Texas A&M defeated Mississippi State 30-17 two Saturdays ago at Kyle Field to improve to 5-0 on the season and entered the bye week with positive momentum as they prepared to take on Alabama this Saturday. Here are some quick summaries on the MSU game, along with some season-long numbers and trends.
First of all, the Aggies had another good offensive day against the Bulldogs. A&M ran 84 plays (technically 85 but I didn't chart the final play, considering it to be a garbage time snap), and had a success rate right at 50%, and both running and passing were right around the 50% number.
The overall yards per play was a little lower last week, but the 6.0 ypp that A&M achieved was the highest number MSU has allowed all year. MSU is a fairly good defense, as they held LSU's Leonard Fournette to just 5.7 yards per carry, while he has averaged 9.5 in his other four games. So the fact that A&M was able to grind out a 100 yard rushing performance with Tra Carson (26 carries for 110 yards) is pretty impressive.
A&M got back to using a lot of 11 personnel (one running back, one tight end or H back) after only using that package 8 times vs. Arkansas.
As for formations, A&M ran about half their plays from either their spread or trips formation and then had a good mix of other formations as well. A huge difference this year vs last year has been with the use of variations within the base formations, things like using "tackle over" formations (moving one tackle over to the other side to create an unbalanced line) and attaching a tight end to a formation.
One thing that is encouraging is that as the season now starts to pile up a large amount of data, it appears that A&M is fairly consistent regardless of what formation or personnel group or run or pass. No glaring weaknesses when looking at the season as a whole.
A&M also continues to show new things each week. Against MSU, the Aggies debuted a wildcat formation out of an empty backfield (Christian Kirk took the snap, while quarterback Kyle Allen lined up out wide as a receiver), and also showed a couple "bunch" formations for the first time this year.
Some other general thoughts about the Mississippi State game:
- The Aggies had probably their best three or four opening drives of the season. Eighteen of the first 20 plays were successful (a ridiculous number), and nine of them were what I call "mini-explosives," which are runs of 7+ and passes of 15+ yards). The Aggies averaged 9.8 yards per play on those first 20, without having a single play over 30 yards. It was just surgical precision and execution. Seven of those 20 plays went for 10+ yards.
- On the flip side of that, only one of the next 17 plays gained at least ten yards, and later A&M had another stretch of 19 plays with just one double digit gainer. Seven straight incomplete passes by Kyle Allen were mixed in there, and while he had a great day overall, that was a rough stretch for him in the second half.
- As A&M has struggled somewhat on third downs this year, one reason has been that first down hasn't always gone well for A&M, leading to longer third down yardage needed. As you'd expect, during those first few drives when A&M was so efficient, their first down efficiency was fantastic. Eight of the first nine first down snaps were successful for A&M.
- MSU was the first team that found a way to at least somewhat contain Christian Kirk. Most of this was due to simply double and triple teaming him, and while it kept him from making any huge plays, it clearly opened things up for other players. So it was really impressive seeing the Aggies still move the ball and score points despite the defense accomplishing what was no doubt their main objective.