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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

Sink or swim: Aggie defense, Crimson Tide offense

Photo by Photo by Cameron Johnson

Sophomore DB Jardin Gilbert (20) walks across the field at Kyle Field on Saturday, Sep. 10, 2022.

It’s time to compare notes: in Texas A&M’s last game against Mississippi State on Oct. 1, the Aggie defense racked up a grand total of 73 tackles with the highest performer being junior defensive back Antonio Johnson with eight total tackles. The team landed no sacks and no interceptions despite being handed multiple opportunities and gave up a season-high 42 points. 

On the other hand, in Alabama’s most recent game on the same date against Arkansas, the offense placed 49 points on the board despite playing with its backup quarterback, redshirt freshman Jalen Milroe, for most of the game. On top of that, the team totaled a net 317 yards rushing and 238 yards receiving. 

Looking at the statistics side-by-side, the Aggies’ chances of putting a stop to a seemingly uncompromising Crimson Tide offense are slim to none. So, the question arises, what will the Fightin’ Farmers have to do to stop the roll of the tide? 

One unit within the A&M defense that will need to shift against Alabama will be the defensive line. Until Week 4 against the Razorbacks, the Aggie defensive linemen had managed to keep a lid on the opposition’s run game, only allowing 107, 181 and 175 yards against Sam Houston State, Appalachian State and Miami, respectively. Then, the line cracked slightly to allow 244 rushing yards from Arkansas and then ultimately reforged against the Bulldogs, holding them to 136 net yards rushing. 

However, with the Tide putting up 317 yards on the ground and five rushing touchdowns last week, the Aggies will need to withstand the pressure test from Alabama’s star-studded offensive line and high-performer junior running back Jahmyr Gibbs to plug any open holes and halt the run game.

The offensive line’s second mission will be working on getting to the quarterback. The team was unable to sack Mississippi State junior quarterback Will Rogers last week and only had six total sacks in the four games prior. With Milroe being the likely signal caller to return to the pocket, the maroon and white will need to find a way to keep him from getting comfortable while he’s in it. 

While the pass game did take a backseat in Alabama’s game against Arkansas once Milroe was sent on the field, the Tide’s performance in the air was nothing to scoff at. Freshman wide receiver Kobe Prentice locked in with three receptions for 92 yards and a touchdown and was closely followed by another freshman wide receiver, Isaiah Bond, who had two receptions for 76 yards. So, while Alabama might not be throwing on every play, it is not afraid to go for the deep passes. However, A&M defensive coordinator DJ Durkin’s current strategy of playing more guys in the backfield than on the line could keep Alabama from finding those long passes. 

However, what may be the biggest deciding factor of the game will be A&M’s ability to capitalize on Alabama’s potential offensive mistakes. In the Tide’s matchup against Arkansas they had one interception and three fumbles, all of which they were able to recover. In a similar, but different vein, the Aggies had multiple interception opportunities within the first half to grab a turnover and were unable to reel them in, but did come away with a fumble recovery. 

The back-and-forth tug-of-war between the possibility of Alabama offensive mistakes and A&M’s chances to take advantage of them may result in the yank that pulls one team over the line and the other into the mud.

“We knew going into that [Mississippi State] game that we needed to get turnovers, and we had a few opportunities that we didn’t capitalize on,” Johnson said. “I feel like those could have been a turning point of the game. That’s in the past now. So next game, we’ve just got to win those opportunities … I feel like if we would have made those plays, it probably would’ve been [a] different outcome of the game.”

While the Crimson Tide may sit at No. 1, they are not immune to slip-ups, but if the now unranked Aggies can’t find a way to shut down Alabama’s offensive prowess on the ground and in the air, A&M will find itself drowning in the rush of the Tide.

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