One is the big number to take away from last night: it is Kevin Sumlin's first home win against a ranked team as the A&M coach. This was the albatross around his neck and it built up some considerable rumbles last year. It was going to be the key to taking the next step as a football program and this team came out and took care of business against a good--not great--Mississippi State team. So, just to be clear. Winning by 13 points in a night game at Kyle against a ranked SEC West team: this is a good thing. We are happy with this.
Yet somehow we find ourselves defending the offense again immediately after the game. And this was after we rolled up over 500 yards a few days after mattywatty laid out an extensive argument suggesting that the offense, while not perfect, is not exactlly underwhelming. So where does the disquiet stem from? Mostly it appears to be a vocal clamoring on social media in the frenzied depths of the game. If you are immune to it, good on you. But if you see it on Twitter or on Facebook comments or on a GameThread you're told that it goes beyond just the numbers. There are mythical other factors at play that make this offense a weakness for us.
Now I think everyone will agree that this offense is not perfect. There are times where it seems to sputter and falter and it puts our defense up against the wall. Do we get out to fast starts and then struggle in the middle of games? Sometimes. Defenses adjust. Execution varies. But overall, is it as stagnant as last October? We still stall. We can't ground and pound in short yardage. It's frustrating. But our improved defense still allows us these growing pains in a 13-point victory.
I have done this weekly piece about numbers going back to 2012. My feeble mind can only grasp the numbers that are amassed during the game against the action on the field. I am not sophisticated enough to comprehend the shadowy rhythms that might make this a less-than-great offense. Is it born of an unrealistic standard set by Johnny and Kliff in 2012? Because that was lightning in a bottle.
Our offense should be held to a higher standard than our defense. That's the philosophical foundation of a Kevin Sumlin team. And this one's not the 2012 or even 2013 offense. But that's not a bad thing. It's better than the 2014 offense because it evolves with each game. We're watching the maturation of Jake Spavital under the guidance of Kevin Sumlin. He's not an elite coordinator yet, but is he adjusting more than he did last season? We've seen new wrinkles in the offense every week this year.
But you came here for numbers. Here are some:
One. This number again. There was one SEC West team to gain over 500 yards of offense on Saturday.
- Mississippi State gained 406 against us.
- Ole Miss gained 328 against Florida in The Swamp.
- LSU gained 479 against MAC bottom-feeder Eastern Michigan.
- Alabama actually only had 379 against Georgia. Defensive and special teams touchdowns help.
- Arkansas had 494 Tennessee. BERT seems to have shifted to angry mode.
- Hipster SEC West preseason favorite Auburn gained 342 against San Jose State.
But how good is Mississippi State really? Well, they're not in the top tier of the West, but they're certainly better than Auburn and possibly Arkansas as well. The Bulldog defense held LSU to 337 yards of total offense. They held Fournette to a paltry 159 rushing yards, approximately 300 yards below his season average. Mississippi State is a decent team.
But enough of the extrapolations and the transitive relations. Some numbers from Kyle Field on Saturday night:
2: fourth-down attempts. We made one of them, and it was the first touchdown of the night, and Kevin Sumlin thereby set the tone for the evening.
2 again: we are second in total offense in the SEC after five weeks of play.
4.3: yards per rush. We ran the ball 45 times, meaning we ran more times than we passed. We controlled time of possession while rushing for nearly 200 yards. We ran the dang ball, except for the times we didn't, which were awful because the passes weren't completed. We're humans and prone to error at times.
4: Christian Kirk carries. This week's new wrinkle was a variation of the wildcat that I"m sure we'll hear plenty about over the next couple of weeks, namely, alternate nicknames for this formation like "Wild Christian" and like such as.
5: total yards lost on negative plays. MSU had four tackles for loss and the OL only gave up one sack last night. Very encouraging.
7: Reynolds catches. Had a pretty quiet 141 receiving yards on the night. Josh, Kirk, and RSJ combined for 20 catches and 250+ yards. He's fourth in the SEC in receiving yardage. You know who #1 is already.
10/20: Third down conversion rate. This isn't great. The short yardage offense is a real concern. We haven't been able to line up and get a tough yard or two when we've needed it. This needs to get better. This is not going to cut it against big, physical defenses like Alabama or LSU. We lack the ability to line up and dominate the line of scrimmage for hard-nosed yardage right now, and that might be the area that needs the most improvement.
13: number of possessions. We had one single three-and-out in thirteen possessions. Here's how else it played out:
- 6 scores (3 FG, 3 TD),
- 4 punts,
- 1 missed FG,
- 1 turnover on downs,
- 1 end of game
We scored on roughly half of our possessions.
15: Christian Kirk total touches for 153 all-purpose yards. Sorry, TAILGATE betting table
26: Tra Carson carries for 110 yards and a TD. It's not always pretty, but he's getting his yards. He's averaging 86 per game even after a lackluster Arkansas game where he was held under 30.
49: Drew's punting average on four punts. He helped to flip the field a couple of times in the third when the offense was struggling, which really helped the defense. For the season, the Ags are the only team in the SEC averaging over 50 yards per punt.
55: That field goal by Bertolet. Kevin Sumlin put Bertolet on the spot and in his first kick after missing the one that would have won the Arkansas game in regulation, the senior kicker nailed a career long. This is great coaching and it instilled much-needed confidence in Bertolet. He missed one later, but he made three on the night. This was another early tone-setter in the game.
86: we had almost twice as many snaps on offense as last week.
AND THE BEST FOR LAST.
NO REALLY THIS IS OUR FAVORITE THING.
AND WE WOULDN'T BE 2-0 IN SEC PLAY WITHOUT THIS:
0. Turnovers. For the second straight week, the offense did not turn the ball over. The Ags are turnover-free in eight quarters of SEC play while the defense is +4 in turnover creation.
The offense did well last night. It did not do as well as it could have. It will need to reduce mistakes against Alabama in two weeks to have a chance in that game. We have two full weeks to lay out a gameplan that will give us a chance to take down the Tide in the biggest game New Kyle Field has seen. I choose to TIS: Trust In Sumlin. He's brought us this far.