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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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Takeaways from A&M’s 47-3 win over Louisiana-Monroe

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Photo by Photo by Ani Tummalapalli

Junior WR Moose Muhammad III (7) runs after catching the ball during Texas A&M’s football game against ULM at Kyle Field on Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023.

Texas A&M football looked like the team’s fans expected to see entering the 2023 season on Saturday, Sept. 16, as the Aggies rolled to a 47-3 victory over Louisiana-Monroe at Kyle Field.
Despite kickoff being delayed one hour due to inclement weather, A&M played a complete game from start to finish in a bounce-back effort from last week’s loss at Miami. Here are four takeaways after the final tuneup before SEC action begins.
Connecting on the deep ball
A week after their defense struggled to disrupt the Hurricanes’ downfield passing attack, the Aggies displayed a big play ability of their own against the Warhawks. The Maroon and White completed nine passes for over 15 yards while the ground game tallied three runs for over 10 yards in an offensive showcase against ULM.
Sophomore quarterback Conner Weigman completed 25 of 29 passes for 337 yards and a touchdown while spurring eight passes over 15 yards. Graduate wide receiver Ainias Smith was on the receiving end of four of those throws.
“Good decision making, getting the ball out, being efficient and getting his feet right,” coach Jimbo Fisher said of his quarterback. “His feet are right and he drives it down the field and [is] being more accurate with it.”
The Missouri City native hauled in seven passes for 127 yards alongside junior wide receiver Jahdae Walker. The Grand Valley State transfer reeled in five catches for 110 yards and the first score of his A&M career.
“He’s played that way since he’s been here, in camp, in spring,” Fisher said. “He’s been that guy. He’s got a lot of juice, a lot of energy. He’s got size, ball skills. He’s just been a very efficient guy for us and [it was] just a matter of him getting through the jitters and getting on the field and playing. Getting him going is big, because he’s got size, speed, athleticism. He’s a really good player.”
The absence of sophomore wide receivers Evan Stewart and Noah Thomas opened the door for Smith and Walker to take the spotlight in the passing game. Stewart didn’t dress out for the contest and Thomas only played in the first half with no targets before exiting out of caution.
Running back by committee
A&M’s stable of running backs rebounded from a 97-yard effort against Miami with 127 yards on the ground versus ULM. Junior Amari Daniels, sophomore Le’Veon Moss and freshman Rueben Owens were fed often with at least eight carries each.
“We’re going to keep doing it,” Fisher said. “Some guys will get hot at times and [sometimes] they won’t. But it’s good to get the reps early in the season. Guys are getting quality reps or picking up blitzes or catching and also they’re catching balls out of the backfield … That position is a physical position. You’ve got to have numbers there to get through the season, especially in the SEC.”
Daniels picked up 36 yards on nine carries while Owens and Moss garnered 51 and 46 yards, respectively, on eight carries. Daniels found a hole in the Warhawks’ defensive line to find the end zone from four yards out less than a minute before halftime to put the Aggies up 27-3. With six minutes to go in the third quarter, Owens dashed down the left side of the field for a 21-yard score.
“The communication up front has definitely helped those guys be able to get the ball in space and just create plays with that,” Smith said. “I’m loving the way that the rotation is going. All of them boys had the potential to do great things. And as you saw today, all three of them have the ability to go turn up with it at any moment.”
Even Weigman got in on the action with a 19-yard touchdown scramble in the second quarter for a 17-3 lead. When the Aggies’ offense is running on all cylinders, it can beat opponents in many different ways, as was shown in Saturday’s win.
Gearing up for SEC play
The 2023 campaign marks the fifth time in Fisher’s six seasons at A&M in which the team has dropped its second game of the season. Each time, the Aggies have responded with an emphatic win in the following week, as was the case on Saturday. In all but one full season at A&M, Fisher has led the team into conference action with a 2-1 mark.
“I think our mental game as far as where we’re at in competing and our psychological disposition of our team was in a good place,” Fisher said. “I liked how we came out in the game. I liked how we practiced all week. I like the focus we have. Now, [we’ve] got to take it to the field … the gauntlet is coming.”
Nonetheless, the Aggies’ leaders voiced their confidence in the team heading into the Sept. 23 matchup with Auburn. The Tigers opened the year with a dominant 59-14 win over UMass before slipping by California 14-10 on the road last week. They’ll enter next week 3-0 after beating Samford on Saturday.
A&M hasn’t had the best luck in SEC openers under Fisher, though, having lost the first conference matchup three times in the last five years. ESPN Analytics gives the Aggies a 62.5% chance to take down the Tigers. For A&M to launch a successful bounce-back campaign, starting off on the right foot is key. Lose to Auburn at home, and winning seven or eight games looks unlikely.
“I definitely feel like we’re ready,” sophomore defensive back Bryce Anderson said. “As long as we prepare the right way Monday through Friday, I feel like there’s no team in the nation that can play with us.”
Showcasing the depth
Saturday saw the emergence of several newcomers to A&M football, and not just Walker. Sophomore wide receiver and Kentucky transfer Jordan Anthony reeled in his first three passes in maroon and white, while freshman wide receiver Raymond Cottrell’s first reception was a memorable one. The Florida native fell backward to snag sophomore quarterback Max Johnson’s pass in the back of the end zone for the Aggies’ final touchdown.
In garbage time, sophomore quarterback Jaylen Henderson saw his first action with A&M since transferring from Fresno State. In his only play, he went 7 yards on a keeper. Elsewhere on offense, sophomore tight end Jake Johnson made six catches for 36 yards. Freshman Mark Nabou Jr. began the game at center ahead of banged-up sophomore Bryce Foster. Fisher said Nabou was the starting center in two-thirds of fall camp.
On the other side of the ball, A&M’s defensive stats were spread evenly, with sophomore defensive backs Jacoby Mathews and Jarred Kerr leading with four tackles. Mathews added a pass break-up as he settled nicely into a hole left by the injured junior defensive back Tyreek Chappell. Overall, 21 players registered a defensive statistic.
“I thought we did a great job just doing our assignments this week,” junior defensive lineman Fadil Diggs said. “Started off in practice, that first day back, we told ourselves, everybody got to do their one to 11. I think that’s the best thing we did this week, and also stopping the run and defending the pass.”
The Aggies’ trials by fire in last year’s 5-7 campaign have positively bolstered the depth on this season’s squad. Despite minor day-to-day injuries on both sides of the ball, A&M didn’t seem to miss a beat as it moved down the depth chart.

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About the Contributor
Luke White
Luke White, Sports Editor
Luke White is a junior telecommunication media studies major and sport management minor from Round Rock, Texas. He has served as head sports editor since May 2023.
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