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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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Hotty Toddy: A&M offense vs Ole Miss defense

Photo by Photo by Katelynn Ivy

Junior RB Amari Daniels (4) runs with the ball during Texas A&M’s game against South Carolina on Saturday, Oct. 28, 2023 at Kyle Field (Katelynn Ivy/The Battalion).

The dreaded road game for A&M and head coach Jimbo Fisher shows up once again.

This time around, the Aggies will be traveling to Oxford, Mississippi, to take on Ole Miss. The A&M offense has a tough matchup against a Rebels defense that gave up just 7 to Vanderbilt. The Commodores aren’t the toughest of matchups, but Ole Miss’ defense has 30 sacks, nine interceptions and four fumble recoveries on the year.

The Rebels currently give up 4.99 yards per play, an average of 218.9 yards passing and 135.4 yards rushing per game. Exploiting the Rebels’ rush defense will be key for the Aggies, but offensive coordinator DJ Durkin has yet to find a bellcow in the backfield.

Although the backfield has been a committee, sophomore Le’Veon Moss has typically been the lead back. Moss was a game-time decision last week and ended up missing the game. Prior to last week, Moss had rushed for 387 yards and three touchdowns on 77 carries.

Junior running back Amari Daniels led the rushing attack last week versus South Carolina with 68 yards and a touchdown. Daniels on the year has 355 yards and three touchdowns. Freshman Rueben Owens also saw more action with Moss’ absence. Owens added 40 yards and a touchdown to bring his season totals to 170 yards rushing with two touchdowns.

In the way of the Aggie running game is a very experienced Rebel defensive line. The three leading tacklers for Ole Miss last week were all defensive linemen. Senior defensive end Cedric Johnson had seven tackles with a sack. He has 31 tackles and 3.5 sacks on the year.

Lining up on the opposite side of Johnson is senior defensive end Jared Ivey. Ivey had five tackles with 2.5 sacks versus Vanderbilt to bring his season totals to 31 tackles and 5.5 sacks. Senior defensive tackle JJ Pegues had a sack along with six tackles last week as well.

Ole Miss’ pass defense ranks about middle of the pack, tied for 55th in the nation. However, the experienced defensive line for the Rebels could also pose a problem for an Aggie offensive line that has struggled all season.

The Aggies have the playmakers on the offensive side of the ball to attack this Rebels defense with graduate receiver Ainias Smith leading the way. Last week, Smith had 118 yards receiving with a touchdown. He also moved into A&M’s all-time top-10 for all-purpose yards.

The second leading receiver for the Aggies is sophomore Evan Stewart. Stewart has 506 yards receiving on the year and is tied with sophomore Noah Thomas for most receiving touchdowns at four apiece. Stewart had a fantastic first two games to start the season, but has yet to match those performances. Offensive coordinator Bobby Petrino will need to find ways to get Stewart going with Smith already playing well.

Sophomore quarterback Max Johnson was tasked with running the offense after sophomore Connor Weigman went down with a season-ending injury. His time behind center so far has been fine; nothing extraordinary, but nothing too horrendous. Johnson’s worst game so far was the Tennessee game where he had 223 yards and two interceptions.

This Ole Miss defense is far from elite, but it’s definitely a very respectable unit. The Aggies have the players to move the ball and put up points, but penalties, sacks and mistakes could kill any momentum as those have done all season.

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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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