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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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Players to watch: Abilene Christian

Photo by: Julianne Shivers

Sophomore QB Jaylen Henderson (16) runs the ball in for a touchdown in Texas A&M’s game against Mississippi state on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2023 at Kyle Field. (Julianne Shivers/ The Battalion)

Coming off of a tumultuous week with a blowout win over Mississippi State and the shock firing of Jimbo Fisher, Texas A&M plays Abilene Christian in hopes of securing a winning record this season. Here are the players to watch when the Aggies face the Wildcats in their final home game of the 2023 season at Kyle Field on Saturday, Nov. 18 at 11:00 a.m.

Blayne Taylor, Abilene Christian wide receiver

Though Abilene Christian has a mediocre offense by most metrics, they have a tremendous weapon on the outside in 6-foot-5-inch junior wide receiver Blayne Taylor. 

Taylor combines his huge frame with surprising speed on the outside in the mold of a prototypical X-receiver. Known for his big-play ability, Taylor averages 16.0 yards per reception and currently leads the team in receiving yards with 543 and receiving touchdowns with seven. 

Against Tarleton State last week, Taylor showcased his skillset when he caught a beautiful back-shoulder fade in the endzone over a Texan defender. Senior A&M defensive back Demani Richardson will be tasked with guarding him on the outside as the Aggie’s best player in the secondary. Neutralizing Taylor will be key for the Aggies to shut down the Wildcat offense.

Jaylen Henderson, Texas A&M quarterback

When tasked to fill in for sophomore quarterback Max Johnson last week, sophomore Jaylen Henderson seized the opportunity and ran with it, throwing for 150 yards and two touchdowns and rushing for 60 yards and another two touchdowns. 

With Johnson’s health in question for this game, Henderson may be tasked with leading the Aggie offense for the second-straight week. Henderson’s running ability faces a terrific matchup against the Wildcat rushing defense which ranks ninth in the FCS at 213.4 yards per game. 

Henderson is willing and able to attack downfield, and with Abilene Christian having a poor pass rush that has only managed 11 sacks this year, he should have plenty of time throwing it deep. Henderson’s electric play will be a big factor in what should be an Aggie offensive explosion.

Patrick Jolly, Abilene Christian defensive back

Although the Wildcat pass defense has surrendered a middle-of-the-pack 242 yards per game up to this point, they have an exceptional 11 interceptions with senior Patrick Jolly leading the team with four himself. Jolly, a UCLA transfer, has performed wonderfully as the team’s defacto No. 1 cornerback, getting nine pass breakups while largely getting matched up with the opposing team’s best receiver on the outside. 

Jolly will have his hands full with the Aggie’s wide receiver group, as graduate Ainias Smith and sophomore Noah Thomas will test him with their speed and agility on routes near the line of scrimmage. Combined with the fact that sophomore Evan Stewart may potentially return this week, makes it so Jolly will face better receivers than he’s seen all year. His ability to create turnovers will be a major factor if Abilene Christian hopes to pull off the upset.

Walter Nolen, Texas A&M defensive tackle

After racking up another four sacks versus Mississippi State, A&M currently ranks first in the FBS with 39 sacks on the year. While Bednarik Award semifinalist junior linebacker Edgerrin Cooper leads the team with eight sacks, sophomore Walter Nolen’s ability to soak up double teams has given easier matchups when rushing from the outside. 

The Wildcat’s offensive line might be their strongest position group as they’ve only surrendered 11 sacks total. However, the inside of their line is vulnerable, which is Nolen’s area of expertise. If Nolen is able to exploit that weakness and cause havoc on the inside, A&M will continue dominating with its nation leading pass rush.

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