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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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One step away
June 8, 2024

Freshman quarterbacks square off in SEC showdown

Kyler+Murray
Photo by Photo by Kathryn Perez
Kyler Murray

If Saturday’s game between Texas A&M and Auburn had been predicted before the season began, commentators would’ve said it will look like this: Auburn heads to College Station with hopes of remaining undefeated and moving one step closer to another SEC Championship.  

Obviously, there is a reason why projections are, well, just projections.

The Aggies (6-2, 3-2 SEC) come in ranked No. 19 in the first installment of the College Football Playoff rankings after capturing their first win under freshman quarterback Kyler Murray.

The Tigers (4-4, 1-4 SEC) began the season with quarterback Jeremy Johnson, who threw for a combined six interceptions in his first three starts. Taking his place was redshirt freshman Sean White, who has done fairly well over the course of the last five games, amassing over 1,000 passing yards.

The problem for Auburn thus far in the season has been its inability to put together a complete game. Head coach Gus Malzahn said playing well on the road is vital, especially considering how hard-fought the games between these two teams have been in recent years.

“It seems like they are very talented again,” Malzahn said. “We’re playing at their place, and we need to play well.  That’s what I was saying early on, we’ve got to get our offense and our defense to play well at the same time. We’ve not done that yet. That’s our goal, and that’s what we’re talking about from a coach’s standpoint in our players.”

A&M’s main issues that were prevalent in the South Carolina game had to do with the inability to limit explosive plays. Four big plays alone accounted for nearly 180 yards against the Aggie defense. Defensive coordinator John Chavis said his unit is not one that will back down from a challenge.

“Biggest thing is as hard as we have played, we’ve been able to turn it up a notch in the fourth quarter,” Chavis said. “These guys will battle, they’re not afraid of that. When their backs are against the wall they seem to play better. We need to start playing that way, there’s no question about it. There have been some adjustments, but more credit goes to the way our defense plays in the fourth quarter.”

At the weekly news conference, Sumlin said the 12th man contributes greatly to the energy of the games and that he was impressed by the turnout to the South Carolina game after the severe weather. He said the electric environment of Kyle Field was not among the issues the Aggies had last week.

“Every time we simplify things it gets better for us, but we have to communicate better,” Sumlin said. “We won’t tell the crowd to quiet down when we are on defense, we love that crowd. We have to communicate better on defense.”

One bright spot for A&M has been the lift Murray has provided for the Aggie run game. In Murray’s first start, A&M more than tripled its rush total from the previous two games combined, reaching a mark of 321.

Offensive coordinator Jake Spavital said having running back James White back healthy allowed Tra Carson to have one of his best games.

“Having James back is huge,” Spavital said. “A lot of the success Tra had was based on being fresher in the game because he got to come out and James picked up the slack. Having a dynamic athlete like Kyler in the backfield — that’s going to change up the way defenses play you and it will probably open up more runs for the running backs.”

On Saturday at 6:30 p.m., the lights of Kyle Field will be shining bright, rain or shine, upon another ‘biggest game of the season’ for Texas A&M. Following the SEC matchup this weekend, the Aggies will only have one more opportunity to play in front of the 12th Man at home.

The game Saturday will broadcast on SEC Network.

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