Saturday rounded out 1/3 of the college football season. And at this point, Aggie football looks to be exactly where it was a year ago.
Beat a top 15 ranked opponent in season opener? Check.
Find out later that their ranking was horribly wrong? Check.
Handle non-conference cupcakes with ease? Check.
Escape Arkansas overtime game with late offensive heroics? Check.
Sumlin appears to be in some twisted college football version of Groundhog Day as A&M enters the meat of their SEC schedule. Up next are the three teams responsible for A&M’s midseason skid in 2014; Mississippi State, Alabama, and Ole Miss. If Arkansas, which has losses to Toledo and Texas Tech, provides any indication, the Aggies have their work cut out for them.
The chief concerns are run defense, offensive line woes, and red zone playcalling. Sound familiar?
The run defense was atrocious, there’s no other way to slice it. Against a monster offensive line like Arkansas, the Aggies needed a big game from their defensive tackles and linebackers. They got anything but that. The defensive tackles were severely undersized in comparison. And when they did get penetration, they ran themselves out of the play. Meanwhile, we have so many injuries at linebacker that we now have a traffic cone manning the middle linebacker position.
The offensive line was supposed to be vastly improved this season after bringing in new position coach, Dave Christensen. With plenty of 4-star talent to work with, it would only be a matter of time until the line gelled into a cohesive unit. Instead, they consistently yielded to an underwhelming Arkansas defensive line. Often times, Kyle Allen was forced to scramble out of the pocket to avoid the pressure of a 4-man rush. Simply unacceptable.
And finally, the red-zone play calling. Give Spavital his due, there are times this A&M offense is the best in the nation. They certainly look the part with all the 5-star skill players. But there are other times, specifically short yardage situations, when the offense stalls. Much of this goes back to the offensive line, which provides zero confidence in picking up 1 or 2 yards on the ground. But this is an issue, and a big one at that. The Aggies cannot afford to be trading touchdowns for field goals in conference play.
It wasn’t all bad though, there was actually plenty of good.
Kyle Allen put together perhaps his best game of the season on 21/28 passing for 358 yards and 2 touchdowns. He connected early and often with fellow Arizona standout Christian Kirk. The freshman phenom had 8 receptions for 173 yards and even added 77 return yards on 4 kickoffs.
Additionally, the offense took care of the football with 0 turnovers. They didn’t get many opportunities with only 48 plays on 20 minutes of possession. But they made the most of them gaining 8.6 yards per play and scoring every 9.6 snaps.
Perhaps most important was the fight and will to win that this team showed. Sumlin said it best in the post-game presser, “Just really proud of our effort. Proud of the look in our guys’ eyes in the fourth quarter particularly.” The Ags made plays when it really mattered. And for the second straight year, they stole one away from Arkansas.