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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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Out of the frying pan: Aggies take on Miami in Week 2

Photo by Ishika Samant

The Texas A&M players point to the A&M end zone after a loose ball was recovered by the Aggies during Texas A&M’s game against Miami at Kyle Field on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022.

After a tune-up game in Week 1, the Aggies have no time to rest in Week 2.
Leaving the friendly confines of Kyle Field, Texas A&M is set to square off against Miami for the second year in a row. Despite being only Week 2, this game has late-season implications, with both schools looking for a bounce-back year. Almost a mirror of one another, both teams are coming off of Week 1 blowouts of Group of Five opponents, led by new offensive coordinators.
Coming from the University of Houston, offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson took over in Miami in the offseason after the firing of Josh Gattis, who only lasted one season with the Hurricanes. Dawson spent the last three years with the Cougars, leading them to the No. 13 ranking in total touchdown passes during his tenure. Houston also ranked No. 8 last season in total passing offense.
Miami is fresh off a 38-3 victory in Week 1 against Miami (OH) in the battle for the city’s true namesake. The Hurricanes outgained the Redhawks by almost 278 total yards, holding Miami (OH) to just 51 yards on the ground.
“Shannon Dawson has done a lot of offense in his life,” Miami coach Mario Cristobal said. “We have some things that we’ve done before, so it’s a really good blend. It looks a little bit different, but there’s some similarities there.”
At the helm for the Hurricanes is junior quarterback Tyler Van Dyke, who is coming off of a shaky 2022 campaign. After being named ACC Freshman of the Year in 2021, Van Dyke struggled last season. The Glastonbury, Connecticut native threw for 1,844 with 10 touchdowns and five interceptions while battling injuries all season. Van Dyke threw for 201 yards with a touchdown and an interception in Week 1.
“I thought [Van Dyke] did really well,” Cristobal said. “He’d love to have that interception back. He’s really hard on himself. He’s really efficient, he put us in the right plays. He made the right decisions in the run game as well.”
In the offseason, the Hurricanes bolstered their offensive line. From UCF, senior center Matt Lee transferred in, alongside junior Alabama transfer Javion Cohen.
“[I am] proud of the offensive and defensive lines,” Cristobal said. “I thought they controlled the line of scrimmage for the majority of the game. They make it difficult with their angles, with their leverage, with their numbers in the run game.”
Against the Redhawks, the Hurricanes ran for 250 yards, with four rushers over 30 yards. Junior running back Henry Parrish Jr. led the charge for Miami, averaging 10 yards per carry with 90 yards rushing and a touchdown.
Parrish began his career at Ole Miss but transferred into the program last offseason, filling the role as the Hurricanes’ starting running back for the second-straight season.
Miami also retooled the other side of the coaching staff this season, poaching Lance Guidry from Marshall. During his time with the Thundering Herd, his defenses ranked third in pass efficiency defense, fifth in turnovers gained and fifth in rushing defense.
Miami returns a slew of defensive talent from last season, including junior safety Kamren Kinchens, who was First Team All-American last season, finishing with six interceptions and 59 tackles last season.
The linebacking corp for the Hurricanes may be their strongest unit, with returning sophomore Wesley Bissainthe, junior Louisville transfer K.J. Cloyd and Washington State transfer Francisco Mauigoa. Mauigoa led the team last game in total tackles last game, and Bissainthe accounted for one of the team’s three sacks.
On the defensive line, sophomore Leonard Taylor leads the way for the Hurricanes. An All-ACC Honorable Mention last season, Taylor only played 15 snaps against the Redhawks in Week 1 after coming back from an injury in the spring. Alongside him, senior Purdue transfer Branson Deen makes up the bulk along the interior of the defensive line. Deen was an All-Big Ten selection in his last two seasons with the Boilermakers but was also limited in snaps last week.
Like Miami, the Aggies brought in a new offensive coordinator this offseason, as Bobby Petrino joined the staff, leaving his spot as head coach for Missouri State.
Petrino brings decades of experience into A&M’s program, having been the head coach for Arkansas and Louisville prior to his tenure at Missouri State. Petrino was head coach for the Cardinals when Lamar Jackson won the 2016 Heisman Trophy and has been known for his “feed the studs” philosophy.
The headline for the preseason and now Week 1 for the Aggies has been the same team, but a different playbook. After sophomore quarterback Conner Weigman took over late last season, he has solidified himself as the starter for A&M. Against New Mexico, the Bridgeland native threw for 236 yards, with five touchdowns and only five incompletions, good enough for the best QBR in college football at 97.2.
Catching passes from Weigman are fellow sophomores Evan Stewart and Noah Thomas. Stewart made his appearance known last year, earning Freshman All-American honors despite the revolving door at quarterback for the Aggies. Thomas, however, was relatively unknown until this spring, when he earned praise from coach Jimbo Fisher.
“[Thomas is] going to be a real weapon,” Fisher said. “He’s had an outstanding spring. He won our MVP, been our most consistent guy.”
Thomas lived up to the praise in Week 1, hauling in 74 yards receiving with three touchdown catches, the most from an Aggie receiver in a single game since Christian Kirk in 2017. Combined, both wideouts account for 189 of the 277 yards through the air.
On the defensive side of the ball, A&M’s depth comes on the defensive line. Led by a slew of former five-star recruits like Walter Nolen, LT Overton, Gabriel Brownlow-Dindy and Shemart Stewart, the Aggies held the Lobos to 89 rushing yards last weekend but will be tasked with handling the Hurricanes’ offensive line.
In the secondary, graduate Boston College transfer cornerback Josh DeBerry put himself onto the scene for the Aggies. The Grosse Pointe Park, Michigan finished the New Mexico game with a team-leading 10 tackles, one of the team’s two sacks and the only interception of the night.
With DeBerry in the A&M secondary is graduate safety Demani Richardson and sophomore safety Bryce Anderson. Richardson made his 27th-straight start against the Lobos and accounted for three tackles. Anderson was thrust into play last season as a freshman, playing in 11 games and earning Texas Football Defensive Freshman of the Year from Dave Campbell’s Texas Football.
For the Aggies, the key will be stopping the Miami rushing attack. Last season, A&M ranked No. 122 in rushing defense and allowed 175 rushing yards in its last matchup against the Hurricanes. Miami will also prove to be one of the more challenging defenses Weigman has faced and will pose one of the biggest tests of his young career.
The last time the Aggies walked into Hard Rock Stadium, they left Orange Bowl champions. The ramifications of this matchup may not be the same, but for either team, a Week 2 victory would do wonders for both confidence and postseason positioning.
The Aggies will face off against the Hurricanes on Sept. 9 at 2:30 p.m., in Miami on ABC.

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