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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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One step away
June 8, 2024

“The biggest test we’ve had”

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Photo by Photo by Jenny Hollowell

Senior running back Keith Ford scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns to help the Aggies earn a comeback win over South Carolina.  Ford had 70 yards on 12 carries during the game.

Days away from facing No. 1 Alabama, Texas A&M is looking to find the formula to take down one of the most dominant programs in college football.
The Aggies will have their hands full with the Crimson Tide during every phase of the game on Saturday.
For the Aggies, the biggest point of emphasis is making sure the run game is working in their favor. However, Alabama’s defense has held opposing offenses to an average of 73.8 yards per game, which is the second-best in the nation.
A&M offensive lineman Erik McCoy said that facing the Alabama defense is always a challenge, and the O-line will have a tough task this upcoming Saturday making sure the running backs have lanes to run through and find the open field.
“We expect it every year,” McCoy said at Tuesday’s press conference. “We know that they’re going to have a good defensive front. Their linebackers are fast, their [defensive] line is fast. They’re definitely going to be the biggest test we’ve had so far this year, but we’re up to it and we look forward to having a challenge.”
Senior Keith Ford is one of several dynamic running backs A&M has on its roster. Last week against South Carolina, Ford rushed for 70 yards and had two touchdowns in the Aggies’ 24-17 victory. According to McCoy, Ford can be described as an angry runner, making the offensive line’s job a lot easier.
“He’s one of the most physical [running] backs I’ve ever seen,” McCoy said. “Even if there’s not a hole, he makes a hole. It’s pretty awesome when you’re an O-lineman and he does that.”
In the last few seasons, A&M has started its season off strong, but after facing Alabama their production and play took a significant toll. Injuries have also become an issue for the Aggies after facing the Tide.
During the off season, A&M hired new strength and conditioning coach Mark Hocke to help the Aggies prepare and make it through the toughest part of their schedule. Hocke came to College Station after spending a few years as the strength and conditioning coach at some of the country’s most elite programs, including six years at Alabama.
A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin said Hocke’s experience with top college programs the last few years was one of the major reasons why the Aggies wanted to bring him into the program.
“Mark has a couple of different things that we were looking for,” Sumlin said. “Obviously being at Alabama … that was one piece. He’s been his own guy at another SEC school at Georgia. Then leaving there and being at Florida State, which obviously is an elite program too. He had a combination of things that he brought to the table with his back ground of people he trained with.”
Alabama’s offense reigns supreme in the SEC when it comes to total offense. The Tide is averaging 508.6 yards a game in total offense. Sophomore quarterback Jalen Hurts rushed for 101 yards and threw for 248 yards with three touchdowns in Alabama’s 66-3 victory over Ole Miss this past Saturday.
A&M defensive lineman Landis Durham said that Hurts’ poses a threat to the Aggies with his ability to run and throw but is confident the Aggies have a plan in place.
“He’s a very athletic guy, so we’ll be looking to condense the pocket and make sure we close off some run lanes for him,” Durham said. “If we do [flush him out of the pocket] we’ll have some reinforcements.”
The Aggies’ defense is second in the nation in sacks at 20. A&M is third in the nation with fumbles recovered. However, on the opposite side of the ball Alabama has yet to turn the ball over this season.
Durham said the defensive corps is ready to face the high powered offense and have the potential of being the first team to cause the Tide to turn the ball over.
“That will be huge,” Durham said. “We’re looking forward to changing that for them.”
The Aggies will host No. 1 Alabama at Kyle Field, Saturday Oct. 7 at 6:15 p.m. and will be televised on ESPN.

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