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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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The BattalionMay 4, 2024

Play ‘smarter not harder’

Photo by Photo by Robert O’Brien

A&M coach Jimbo Fisher gestures for his team to come help him lift the Southwest Classic trophy after Texas A&M defeated Arkansas 23-21 to win the Southwest Classic on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022, at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

Following the whirlwind of events in Arlington against Arkansas, all eyes are turned to how the Aggies will handle playing against the Mississippi State Bulldogs.
Graduate tight end Max Wright, sophomore defensive back Tyreek Chappell, sophomore offensive lineman Bryce Foster and coach Jimbo Fisher spoke in a press conference on Monday, Sept. 26, to answer just that.
Here’s what we learned:
No more self-inflicted wounds
Despite the win over Arkansas on Saturday, Sept. 24, the game featured many offensive struggles in the way of penalties. Two times throughout the game, Texas A&M lost first-down yardage due to penalties. So far this season, A&M is averaging 6.75 penalties per game with nine against Arkansas last Saturday.
“We had illegal shift, motion penalty and picked up a third-and-2,” Fisher said. “And then we had some penalties down the field. We have a hold, we have a block in the back, we have a low block … We’re smarter than that; the guys who did it are very smart football players, they know better than that. They made bad decisions.”
According to Wright, the team has been placing a heavy emphasis on cleaning up the small details, and working on consistency in practice will lead to a more consistent play come game time, a strategy he and the Aggies hope will reduce penalties that “shoot [them]selves in the foot.”
Results of Ainias Smith’s injury
As reported on Sept. 25, senior wide receiver Ainias Smith is out with a lower right leg fracture from the match against the Razorbacks. However, during the press conference, Fisher confirmed that Smith will be off the field for the remainder of the season. With its designated “Swiss Army knife” out of commission, the question remains how A&M plans to fill in the spots left behind.
“Losing Ainias [Smith] is huge,” Wright said. “The versatility that he brings: being able to put him out in the backfield, out at slot, being able to put him as a single side receiver. The kid can play anywhere on the field he wants, and he’s also a great blocker out in the backfield too … Some young guys are really going to have to try and step up to fill that role. I think we might not be able to fill exactly the same role as Ainias [Smith] because we use him in so many different ways, … but there are definitely young guys who are ready to step up.”
In regard to Smith’s role as a primary punt returner for the team, Fisher said he will be utilizing junior running back Devon Achane more and introducing sophomore wide receiver Moose Muhammad III to the position. Outside of that, Fisher still sees Smith having a vital role within the team.
“He’ll be around to help those guys and mentor those guys, and that’s the best he can do,” Fisher said. “As far as that goes, he’ll be right there with them.”
The offensive line is finding its footing
Since the return of Foster to the offensive line, the Aggies have seen improvement in their front. However, despite the improvement, Foster is still recovering from his battle with mononucleosis and said he hasn’t been 100%.
“I decided to try and come back, but the energy is still pretty low and I’m still really fatigued and tired a lot,” Foster said. “But, it’s just grinding through the practice and the games.”
However, Foster said his condition has improved significantly, he feels much more in shape and he’s ready to take on the Bulldogs’ defense. In terms of the line as a whole, the team is working toward adding camaraderie to its talent in order to fully mesh as a unit.
“Smarter not harder”
In response to A&M’s performance in the first half and the plays left on the table against Arkansas, Fisher said it wasn’t from a lack of playing hard but rather a need to focus on playing smart.
“We won the game, and I’m very proud of that but not very happy in the way we played,” Fisher said. “We have to play smarter and not play with our emotions early in games. I think some of our young guys sometimes get emotional early in the game. They also try to be perfect. Sometimes when you’re trying to be perfect, … it’s the worst thing you can be. You have to trust what you practice, trust what this is and go lineup and play.”
Fisher said the team is putting emphasis on just “letting the play come to [them]” rather than going out and trying to make the big plays and ultimately making harmful mistakes.

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