Newly renovated Kyle Field was home to lots of fireworks this weekend, both in the sky Friday night at Midnight Yell Practice and on the field Saturday night as the Aggies rattled off 49 points in the first half against Ball State. It was a stress-free win against an overmatched opponent for A&M. So what did we learn?
THIS IS A POTENTIALLY EXPLOSIVE OFFENSE
There may have been doubt about the Aggie offense after a sputtering performance against Arizona State. While no one is saying that Ball State fields a stout defense, the Aggies did what an explosive, talented offense should do against an inferior opponent, running and passing their way up and down the field with ease.
A&M scored touchdowns on six of their seven first half possessions, and all six were scored by different players. The Aggies, believe it or not, threw a touchdown pass to a traditionally-aligned tight end in the red zone.
Kyle Allen looked very comfortable, completing almost everything, and he looked particularly effective on play action passes while rolling out. The Aggies did a little of everything and most of it worked. It was but one step in a long journey, but a necessary improvement as the SEC grind approaches. It's a lot more encouraging as a fan to spend the week talking about this kind of game than it would be to talk about only scoring 20 points in regulation against an FCS opponent, like Auburn did.
SPEEDY NOIL STILL HAS TO EARN HIS WAY BACK INTO THE STARTING LINEUP
When Damion Ratley started in place of Noil against Arizona State, it was speculated that Noil's absence may have just been a final punishment for an offseason disciplinary issue. But Ratley remained the starter against Ball State, and Noil saw most of his action in the second half, alongside 2nd and 3rd stringers playing in blowout mode.
Noil is physically gifted, and was praised last year for his continued effort and willingness to play hard even while his teammates appeared to coast. He made numerous big plays and was poised, everyone thought, for a breakout sophomore year after his freshman year was spent learning the receiver position for the first time. So why does it feel so far away now?
To be clear, the season is young, and a talent like Noil should not be discounted. It's just something worth keeping an eye on over the next couple of games. Will Noil do whatever it is the coaches are wanting him to do to re-gain his spot and show flashes of an all-conference receiver and future NFL draft pick? On Saturday night, Noil again seemed to play hard, and he made things happen when he did have the ball in his hands. He played well. Was it enough to earn more first team reps going forward? We'll find out against Nevada.
THE AGGIE DEFENSE STILL LOOKS STOUT, BUT WHAT ABOUT THE SECOND TEAM?
After giving up a couple of big plays on the first drive and ultimately allowing a field goal, the A&M defense performed admirably the rest of the first half. Ball State did not score again until the third quarter, and the Aggies actually scored on defense, courtesy of a De'Vante Harris' interception return. The Aggies were able to rotate several players in while still playing well, and it was all done without even requiring any big plays by Myles Garrett or Daeshon Hall.
However... if you want to nitpick, you can aim it at the defensive performance by A&M in the second half. 20 points allowed and a lot of yards rushing. It's easy to just dismiss it all, but at the same time, in 2012, the Aggies' first unit was pretty strong, but the backups routinely allowed way too many points. Aggie fans no doubt still feel a little sick to their stomachs when they think about where that led.
In all honesty, this isn't too concerning, as most of these backups are young, and A&M is legitimately deep with talent on the defensive line. But hey, we're searching for perfection, right? John Chavis will no doubt be focused on getting improvement from the second and third string players, and with one more "easy" opponent upcoming, it's something to watch for this week.