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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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Texas A&M to kick off road game series with matchup against the Gamecocks

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One of the toughest stretches of the season begins this weekend for No. 22 Texas A&M.
After two straight SEC wins over Arkansas and Kentucky, the Aggies will go on the road for three straight SEC games with an open week on Oct. 20. The first of the three comes this weekend as A&M travels to Columbia to take on the South Carolina Gamecocks. Since the two schools were made permanent cross-division rivals in the SEC, the Aggies have won all four matchups, and they’ll look to make it five this weekend.
In the first four games of the season, sophomore quarterback Kellen Mond and the A&M offense outshined the defense, averaging 545.5 yards a game. But in the last two games, the A&M defense ran the show, securing two of A&M’s victories.
Then No. 13 Kentucky was averaging 407.2 yards per game on offense before running into the A&M defense, which allowed the Wildcats 178 yards overall and only 66 yards in the last three quarters.
“As a defense, we tackled very well in space,” A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher said. “We were great against the run, we covered well, we pressured the quarterback, and they did a good job in overtime. We did well on third down getting them off the field. They didn’t cross the 50 the whole game.”
Defensive coordinator Mike Elko has the A&M defense all the way up to No. 23 in the country in total defense, despite a lack of depth at linebacker and relatively weak secondary play.
South Carolina was ranked 24th in the country in week two before losing in a blowout to No. 2 Georgia. Since the loss to Georgia, the Gamecocks have defeated Vanderbilt on the road, lost to Kentucky on the road and earned
another win against Missouri at home.
Junior starting quarterback Jake Bentley was forced to sit out the Missouri game due to an injury, but he will be back under center against the Aggies on Saturday. Bentley has thrown for 928 yards and seven touchdowns, but has also thrown six interceptions in just four games.
South Carolina’s senior receiver Deebo Samuel is Bentley’s favorite target. Samuel has caught 26 passes for 294 yards and three touchdowns so far this year. Samuel is a playmaker that the A&M defense will need to watch out for.
“I treat no player different,” sophomore cornerback Debione Renfro said. “I’ll come in just wanting to do my job, and if I do my job, it’ll be a good team win. … If you’re shutting down the run, you have no choice but to pass the ball, and if we’re doing everything we’re supposed to do, they shouldn’t be passing the ball either.”
After gaining 144 yards and out dueling Benny Snell last week, A&M junior running back Trayveon Williams leads the SEC in rushing with 743 yards on the ground. Williams is having an incredible year with the Aggies and is fifth in the country in rushing yards.
For the first five weeks of the season, Williams had a dreadlock he had been growing for eight months dangling over his face, but the running back cut it before the Kentucky game and now keeps it in his locker for good luck.
“Eventually, I’ll have to throw it away because it’s a piece of hair,” Williams said. “If you want to be successful in this league, you have to be able to run the ball, and you have to be able to stop the run, so that’s something that coach Fisher implemented and he’s focused on, and we’re doing great at it right now.”
The South Carolina defense is 54th in the nation in total defense and 65th in scoring defense. They are led by senior linebacker Bryson Allen-Williams and senior defensive back Rashad Fenton. Allen-Williams leads the team with eight tackles for loss and has racked up two sacks, while Fenton leads the team with three interceptions and has two tackles for loss.
The key to the game will be the turnover battle. Despite several strong defensive performances, A&M is one of two teams left in the country that has yet to recovered a fumble, and the Aggies are dead last in the NCAA in causing turnovers. Some of this can be attributed to luck, but it will be key for A&M to put Bentley under pressure and force him to make turnovers like he has done frequently this year.
The game will take place at Williams-Brice Stadium at 2:30 p.m. in Columbia, South Caroline and will be televised on the SEC Network.

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