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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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Defensive power struggle shows promise for A&M and Ole Miss defenses

Senior+linebacker+Otaro+Alaka+had+six+solo+tackles+against+the+Landsharks.
Photo by Photo by Meredith Seaver

Senior linebacker Otaro Alaka had six solo tackles against the Landsharks.

Texas A&M saw its first win since South Carolina in week seven, topping Ole Miss 38-24 in a back-and-forth battle on Saturday.
Despite recent defensive struggles from both teams, this matchup proved early on that the best defensive team would come out victorious.
A&M’s defense allowed two touchdowns in the first two quarters, but quickly started to turn things around with a forced fumble and recovery from senior defensive lineman Kingsley Keke. Eight plays and 85 yards later, the Aggies turned the fumble into a touchdown to tie up the game before halftime.
“Getting that turnover is huge,” A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher said. “Being able to convert it and drive right before half and get the touchdown to tie it up  I thought it was huge.”
The Aggie defense was able to continue this streak throughout the game, only allowing 67 rushing yards and holding Ole Miss to a 1-of-11 conversion rate on third downs. A&M went on to force a missed field goal from 22-yards out, stopping any chance for Ole Miss to tie the game late in the fourth quarter.
Junior tight end Jace Sternberger said the defensive performance opened up opportunities for the offense to make plays that were just as critical.
“Today was the first day I felt like we really played off of each other, where defense would get a stop then offense would respond,” Sternberger said. ”We really had each other’s backs today.” 
Even with the loss, the Rebels’ defense showed dominance in the second half, forcing two turnovers from A&M sophomore quarterback Kellen Mond.
“They’re playing hard and they giving all they got,” Ole Miss head coach Matt Luke said of the defensive performance. ”I think they did wear down some, especially in the fourth quarter. I think the third quarter they were on the field pretty much the whole quarter. We did a great job getting the turnover for a touchdown.”
The Ole Miss defense started off the third quarter with a 96-yard touchdown run by senior defensive back Zedrick Woods. Woods was behind the fumble recovery when Ole Miss linebacker Willie Hibbler forced Mond to fumble the ball on the The Rebels’ own four yard line.
Just one minute and 41 seconds later, Mond turned the ball over once again, but this time with an interception by Ole Miss senior defensive back Ken Webster.
“Just two small mistakes that possibly could have ended up costing us,” Mond said. ”But just small stuff that I need to clean up.”
While both teams saw improvement from their defenses, mistakes and penalties were still present. The Aggies and Rebels finished the game with two players removed for targeting their opponents in the third and fourth quarter. A&M’s defensive back Myles Jones received his first targeting call of the season with 31 seconds left in the fourth, while Ole Miss’ tight end Dawson Knox received his late in the third.
A&M also saw issues with maintaining tackles and shutting down the passing game. They paled in comparison to Ole Miss in both categories, racking up 59 tackles to Ole Miss’ 88 and allowing their opponents to complete 440 passing yards.
Ole Miss also saw struggles on the defense. The Rebels weren’t able to stint A&M’s passing or rushing offense, allowing 266 total rushing yards and 502 total passing yards in the game. A&M went 7-of-12 in third down conversions, only being held by Ole Miss 58.3 percent of the time.

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