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3 Things We Learned: Texas A&M vs Auburn

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The Aggies got an SEC road victory despite not having their best performance. What does it tell us?

NCAA Football: Texas A&M at Auburn John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

The Aggies faced their second tough test of the young season on Saturday and came away with a gritty 29-16 victory. The offense had ups and downs but played turnover-free football, allowing A&M to pull away from an Auburn team that couldn’t muster much of an attack against the Aggie defense. Here’s what stood out to me.

The Aggies won ugly

29-16 just sounds like the score of an SEC game, right? The Aggies couldn’t convert a 3rd down (only 2/14), couldn’t score a touchdown when reaching the red zone (five field goals), Trevor Knight only completed 50% of his passes, Christian Kirk only had 22 yards receiving, A&M got no big special teams plays... yet A&M led by 19 points with three minutes left.

This is not the way the Aggies have been winning under Kevin Sumlin. So what allowed a comfortable win despite such a choppy offensive performance? Defense, of course.

The recipe for this season has been known all along: allow the defense to control the game and simply avoid the big mistakes on offense and let your playmakers occasionally make a big play. No one really knew if that would work until it was tested, but Saturday was a legitimate test with a legitimate answer.

Trevor Knight didn’t have big numbers but he protected the ball. No turnovers, no big mistakes. When you have a defense playing well, that’s all you need. Occasionally find a one-on-one matchup with your best receiver and let him make a play? Check. Get a big run from a speedy running back after pounding the ball into the line for three quarters? Check.

This was what I imagine Kevin Sumlin had in mind when pairing John Chavis with Noel Mazzone. We now know it works.

Trayveon Williams is a star in the making

In 52 games from 2012-2015, Aggie running backs only had a handful of runs of 40+ yards. Williams has had two already in just three games.

The lack of a true play maker at running back was a big problem for the Aggies last year. That seems to no longer be a concern. The question for Williams now becomes whether the true freshman can be reliable enough in the other areas of the game (blocking and ball security) to be trusted for 15 carries a game. If so, it seems safe to say that having the extra speed dimension in the backfield will pay huge dividends for the Aggie offense.

The Aggies have a kicker!

After the Aggies victory over UCLA in week one, I used this space to point out that the Aggies have a punter(!). The jury was still out on the kicker position though.

Three games in, it appears that A&M is in good position for the foreseeable future. Sophomore Daniel LaCamera was 5/5 Saturday, bringing his season total to 9/10. His one miss was a kick that hit the upright against UCLA. While he hasn’t been asked to attempt too many long ones, he is still 2/2 from 40+ yards.

Special teams are often forgotten, but if a team can get above average play from the kickers and kick returners, it really adds up. So what does A&M have? An elite punt returner in Christian Kirk, good kickoff returners (though they haven’t really had any opportunities yet this year), an above average punter (so far), and an above average kicker (so far). Encouraging results all the way around.