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

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Spring has sprung into Kyle Field

Photo by Photo by Kyle Heise

The line of scrimmage during the Maroon & White Spring Game at Kyle Field on Saturday, April 15, 2023.

After a season of disappointment for Texas A&M football last season, the Aggie faithful sought answers. Now, one new offensive coordinator in Bobby Petrino and skilled freshmen like running back Reuben Owens later, many were eager to see a preview of what the 2023 team has to offer.
On Saturday, April 15, the Aggies put a ring on spring practice with the 2023 Maroon & White game. Despite many prominent returning players from last year, multiple new faces shined in the final scrimmage of the spring. The defense continued to flex its muscles a year after signing the No. 1 recruiting class in the country, while the offense seemed to still be working out the kinks in Petrino’s new offense, but still managed to show flashes of what it could be.
Sophomore quarterback Connor Weigman — who stepped into the starting role late in the season last year — got the starting nod for the Maroon team.
The Maroon offense got off to a fast start, with junior running back Amari Daniels taking the handoff for five yards on the first play of the game.
In a connection many Aggie fans look forward to for years to come, Weigman connected with sophomore wide receiver Evan Stewart on a short route to get the first down. Weigman then floated a deep pass over the shoulder to Stewart later in the drive. Fully extending his hands, Stewart reached out and secured the 33-yard pass along the left sideline.
A swing pass to graduate wide receiver Ainias Smith put the Maroon team in good field position, but an ineligible player downfield penalty from sophomore tight end Jake Johnson, a keeper from Weigman and a pass deflected at the line set the Maroon team up with third down.
Looking for an open receiver, Weigman saw sophomore wide receiver Noah Thomas open streaking in the back of the end zone, but after zipping the pass to Thomas, sophomore defensive back Bryce Anderson laid the wood on the wideout.
“He can blitz, he can tackle, he can play special teams,” coach Jimbo Fisher said. “Bryce is a very talented guy. Bryce can play nickel, he can play dime, he can play back in safety. If he had to, Bryce could play corner. He comes to play football every day, loves football. The longer he’s on the practice field, the more he smiles.”
Thomas dropped the pass after the big hit and was shaken up on the play. After being slow to get up, Thomas left the game and did not return.
“Noah’s our MVP,” Fisher said. “It was a shame he got hurt because he was playing his tail off. He’s going to be a real weapon. I wanted everybody to have a real chance to see him today. He’s had an outstanding spring.”
Junior kicker Randy Bond knocked in a field goal to give the Maroon team the early 3-0 lead.
The White team was not intimidated by the early lead. Junior quarterback Max Johnson got the start for the White team, and after a rollout pass and handoff to Owens on the first two plays, Johnson connected with freshman wide receiver Micah Tease for a 52-yard touchdown on a play-action pass deep along the left sideline.
The extra point was missed, but the White team gained the 6-3 lead, one they would not lose for the rest of the game.
From that point on in the first half, the defenses walled up and the offenses sputtered. After the Maroon team answered back with a field goal to tie the game at 6, neither team scored for six consecutive drives.
Both quarterbacks threw an interception in the scoring drought, with Johnson being picked off by freshman defensive back Aaron Trevino and Weigman by freshman defensive back Kent Robinson as neither quarterback could find any rhythm.
“They’re two competitors, they’re always going to keep battling each other,” Fisher said. “Both of them shined, and I like for them to have a little failure like that, see how they battle back. Both of them came back and played well after [they] had some mistakes.”
On the offensive line, sophomore Matthew Wykoff entered the transfer portal last week, sophomore center Bryce Foster did not participate in spring due to track and junior lineman Aki Ogunbiyi was injured in practice, so the depleted A&M O-line was dealt the difficult task of playing against a star-studded defensive line.
“A helmet busted Aki across his nose,” Fisher said. “They gave him stitches in his nose, he couldn’t play. He’s got a big scar on his nose, so we had to play with the alignment like we did, but we’ll be fine in that situation.”
The D-line appeared unstoppable at times, with linemen like sophomore Walter Nolen, junior Shemar Turner, sophomore Albert Regis and junior Fadil Diggs wreaking havoc in the backfield.
“Walt has improved so much,” Turner said. “You can tell his attitude towards the game has changed. Walt surprised me this spring. Walt is going to be one of the greatest to come out of A&M.”
Multiple times, the defensive line for both teams blew up plays in the backfield, forcing tackles for losses and sacks, which is one of the reasons scoring seemed so difficult early in the first half.
“This D-line can be special,” Turner said. “One of the best in the nation, if we keep going, keep pushing, because we’ve still got a lot to work on, we’re far from perfect. If we put our head down and keep working together, I feel like we’ll be one of the best in the nation.”
Finally, after six drives, the White team used the passing game to make its way downfield, culminating in a sliding grab in the end zone by sophomore tight end Fernando Garza on a pass from Johnson to put the White team back on top 13-6.
The Maroon team, much like how each side had all half, answered back with its own aerial barrage from Weigman. The drive ended in seven points when Daniels took the handoff through the left side for a 15-yard score to tie the game up at 13 after the extra point.
The White team used a late drive to kick a field goal to end the half, once again putting them on top 16-13 going into halftime.
At the half, Weigman was 10-24 with 131 passing yards, a touchdown and an interception, and Johnson was 11-20 with 138 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.
Owens led all running backs at half with 48 rushing yards, while Stewart led all wide receivers with 80 yards receiving at halftime.
Before heading to the locker room, multiple Aggies won spring practice awards.
The Defensive MVP awards went to Anderson and Turner, with the Offensive MVP award going to Thomas.
Special Teams MVP went to senior defensive back Sam Mathews and junior defensive lineman Isaiah Raikes.
Defensive Most Improved awards went to Nolen, Regis and junior defensive lineman Drew Beltran.
Offensive Most Improved went to freshman offensive lineman Mark Nabou and sophomore offensive lineman Remington Strickland.
Community Service awards went to Smith, graduate tight end Max Wright and sophomore offensive lineman Kam Dewberry.
Finally, the Academic Excellence awards went to Daniels, Diggs, Garza, Dewberry, junior defensive back Jardin Gilbert, freshman linebacker Taurean York, senior defensive back Will Smoot, freshman deep snapper Levi Hancock and senior defensive back Tony Grimes.
In the second half, it was all White team up until the very end.
To start the half, Johnson took the White team’s offense past midfield, then four straight rushes from senior running back Earnest Crownover helped punch the ball into the end zone, giving the White team a double-digit lead.
Later on in the half, Fisher switched up the quarterbacks, meaning Weigman came in to play for the White team as well. He helped stretch its lead, hitting freshman wide receiver Pierce Turner on a go route for a 23-yard touchdown, putting the White team up 30-13, cementing the team’s victory.
Bond tacked on 3 more for the White team late in the fourth quarter, and the Maroon team added a touchdown in the final minute, putting the final score at 33-19.
“Spring is coming to an end, and I can definitely say this is one of the most interesting springs that I’ve went through,” Smith said. “Just because of how fun it was. We were out there every day competing, even on the weekends. This year has definitely been very hopeful.”

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