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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

Southwest Classic: How A&M’s defense stack up against Arkansas’ offense

Photo by Ishika Samant

Freshman LB Taurean York (21) celebrates after bringing down Auburn QB Robby Ashford (9) during Texas A&M’s game against Auburn on Saturday, Sept. 23, 2023 at Kyle Field. (Ishika Samant/The Battalion)

Both the Texas A&M defense and Arkansas offense struggled throughout the early parts of the season. However, in Week 4 both sides performed the best they have all year.
On Saturday, Sept. 30, they will go head-to-head in the Southwest Classic at AT&T Stadium.
In his second stint as offensive coordinator for the Razorbacks, Dan Enos left a little more to be desired. Still, the Hogs’ skill players give them a chance to find much success for the remainder of the season.
Leading the way for the Razorbacks offense is redshirt senior quarterback KJ Jefferson. Jefferson presents many problems for defenses he faces with his big frame, ability to run when needed and good decision-making skills.
The 6-foot-3, 247-pound quarterback has several weapons to work with at the receiver positions as well as rising freshman tight end Luke Hasz. Hasz has accounted for 239 and three touchdowns, with 116 yards and two touchdowns coming last week against LSU.
Leading the way for Arkansas at the receiver spot has been redshirt senior A&M- Commerce transfer Andrew Armstrong. Armstrong leads the Razorbacks in receiving with 273 yards.
Armstrong and Hasz are not the only passing options for Jefferson, as other wide receivers have stepped up in senior Isaac TeSlaa and redshirt sophomore Jaedon Wilson, accounting for a touchdown each.
Still, question marks remain with the Hogs as they have been without junior running back Raheim ‘Rocket’ Sanders since Week 1. In his absence, Arkansas has turned to junior running back AJ Green and sophomore running back Rashod Dubinnion.
The Hogs’ running game has been average since Sanders went down, but the major problems with the offense exist elsewhere.
Those problems for the Razorback offense begin with the inexperienced offensive line. Arkansas has two new starters this season at the tackle position with redshirt freshman Andrew Chamberlee and sophomore Patrick Cutas.
Arkansas has given up 11 sacks this season, with eight of them coming in the last two weeks against power-five competition.
There is no doubt the Hogs will have its biggest test yet, against an Aggie defense that recorded seven sacks last week and 15 tackles for loss against Auburn. A&M will be set up for success on the defensive side if they can put major pressure on Jefferson and prevent him from hurting them with his legs.
That begins with the Aggies linebacker room. Junior linebacker Edgerrin Cooper has performed as well as expected for A&M. However, the best news for the Aggies is the play they have received from the other linebackers.
Freshman linebacker Taurean York was awarded freshman of the week in the SEC for his 11 tackles, two for loss, in Week 4 against Auburn. Senior linebacker Chris Russell Jr. also took a step up against Auburn, recording a sack and a half with five total tackles.
The Aggies will need the linebackers to continue to wreak havoc against Jefferson this week.
Another thing the Aggies will need to do is continue to improve in the secondary. The Aggies’ secondary has been the weakest point of its defense after giving up 374 yards and five touchdowns through the air against Miami.
However, the secondary played lights out last week against the Tigers, only allowing 56 passing yards.
Most of that can be attributed to the pressure defensive coordinator DJ Durkin dialed up for the Aggies and the poor performances of the Auburn quarterbacks. Still, there is no doubt the secondary is continuing to improve.
Every game the Aggies and Razorbacks have played in Arlington since being SEC foes has been down to the wire. Most notably in three overtime games and also in 2022 after the Hogs’ potential game-winning field goal hit off the top of the upright.
If that trend remains the same, the Aggie defense will likely have to make some crucial late-game stops and prevent Jefferson from asserting his dominance.

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