Texas A&M jumped on Prairie View early and often Saturday, cruising to a 67-0 victory on a day when the Aggies played well in all three phases. It was the first time in over a decade that a Texas A&M home crowd got to witness a shutout, and as the focus turns to Auburn this week, let's look back at three things the big victory taught us about this team.
1. This Aggie team is talented, versatile, and deep
In years past, the Aggies have had various combinations of those three, but often lacked depth. That's one reason there haven't been any shutouts between 2004 and 2015, because even if the first team defense pitched a shutout against a team like Prairie View, the backups would promptly give up 17 points in the final quarter and it would expose just how much of a gap there was between the first and second units.
Thanks to better recruiting since joining the SEC and the arrival of defensive coordinator John Chavis, the Aggies now have that depth, particularly on the defense. A&M has shut out two of their last five opponents and have only allowed 35 touchdowns in the 15 games under Chavis (A&M allowed 45 TDs in 13 games in 2014 and 55 in 13 games in 2013).
That talent and versatility also shows up on offense and special teams though. Nick Harvey returned a punt for a touchdown Saturday and he's the second string punt returner. 13 players caught a pass for A&M. Five different running backs carried the ball (and did it well) Saturday,
I'm not saying A&M has developed a pipeline of talented depth like Alabama has. I'm not saying that beating Prairie View A&M with such ease means the Aggies are national championship contenders. But from watching, it is apparent that this is a deep team with a lot of talent all over the field.
2. The Aggies improved Saturday
This stood out to me both on a micro and macro level. The Aggies improved between game one and game two. But they also improved over the course of the game. Trevor Knight is a great example. He started off very rusty and inaccurate and as the game went on, he got better and better. He did still make one bad decision in the red zone but the improvement was noticeable.
The tackling was better, the coverage was better, the assignments were better, it was all better. Again, the opponent being so weak can give the illusion of improvement simply due to having better athletes, but the improvements seemed real. Of course the competition and the stakes go way up starting this week, and continued improvement is a must, but one has to be encouraged. Winning such a lopsided game doesn't necessarily mean anything on its own (the same A&M team that beat Baylor 73-10 in 2003 also lost to OU 77-0 a month later) but it's better to win big than to not.
A lot of other ranked teams and/or big-name programs have either lost or struggled with poor opponents already this year. Taking care of business and dominating in the process is something to celebrate.
3. Speedy Noil is back!
Ok, he only had four catches for 25 yards, but he did score a touchdown, and more importantly for the team, he is back and he is another legitimate threat on the edge.
Noil was very close to catching another touchdown and also was targeted both deep and short. His presence and play-making ability on the left side give offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone a little more to work with when deciding how to attack a defense.
His presence is also important for a scheme that often runs trips formations to the right and leaves the X receiver on the left as the only wideout. Mazzone has spoken at clinics about what they want out of that position and when the defense rolls coverage over to the trips side, it is important to have a receiver on the backside that can win one on one battles. Noil has proven to be a guy that can make difficult catches and be physical. His presence will be vital this year for an Aggie offense that is pretty loaded when he is on the field.