7-2. Prairie View is a very good team,” Fisher said. “Their coaching staff has been on two HBCU championship teams. These guys know how to win, and they have a great program. They do a good job, and you have to play every week.”

However, the Panthers are coming off a loss from Alcorn State, and bouncing back against a talented Southeastern Conference defense may be an extremely difficult task. Facing a big-time opponent like A&M on a huge stage may allow the Aggies to exploit Prairie View’s weaknesses and create a substantial gap in the score. However, junior wide receiver Ainias Smith said this week’s matchup matters the same as every other week.

“This week is definitely a week that I’m not going to take lightly,” Smith said. “I’m going to make sure that the team isn’t going to take it lightly either.”

In last week’s loss, A&M‘s defense did not perform to its usual standard. The Aggies have presented a stout defense throughout the season; however, Ole Miss’ fast-tempo offense was the key to tiring A&M and gaining yardage. The Rebels documented 408 yards in the first half, though the Aggies only gave up 15 points. This was a testament to the Aggies’ third- and fourth-down defenses, which could result in a shut-out against Prairie View if executed at the same high level.

The Aggies look to use this game as a stepping stone to get better, but they have stressed every week that it does not matter who they are playing. Junior defensive tackle DeMarvin Leal said the team heads into every game with the same mentality, regardless of the opponent.

“Our opponent is faceless,” Leal said. “It’s all about us and what we do and how we approach the game throughout the week.”

Players such as Leal, freshman linebacker Edgerrin Cooper and junior safety Demani Richardson have combined their talents to create a destructive SEC defense. Not only has veteran experience propelled A&M’s defense, but, due to injuries, younger athletes like Cooper and sophomore defensive back Antonio Johnson, who leads the team in solo tackles, have been forced to step up and quickly learn how to stop plays.

Since a majority of the defense is composed of veteran players and soon-to-be graduates, the Saturday, Nov. 20 matchup against Prairie View will be a lot of the defensive players’ last time to play at Kyle Field. Fisher said it will be an emotional moment for the veterans and he hopes they reminisce on their time as Aggies.

“I hope the seniors appreciate the game,” Fisher said. “I’ve seen guys that Senior Days affect emotionally. I hope they appreciate the situation and the program, the Aggie Network and what Texas A&M represents. I hope they appreciate what they have meant to this school. I hope they understand they made the right decision when they decided to come here.”

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