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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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Next men up

Photo by Robert O’Brien

Junior wide receiver Jalen Preston (5) celebrates in the end zone with freshman offensive lineman Reuben Fathree II (76) and junior wide receiver  Ainias Smith (0) in the fourth quarter of the game against LSU on Saturday, Nov. 27.

It’s safe to say Texas A&M football has found a silver lining in its loss against LSU.
Due to the absence of three key receivers and a mid-game exit from junior Ainias Smith due to an apparent toe injury on Saturday, Nov. 27, the Aggies were in need of a less-experienced miracle to rise from the ashes and make a play when its number was called.
The wide receiver duo of junior Jalen Preston and freshman Moose Muhammad III became exactly that.
The pair had a combined five catches, 109 yards and three touchdowns in A&M’s 27-24 loss to LSU, even though neither player saw success in the first quarter, as they both sat at zero offensive yards at the conclusion of the first quarter.
In need of a change of momentum, Muhammad caught a 13-yard dime late in the second quarter for the Aggies’ first score of the game. His second catch came later when he and redshirt sophomore quarterback Zach Calzada connected with a 39-yard post route that set up a 33-yard field goal for senior place-kicker Seth Small.
In the last two games alone, Muhammad has tallied 129 yards and three touchdowns on seven receptions. Preston said there’s no limit for the amount of potential within the freshman.
“[Moose] has been playing spectacular the last two games,” Preston said. “He’s been catching everything. He has nowhere else to go from here but up.”
As for the receiver out of Manvel, Preston accounted for two of A&M’s three touchdowns against the Tigers. His most memorable touchdown came late in the fourth quarter, giving A&M its first and only lead of the night.
Junior Caleb Chapman, sophomore Chase Lane and freshman Demond Demas were among the receivers unable to play against LSU on Saturday. With many of Calzada’s weapons not suited for the game, Preston said he was ready to bear the responsibility of potentially carrying the receiving corps while acting on the opportunity for extra snaps in A&M’s final Southeastern Conference matchup of 2021.
“It’s been really important to me,” Preston said about the increase in reps at practice. “When players go down, people’s workload becomes higher, and it’s been awesome to be able to be the guy that catches the ball, moves the chains and gets the offense flowing.”
Preston’s first three seasons featured 11 receptions for 124 yards and one touchdown. This season, he has surpassed his previously set marks in all three categories, with one final game to go. As of presstime, he has 17 receptions for 255 yards and two touchdowns.
Preston’s improvement this season has not gone unnoticed, and his ability to make clutch plays in important situations was a crucial part of A&M’s late comeback attempt against LSU, Fisher said.
“He had that nice slant route and was able to break a tackle and score,” Fisher said about Preston’s second touchdown of the game. “His perseverance and what he does … he’s a great young man.”
Preston said he has taken a similar stance, and that he is constantly impressed by the younger player’s athletic abilities and seemingly effortless performances on the field.
“I’m always surprised with how [Moose] plays,” Preston said. “Left side of the endzone, he doesn’t even need to use his right hand. It’s crazy how he can just catch with his one hand.”
While the future of the quarterback position remains uncertain, questions arise about whether or not the receiving corps will be ready for the 2022 season. After Preston and Muhammad’s performance against the Tigers, the next A&M quarterback will have their hands full with an adbundance of talent in its already deep receiving corps.

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