With the news that Conner Weigman’s injury is season-ending, frustration is high in Aggieland. Weigman was proving to be a breakout player in college football before suffering a lower leg injury against Auburn, making it three straight seasons that a starting A&M QB has suffered a season-ending injury.
There is certainly no one more devastated than Weigman himself, who is a fiercely competitive athlete. Our thoughts and prayers are with Conner and his family and we’re all hoping for a speedy recovery.
Texas A&M will turn to Max Johnson to fill in for Weigman, who performed admirably on Saturday. Johnson, the former LSU Tiger, has 17 starts and 627 career pass attempts under his belt. He is by far the most experienced quarterback to take the field for the Aggies since Kellen Mond in 2020 and posted the highest passer rating of any game in his career (141.3) this past weekend against Auburn. Losing Weigman stings, but Max Johnson is a heck of an insurance policy.
With that out of the way, let’s get into the film study.
Saturday’s 27-10 win against the Auburn Tigers was somehow equally impressive as it was frustrating. Winning your conference opener AND covering the spread is always cause for celebration. Even more, the side of the ball where Aggie fans were most concerned (the defense) put together their most impressive showing yet. The A&M offense put up a lofty 8.1 yards per play while holding Auburn to a paltry 2.8. By any measure, it was a dominant victory.
Then, you might ask, why the frustration? The end results were good; however, there were times when the offense was out of sorts, committing unnecessary penalties, receivers not being on the same page as the quarterback, and the offensive line not picking up blitzes. Even the defense, as well as they played, missed an easy one here and there.
These types of games happen in college football and the dysfunction on offense was far from the norm of the first three games. Hopefully, it was just an outlier. This team is loaded with talent, has good schemes on both sides of the ball, and, even with the injury to Weigman, still has everything left to play for. If they can improve week to week, they will have a chance to beat anybody on the schedule.
Let’s go ahead and get this blitz out of the way. The following two clips are the same exact blitz against the same formation (empty backfield, no RB to help in pass pro), just different sides.
This is a very well-designed blitz. Auburn is showing 5 on the line. The key defenders here are the three down linemen that are lined up over the C, LG, and LT. The DT that is lined up on the LG (#54, Nabou) is so far out, he’s practically lined up on the LT (#60, Zuhn). At the snap, the two interior guys slant hard to their left, while the end stunts to the outside. Nabou and Zuhn take care of those two, but now there is a wide open lane for #5 to blitz through. Conner is able to get the ball out quick, but he and Ainias aren’t on the same page. It’s incomplete and we have to settle for a field goal. Great blitz from Auburn.
Here is the play where Weigman gets hurt. I could be wrong, but the way Bryce Foster and Nabou play this makes me think our coaches adjusted to this. In the first clip, Bryce is on his man the whole time. In this clip, he quickly passes him off to Nabou and then helps the RG (Layden Robinson) with the stunting DT. Robinson is late passing his man off and the blitzer goes racing through the wide open lane and gets a big hit on Weigman. #36 is absolutely flying on this play and takes a perfect route to the QB. I’m not trying to make excuses, but Auburn executed this extremely well. I think our guys had the right idea, they were just late. Tough play.
Auburn ran a variation of this blitz several times and we never really blocked it the way we were supposed to. Hopefully this is a big teaching moment for the OL and those guys can get right. There were some positives from that group on Saturday.
Good job by the OL here. The DTs both stunt to the outside while the ends drop off. Foster picks up the blitzing LB well and Trey Zuhn does a fantastic job blocking #50 (one of Auburn’s best DL). Zuhn is playing great football right now. Max has a clean pocket and finds Ainias for an easy pitch can catch.
Look at this blitz pickup from Leveon Moss! Auburn tries a similar blitz as before, but this time we have a back to help us out. Moss doesn’t wait on the blitzer, he meets him in the hole and stifles him. Another clean pocket for Max and an easy completion to his brother Jake.
This is what we need to see Petrino dial up for Max Johnson early and often. Under center, play-action to the right and get the defense moving that way. It leaves Jake Johnson wide open and Max connects with him for the brother-to-brother touchdown, the first of Jake’s college career. Very cool moment for the Johnsons, you could tell Jake wanted that one with that effort at the end.
Good job from Zuhn here to get back outside and pickup the blitzing DB. The rest of the OL holds up well and gives Max enough time to scan the field and make a nice throw to Ainias. Chase Bisontis (#71) didn’t have his best day, but I love the contact from him on this play. That’s good stuff.
Play-action deep shot, a Petrino staple. We go max protection, keeping the TE and RB in to block. Everyone blocking does a terrific job. Layden pulls around and stonewalls his man. Max Wright helps out, Amari finds work, Johnson has as clean of a pocket as you can have and drops a dime to Evan Stewart in the end zone. Let’s hope there is a lot more of this in the coming weeks.
The last play for today is the 79-yard run from Amari Daniels. Bryce Foster gets beat on this play, but it didn’t matter as Daniels was already by the defender. Robinson and Bisontis cave down the DE on the play side and the only defender who can make a play here is the LB #9. Max Wright locks on to him and drives him into the dirt, and Amari is off to the races. Amari ran out of gas just before he could reach the end zone. Great play here that pretty much put the game on ice.
The offense was out of sorts early on, but you have to give them credit for putting things together and scoring 21 points in the second half (which was exclusively played by Johnson at QB). If this offense can find a way to clean up the penalties and improve the blitz pickup, the ceiling is still sky-high. They will get a chance to prove that this weekend against Bobby Petrino’s former team, the Arkansas Razorbacks.