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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

Texas A&M utility Gavin Grahovac (9) throws the ball during A&Ms game against Georgia on Friday, April 26, 2024, at Olsen Field. (CJ Smith/The Battalion)
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Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp attends the Class of 1972 50-year reunion in Kyle Field on April 20, 2022.
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A fighter jet squadron flies over during the National Anthem before Texas A&M’s game against Arkansas at Olsen Field on Saturday, May 18, 2024. (Chris Swann/The Battalion)
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Kennedy White, 19, sits for a portrait in the sweats she wore the night of her alleged assault inside the Y.M.C.A building that holds Texas A&M’s Title IX offices in College Station, Texas on Feb. 16, 2024 (Ishika Samant/The Battalion).
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Farewell from the graduating Battalion staff of 2024
Farewell from the graduating Battalion staff of 2024
The BattalionMay 4, 2024

It’s conference time: How A&M’s defense matches up against a new-look Auburn offense

Photo by Photo by Ishika Samant

Rushing towards the quarterback, senior Myles Jones takes down Auburn.

The 2022-23 season was not kind for both Texas A&M and Auburn. Both teams went 5-7 and collective offensive and defensive woes made it a season to forget. However, the Tigers’ offense and Aggies’ defense have dramatically changed since.
The main question for the Aggies’ defense is their secondary. Once the top passing defense from a season ago, they now rank in the middle of the pack. The combination of blown tackles and holes in coverage have led to big passing plays down the field, as evident in the Miami game.
Though Auburn’s bread and butter has been the run game, the passing defense will have to give junior Auburn quarterback Payton Thorne no room to work with. The secondary, led by defensive back seniors Josh DeBerry and Demani Richardson will look to make that happen, especially as conference play begins.
While pressuring the quarterback also hasn’t been the Aggies’ strong suit, the lineup front has been formidable. Junior defensive lineman Shemar Turner has recorded a sack in every game this season and with players like sophomore defensive lineman Walter Nolen, the run defense has been one of the best in the nation.
The Maroon and White have kept opposing run offenses at bay, only letting up an average of 98 rushing yards per game. The linebacker duo of junior Edgerrin Cooper and freshman Taurean York has proven to be strong, with both players being top-three in total team tackles.
The Auburn offense was faulty last year, and once the offseason began, the team immediately got to work to fix it. They started by hiring former Tulsa coach Philip Montgomery to conduct the offense and it has paid off so far. Under his playcalling, the Tigers’ offense is ranked the 18th-best rushing team in the country and the passing yards have increased from an average of 172 yards per game to 212. The team has also found a home in the endzone, scoring more than 40 points on two occasions.
The ground game has been strongest for Auburn and is a big reason why they’re 3-0. The Tigers average 36 carries a game while only having 26 attempts through the air. The constant rotation of the backfield has helped tremendously, with Montgomery deploying at least six players who run the ball. The main carrying load has been given to running backs sophomore Damari Alston and junior Jarquez Hunter, each with 20-plus carries on the season and are at the top in rushing yards with 119 and 90, respectively.
The quarterbacks have also gotten in on the run action, with the quarterback draw being the go-to. The play had success, as Thorne and sophomore quarterback Robby Ashford led the team in rushing touchdowns with two and four, respectively.
In the trenches and making life easier for the backfield starts with junior offensive lineman Dillon Wade. Wade, a transfer from Tulsa, followed Montgomery to Auburn and was ranked as the best offensive lineman in the portal. Another transfer, senior Gunner Britton from Western Kentucky, has also given the Tigers help on the line.
Though the passing game is not used nearly as much, Auburn’s receiving core is another weapon that has helped the ground game. Sophomore receiver Jay Fair gives them space to work, as he leads the team in receptions and receiving yards with 14 and 174. Junior Rivaldo Fairweather’s frame has been utilized as a target for Thorne to throw to, as well as blocking for the backfield.

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