Texas A&M came away from its gutsy 10-7 win over the Colorado Buffaloes with a number of questions. Those questions shouldn't detract from an outstanding performance from our defense, and our offense just getting the job done despite setback after setback, but there are a few things that this A&M team, and Jimbo Fisher specifically, have to think about as we move forward with what is shaping up to be a fairly different season than any of us anticipated. Below are a few of those questions/areas of concern as we move forward into the game against New Mexico
It seems unfair to question the defense in any way given their dominant second-half performance on Saturday, but Elko’s group has a concerning trend over the first two games.
In 2020 A&M gave up an average of 92 yards per game against an all-SEC schedule. Thus far we’ve given up 226 to Kent State and 171 to Colorado. I feel somewhat confident that this number will improve with the addition of McKinley Jackson to the lineup, and that some of it can be attributed to the loss of Buddy Johnson as the QB of the defense, but as it stands right now our run defense isn't playing up to par.
2ND HALF ADJUSTMENTS
We gave up 206 yards in the first half to Colorado [oops accidentally had Alabama in there]. In the second we gave up 54. Colorado had 12 first down in the first half, 2 in the second. Colorado had 42 plays in the first half and averaged 4.9 yards per play, and in the second had 21 plays with 2.6 yards per play. You get the picture
It’s clear that this defense is talented enough to do the job well, however, it’s untenable for us to need that halftime break to look over the film and regroup in order to make the adjustments that we need to play up to our potential.
This defense is remarkably talented, and they’re going to be leaned on heavily as the season goes on. We just need more from them. Fortunately, it seems like they’re up to the task.
When Jimbo’s offense is clicking, it’s a beautiful thing to watch. In order for it to click it requires synergy between QB, OL, RB, and WRs. When that synergy is disrupted for any reason, the offense struggles mightily to produce yards and points. With Haynes King being out for an unspecified amount of time we’re going to have to figure out how to create that synergy with Zach Calzada as the point person. Few questions/areas of focus:
It’s unfair to compare this OL group to last year’s given the loss of experience, but I’m going to do it anyway. In 2020 we averaged 5.5 yards a carry running the ball. Against Colorado we got 3.6. Much of that has to do with the fact that Colorado was stacking the box to make Haynes throw downfield (which we’ll cover), but the OL needs to gel and gel quickly. What this OL lacks in experience it makes up for in talent, and I’m confident that Josh Henson will get them into shape.
Calzada finished 18/38 for 183 yards and 1 TD, with 7 carries for 29. But take a look at just his fourth-quarter stats: 8/14 for 118 with 1 TD. And those 8 passes weren't all dumps out to the WRs. Three of them—one to Achane where he had to get it over an LB, one to Spiller in a tight window, and the last beautiful pass to Spiller in the endzone gave us a flash of what he’s capable of doing within this offense. He did that after a gutting turnover into the endzone. The kid is a gamer with a lot of potential.
The biggest questions I have for Calzada are 1) can he keep from staring down his receivers, and 2) can he get better at seeing the field? There were a few opportunities where he had guys open, but he was scrambling away from pressure (whether real or imaginary) and just didn't have the time to scan the field.
I love Isaiah Spiller. Despite struggling against Colorado’s front 7 this weekend, he did so many things right. He played the role of a fullback on Achane’s carries when we went to the two RB set. He picked up blitzes. He was there as a safety valve for Calzada, and finally, he made two of the catches that sealed the game for us.
As we move forward into the heart of the season we’ve got to figure out creative ways to utilize Spiller in the passing game. If we get him into the open field he’s proven that he’s got the wiggle to make guys miss.
I love Jalen Wydermyer. When he is on he’s an absolute match-up nightmare. Put him in line and let him match up with an LB. Put him out and let him match up with a safety. He’s proven over and over again that he’s a matchup nightmare who can go make tough contested catches for this offense.
Over the past 2 games, Jalen has been targeted 17 times and made 8 catches. Compare that to the two-game stretch against Alabama and Florida last year where Jalen was targeted 17 times and made 13 catches. QB changes, OL changes all can make a big difference in what kind of ball Jalen sees and how much success he’s set up for, but we need him to be elite in a bad way.
After four years as our head coach, it feels like we’ve got a fairly good handle on the good and the bad of the Jimbo Fisher experience. But after three years of predictability within his QB room, he’s in uncharted territory. How will he adapt?
I don't expect him to change the offense—mainly because I know he won't—but there are things that he can do to make the game a little easier for Calzada moving forward. We ran the ball 19 times and attempted 39 passes. We’ve got to find a way to flip that. Moreover can we get rid of our obsession with running the clock down to get rid of one thing that Calzada has to worry about prior to the snap? Can we do a better job of scheming to get WRs open?
How do we play to Calzada’s strengths?
None of the above information should take away from the win this weekend. But the goal is to get better on a weekly basis, and fortunately for us, there are a lot of ways for us to get better both on the field and in the film room. As always your comments are welcome to tell me where I went wrong or what I missed.
BTHO new mexico.