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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Fix the line: A&M offense vs ULM defense

Graduate+WR+Ainias+Smith+%280%29+returns+a+punt+during+a+game+vs.+New+Mexico+on+Saturday%2C+Sept.+2%2C+2023.
Photo by Kyle Heise

Graduate WR Ainias Smith (0) returns a punt during a game vs. New Mexico on Saturday, Sept. 2, 2023.

against a talented Miami front seven. Despite not being sacked once in Week 2, constant pressure from the Hurricanes troubled sophomore quarterback Conner Weigman and the Aggies’ offense. With that, junior Miami quarterback Tyler Van Dyke’s aerial assault picked apart A&M’s secondary, throwing for 374 yards and five touchdowns.

This week, the Aggies head into a non-conference matchup against a Louisiana-Monroe team that is 2-0 on the season. So far, the Warhawks’ defense had surrendered an average of 146.5 yards rushing, 148.5 passing and 13.5 points per game. The Maroon and White’s offense needs to focus on establishing a run game and “feeding the studs,” as offensive coordinator Bobby Petrino said before the season.

Weigman stood out in the matchup versus Miami. Although he threw two interceptions, one was when graduate receiver Ainias Smith slipped and the other came late in the game on fourth and goal with the Aggies trailing.

Weigman threw for 336 yards in the game, but it took him 53 attempts. He also added 29 yards on the ground with a rushing touchdown.

Sophomore receiver Evan Stewart also had a fantastic game, catching 11 of his 16 targets for 142 yards. Stewart is now tied for second in the nation in receptions per game at 9.5 and ranks fifth nationally in receiving yards per game at 128.5.

The run game came into the season with some question marks after running back Devon Achane departed for the NFL. That run game and blocking left a lot to be desired for A&M fans versus Miami.

Junior running back Amari Daniels rushed for 62 yards on 18 attempts to go along with a touchdown, but the Aggies only averaged 3.3 yards per rush versus a talented Hurricane front.

Every starter on the offensive line for the Maroon and White graded 61 or lower in Pro Football Focus’ run-blocking grade. If the Aggies want to unleash their talented receivers, they must find a way to establish a run game.

The Aggies also didn’t have an answer for the different blitz packages the Hurricanes brought. On multiple occasions, Miami brought a corner blitz that went unblocked. A&M’s running backs and tight ends need to do a better job chipping rushers off the edge this weekend.

Weigman was also pressured on 26 of his 57 dropbacks. He didn’t get sacked, but that’s more indicative of his performance than the offensive line.

The Warhawks’ defense has been fairly impressive so far this season, forcing a total of seven turnovers through two weeks, but their opponents haven’t been the best. The unit only gave up 13 points in Week 1 to Army and 14 points in Week 2 to Lamar.

The weakness of ULM is the passing defense. The Warhawks only gave up 107 yards in the air to Army, but the Black Knights only attempted 12 passes and completed just six. ULM gave up 190 yards and a touchdown to FCS-level Lamar. Although the defense got two interceptions, they have yet to face a receiver core like A&M’s.

Tasked with covering the Aggies’ receivers are junior cornerback Lu Tillery and senior cornerback Car’lin Vigers, who transferred from Independence Community College.

Tillery and Vigers will have their hands full this weekend. The biggest thing Petrino needs to focus on is getting the ball to the other playmakers the Maroon and White have not named Stewart.

Sophomore receiver Noah Thomas only caught the ball four times for 38 yards and a touchdown last week, a far cry from his Week 1 performance where he had three touchdowns to go along with 74 yards.

Smith has had a slow start to the season as well. Against the Hurricanes, he had just 27 yards on three catches. In Week 1, he had 40 yards on three catches.

Another receiver Petrino needs to get involved is junior Moose Muhammad III. Muhammad was on the field for only 13 snaps versus Miami, 11 of which were passing plays. He had just one catch for 15 yards this past week. In Week 1, he had three catches for 12 yards.

The Aggies had a lot of things go wrong against Miami, but a matchup versus a weaker opponent at Kyle Field should be a way for the offense to fine-tune some things before Auburn comes to town to open conference play.

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About the Contributor
Eli Meschko
Eli Meschko, Sports Writer
Eli Meschko is a journalism senior from Boerne, Texas, and is minoring in communication and sports management. Eli has covered football, men's basketball, baseball, softball, hockey and track & field. Eli also writes for Dave Campbell's Texas Football as an intern. After graduation, Eli plans on pursuing a career in sports media or public relations.
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