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The Battalion

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

The Battalion

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Takeaways from A&M’s 20-13 loss to Tennessee

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Graduate WR Ainias Smith (0) holds his hands to his head after an incompletion during Texas A&M’s football game against Alabama at Kyle Field on Saturday, Oct. 7, 2023. (Chris Swann/The Battalion)

When it rains, it pours.
One week removed from a close home loss to Alabama, Texas A&M football fell on the road at Neyland Stadium to the No. 19 Tennessee Volunteers, 20-13. Here are some key takeaways.
The Aggies’ offensive line is bad. Like, really, really bad.
Against the Crimson Tide last week, it seemed that the guys up front for the Maroon and White had taken a step backwards in terms of their development. This week, they took a full leap in the wrong direction.
A&M’s offensive line was massacred against the Volunteers, as it seemed like every other play, sophomore quarterback Max Johnson had an orange jersey in his face. Tennessee came into the game No. 1 in the country in sacks per game, and the pressure they got on Johnson today stifled any kind of offensive rhythm.
The two late interceptions thrown by Johnson were products of increased pressure forcing a bad pass. Freshman offensive lineman Chase Bisontis, whom coach Jimbo Fisher heralded in the offseason, has had serious difficulties blocking elite edge rushers like senior Dallas Turner last week and sophomore James Pearce Jr. in this week’s game.
A struggling offensive line is a death wish in the SEC. The Aggies still have to play Ole Miss and LSU on the road, and will need to find some answers quickly. Already down one QB, the sustained damage Johnson has racked up will accumulate over time. A&M has to protect its quarterback, or Aggie fans may begin having flashbacks to 2022.
If the Aggies only played for one half, they’d only have one loss.
In the first halves of all three of A&M’s losses, the only team to have the lead going into halftime was Miami. Against both Alabama and Tennessee, the Aggies had the advantage going into the half.
In the past two games, the scoring margin in the first half is 27-17 in the Aggies’ favor. The second-half margin? 29-6, in favor of their opponents.
The second-half drive summaries for A&M against the Volunteers went as follows: punt, punt, punt, field goal, missed field goal, interception and interception. Yikes.
If you watched only the first quarter, it wouldn’t be bold to assume the Aggies were a top-10 program. Unfortunately for Aggie fans, there’s four quarters in football, and A&M is struggling in half of them.
Whether it’s fatigue, halftime adjustments from the other team or simply just bad luck, something has to be done if the Maroon and White want another tick in the win column. A&M has to find offensive consistency across the entire game, or this could shape up to be a long second half to the season for the Aggies and their fans.
Jimbo Fisher has to get a top-25 road win eventually if he wants to win championships.
In the SEC, “It Just Means More,” and this is ever apparent in its stadium atmospheres.
It’s not easy to win southeastern conference games, even at home. But on the road? That’s a whole different animal, with environments like Bryant-Denny Stadium, Death Valley and The Swamp presenting menacing challenges. One important wrinkle in this is that despite the difficulty, the best teams in the conference still find ways to win, like Georgia and its 24-game winning streak.
The Aggies on the other hand have not been able to find the answer to winning games away from Kyle Field. A&M has now lost eight true road games in a row, and is 0-10 against top-25 opponents on the road under Fisher.
The expectation from Aggie fans when bringing in Fisher from Florida State was that he was going to help guide the Maroon and White to at least contend for national championships. Now in Year 5, A&M is struggling to just secure crucial road victories. The script will need to change sooner rather than later if the Aggies even want to get close to a College Football Playoff spot.
The bye week could not have come at a better time.
One of the bright spots for A&M has been its defensive front and linebackers, but that unit took a serious beating against the Volunteers.
In the first half, sophomore defensive lineman Albert Regis and junior linebacker Edgerrin Cooper both left the game with injuries, dealing a major blow to the Aggies’ front.
Cooper has been having an All-SEC caliber season to this point, tied for fifth in the country in sacks and fourth in tackles for loss. The Covington, Louisiana native has been a key piece on a stout defensive front for the Maroon and White, and losing him would be a major blow.
To add salt to the wound, sophomore DL Walter Nolen, who has emerged as a star for the Aggies, had to be carted off in the second half. All three of these losses would hurt both the depth and production from the Maroon and White’s D-line, so next week’s bye week could not have been timed better.
Hopefully for Aggie fans, the injuries to Regis, Cooper and Nolen will be able to heal with this extended break, because if the defensive front wants to continue to dominate, they are going to need all three to do so.

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