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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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One step away
June 8, 2024

Final two-game stretch of season starts Saturday at Ole Miss

Senior+Damion+Ratley+hauled+in+two+touchdowns+for+58+yards+in+the+game+against+New+Mexico.
Photo by Cassie Stricker

Senior Damion Ratley hauled in two touchdowns for 58 yards in the game against New Mexico.

Fresh off a dominant 54-14 victory over New Mexico, in which they executed well in all facets of the game, Texas A&M will hit the road and go to Oxford to play Ole Miss in the first half of a two-game road stretch to finish the season.
The Aggies (6-4, 3-3 SEC), who haven’t beaten the Rebels since Johnny Manziel’s sophomore year in 2013, are hoping to build on last Saturday’s win, finish the season strong and do everything in their power to save head coach Kevin Sumlin’s job.
“The locker room definitely has a little more energy,” senior punter Shane Tripucka said at Tuesday’s press conference. “Everybody is excited — we played well and executed what we needed to do. It gives us a good roll going into this week.”
The Rebels (5-5, 2-4 SEC) got off to a rocky start this season, but have won their last two games and have managed to maintain their offensive production even with the loss of quarterback Shea Patterson. Junior Jordan Ta’amu has played superbly in Patterson’s absence, throwing for more than 350 yards in all three of his starts.
“He’s been able to operate that system at a high level scoring a lot of points,” Sumlin said. “They’ve got excellent talent on the perimeter with three receivers that have been effective all year.”
Ole Miss boasts four talented wide receivers that have big-play ability on the outside, one of the reasons the Rebels lead the SEC in passing. Ta’amu has been very aggressive in the vertical passing game as well, averaging more than 10 yards per attempt.
“They have a lot of playmakers on that side. They have great physical receivers that go and high-point the ball,” senior safety Armani Watts said. “They’re going to lay it out there a few times during the game, so we have to be really prepared on the back end and reading our keys and be ready to play the ball.”
With the Rebels’ potent receiving corps led by sophomore AJ Brown, Sumlin indicated that he’s hoping sophomore defensive back Charles Oliver can return from injury this week to help out in pass coverage.
The Aggies offensively will try to build on last week’s dominant showing, where redshirt freshman Nick Starkel threw for 416 yards and four touchdowns in the first half of the game. He distributed the ball efficiently as A&M notched three 100-yard receiving efforts from Christian Kirk, Roshaaud Paul and Jhamon Ausbon for the first time in the school’s history.
Sumlin said it has taken Starkel a couple weeks to work the rust off after coming back from ankle surgery, but he has settled nicely into the starting role.
“He’s been the same. I don’t see his demeanor changing that much,” Sumlin said. “When he was injured, he was always involved. He was always with Kellen, talking to our offense, so it wasn’t a shock to anyone that he was around.”
One player Starkel will have to watch for on the Ole Miss squad is defensive end Marquis Haynes, one of the premium pass rushers in the
country. Haynes, a preseason first-team All-SEC player, is tied with A&M’s Landis Durham for third on the SEC sacks leaderboard and has also chipped in 9.5 tackles-for-loss.
“We’ve watched a little bit of tape on [Haynes],” tight end Tanner Schorp said. “I’ve heard a lot of good things about him, but it’s just another week. We’re going to do some different things to help our offensive tackles and slow those guys down a little bit.”
Kickoff at Vaught-Hemingway is scheduled for 6 p.m. and will be televised on ESPN2.
“It’s another SEC stadium, so it’s a cool place to play,” Tripucka said. “It’s going to be loud and it’s going to be another tough opponent. For us it’s always about us. Coach Sumlin always stresses that and it’s a really big theme for us. We just have to block out everything like we always do and go out and play our game.”

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