The trench units for Texas A&M produced one of their best efforts yet as the rushing attack went over 200 yards for the first time this season and the defense limited a fierce Auburn rushing attack to under 150 yards while also racking up seven sacks and 15 TFLs. However, it’s not all flowers after the win over Auburn. Let’s look at the offensive and defensive lines and talk about what needs to happen against Arkansas for the Aggies to come out of the soulless chasm of Jerry World with a win.
As mentioned above, Texas A&M found success in the rushing attack that has seemed to be missing so far through the 2023 season. Le’Veon Moss produced 97 yards on 15 carries while Amari Daniels went for 85 yards on 5 carries - including a 79-yard gain. Unfortunately, I think this is a case of Texas A&M getting a good matchup from Auburn’s defensive line. With the Tigers possessing a lot of size up front (DTs at 330lbs and 340lbs), the Aggies were able to use their strength as opposed to struggling with speed. I do worry that the rushing performance is more a case of the opponent than improvements in that realm. However, if A&M is able to keep the momentum up from this performance, that should help out now-starter Max Johnson at quarterback, which brings us to the bad from Saturday’s performance.
As has been the issue all season, Conner Weigman was under pressure from blitzing Auburn players. One hit led to a season-ending injury. It’s the third straight season that a Texas A&M quarterback has suffered a season-ending injury, an extremely concerning trend for the offensive line. I don’t see things getting better against Arkansas. The Hogs rank second in the SEC in sacks with 14 as a team and Max Johnson is likely to take some hits on Saturday.
Additionally, while Arkansas does possess some size up front, they are quicker along the line than the Tigers were. It’s my opinion, that the Texas A&M offensive line struggles against quicker defensive linemen - especially when utilizing zone-blocking schemes. However, if the Aggies lean on more man-blocking schemes (think power, trap, counter), I think this Arkansas front can be gashed. Unlike Auburn, the biggest starter on this Hog defensive line only goes about 310 lbs. Texas A&M averages 321 lbs.
For the game plan this week, I’d like to see the Aggies establish the run with Le’Veon Moss on power and then get some quick passing going to help get Max Johnson some confidence. Quick slants to receivers like Ainias Smith and Evan Stewart should be a big help in that realm while preventing Johnson from taking a beating.
On the defensive front, it felt like DJ Durkin finally turned loose the most talented unit on that side of the ball and allowed the Aggies to push upfield and make plays. The results, as mentioned above, were several negative plays. Part of this, undoubtedly, was an Auburn team that felt one-dimensional.
The Tigers were always going to try and establish the run but A&M kept Auburn behind the chains for the most part and then got after Payton Thorne when the Tigers were forced to throw the ball. The result was an Auburn passing attack that mustered just nine completions for 56 yards.
Unfortunately for the Aggies, against Arkansas, A&M will find themselves facing a much more potent offense. KJ Jefferson came to Fayetteville as a run-first QB. Now, Jefferson has a 70% completion percentage through four games with nine touchdowns as well. The powerfully built Jefferson is a load to bring down, meaning the Aggies will need multiple tacklers on him in order to get him to the ground. Additionally, Jefferson is very much still a threat with his legs meaning the Aggies will likely need to employ spies (something Fisher hinted at in his press conference) in order to keep him contained.
Realistically, the defensive performance comes down to stopping Jefferson. If the Aggies are able to get the Arkansas signal-caller on the ground, A&M wins. If Jefferson has time in the pocket or breaks contain, the Hogs will put up points. It’s my hope that DJ Durkin uses the same aggressive play calling from last week in order to stifle Jefferson or at least create big-play opportunities. We saw that Texas A&M in a bend-but-don’t-break strategy leads to the secondary breaking anyways. The Aggies might as well get hyper-aggressive to give themselves a chance.
With the Razorbacks on the menu for Texas A&M football, I figured pork ribs made for a great addition to the menu for the fare portion of the blog. Fox Bros. BBQ in Atlanta, GA takes the classic smoked spare ribs and adds a chicken fried element to them making for one of the most decadent bites in barbecue. If you find yourself in Georgia, stop in and see the wonderful folks at Fox Bros. You won’t regret it!