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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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Dual interceptions stall late A&M comeback

On+Saturday%2C+Nov.+13+the+Texas+A%26amp%3BM+football+team+took+on+the+Ole+Miss+Rebels.+The+Aggies+performed+well+defensively%2C+holding+the+Rebels+dominant+offense+to+only+29+points.%26%23160%3B
Photo by via @AggieFootball Twitter

On Saturday, Nov. 13 the Texas A&M football team took on the Ole Miss Rebels. The Aggies performed well defensively, holding the Rebels dominant offense to only 29 points. 

Though the Texas A&M football team walked into Vaught-Hemingway Stadium with confidence and hope for the future, it left with a loss and a newfound level of difficulty in reaching playoff contention.

Against the Ole Miss Rebels, the Aggies started slowly, falling behind by 15 points in the first half. Sophomore running back Devon Achane captained the offense with a 110-yard, two-touchdown performance, but multiple turnovers kept the visiting team from gaining true traction.

A&M redshirt sophomore quarterback Zach Calzada personified the overall team’s performance, as both alternated between triumphs and tribulations throughout the night. Though he threw two interceptions and posted a 59-percent completion rate, Calzada passed for 237 yards — a mark he had not hit since toppling then-No. 1 Alabama over a month ago — to finish just 10 yards behind the Rebels’ junior quarterback and potential Heisman candidate Matt Corral.

“We tried, we competed and we didn’t give up in the game,” A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher said of his team’s execution on the field. “We had chances to win the game … and we just didn’t do it. [Ole Miss is] a good team.”

Ole Miss wasted little time asserting its dominance, taking the lead with a game-opening, 58-yard drive culminating in a 33-yard field goal by freshman kicker Caden Costa. The Rebels scored on their next possession as well, finding the end zone on a 12-yard pass from Corral to senior wide receiver Dontario Drummond.

“They spread us out, broke and got some running game going; that surprised me a little bit,” Fisher said. “They threw it, and we couldn’t cover it. They were hitting the throws … and got us early.”

The hosting team worsened the deficit in the second quarter, pulling ahead with another Costa field goal, this time good from 32 yards. The final points of the half came when A&M junior running back Isaiah Spiller was tackled for loss in the end zone, giving the Rebels a 15-point lead going into halftime.

This was A&M’s first and only time being held scoreless through the first two quarters this season. Up to this point, the Aggies had combined for only 91 offensive yards; comparatively, the Rebels earned 408 yards in the first half, 216 of which came in the air.

“Offensively in the first half, we had too many missed assignments; we didn’t play with enough poise,” Fisher said. “We didn’t … play, execute and make the tackles [in the first half]. That’s the disappointing thing.”

Less than two minutes into the third quarter, Ole Miss senior defensive back Jake Springer was ejected from the game for targeting. This gave A&M the necessary momentum to push downfield into Ole Miss territory — a zone it saw only for one play through the entire first half — and within field goal range. From there, senior place-kicker Seth Small drilled a laser between the crossbars from 30 yards out, breaking the Aggies’ scoring drought.

The success continued into the maroon and white’s next series, as they forced a three-and-out before regaining possession on their own 12-yard line. Across seven plays, A&M advanced 88 yards, eventually reaching the end zone for the first time on a 24-yard carry by Achane; Small’s first extra point attempt of the night was good, making the game a 5-point affair.

“It really wasn’t too many changes [after halftime],” sophomore defensive back Antonio Johnson said of the newfound success in the third quarter. “As a team, we just honed it, and we gave it our all.”

A&M continued to draw closer, as Small’s field goal attempt from 43 yards hit its mark to start the fourth quarter, but Ole Miss again pulled away with Calzada’s pair of interceptions. The first set up a drive which ended with a 13-yard touchdown rush by junior running back Snoop Conner, and the second fell into place for a pick-6 by junior defensive back AJ Finley. With Costa drilling both extra point attempts, the Rebels moved to a 16-point lead.

“Turnovers win games,” Johnson said. “As a defense, we stress turnovers. Critical ones are what you need the most.”

The maroon and white looked to threaten a second comeback, as a 9-yard touchdown rush by Achane brought promise of a one-possession game, but the subsequent deflected 2-point conversion attempt held A&M at a deficit of 10.

The remainder of the game was scoreless, cementing A&M’s third Southeastern Conference loss of the year.

Ole Miss bested A&M in most statistical categories, including total yards, 504-378; first downs, 32-20; and third down efficiency, 37.5-30.8. The Aggies’ few bright spots came in the form of an edge in leverage rate, 73-71, and red zone efficiency, 100.00-66.6.

“It was all us. We made mistakes — little details that we try to eliminate,” junior offensive lineman Kenyon Green said A&M’s less-successful aspects of gameplays. “There were plenty of opportunities … but it didn’t go that way.”

A&M will return to action on Saturday, Nov. 20, when it hosts Prairie View A&M at Kyle Field. Kickoff is set for 11 a.m., marking the Aggies’ final home game of the season.

With only one conference game left in the season, Green said it is crucial for the Aggies to remain vigilant and finish the season on a high note.

“We need to get focused,” Green said. “This was a setback, but we still have goals in front of us. You lick your wounds and keep going.”

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