Last week's 21-16 victory over ULM felt hollow, as Texas A&M gave just enough effort and made just enough mistakes to escape victorious. If you haven't read Ranger's critique of the game, I suggest you do it now. One of the big takeaways from that piece is that Texas A&M's game plan involved running the same 3 or 4 packaged plays to protect Kyle Allen in his first start at QB. Unfortunately that provided him with little to no in-game experience for running our actual offense against Auburn this week.
Kyle Allen's had some poorly executed throws and ill-timed audibles, and Kevin Sumlin was asked today if he'd open the playbook up for Allen:
I think so. As things progress you can be more comfortable. After watching the video, he had to develop a comfort level with just playing. Not just the offense, but playing. As a young quarterback, particularly midseason, you're going to get pressured. We'll have to develop a scheme that helps guys get open and protects him against those blitzes. - Kevin Sumlin
Sumlin highlighted the need for Allen to gain patience in the pocket. A tough task on Saturday, as his offensive line let him down a few times during the game. The line allowed multiple hurries, and at least one of the three times Allen wound up on his back was due to a missed blitz pickup. Offensive Coordinator Jake Spavital pinned the issue on uncertainty within the unit after an injury to RT Germain Ifedi, who was diagnosed with season-ending Grade II MCL sprain today. His departure shifted the responsibilities of multiple positions along the line.
So you saw us scramble last weekend, move Cedric to right tackle and Jarvis out of guard to left tackle, went with Gramling and Cheek inside there with Compton as the float-around guy at tight end or filling in inside... We've been fortunate to have the same five guys for a while. Jarvis will have to play tackle and he'll have to play very, very well - and he's capable of that. - Kevin Sumlin
Allen is capable of running A&M's normal offense, says Sumlin, but the last few offensive performances have fans questioning whether or not Offensive Coordinator Jake Spavital is capable as well. There's been speculation regarding whether or not Sumlin would step in and take over play-calling duties for the first-year OC.
Sumlin didn't show any interest in taking on that role, preferring to manage all team aspects, and opting not to stretch his focus too thin by narrowing in on the offense:
There've been times when I've stepped in to do things over the last seven years. ... It was going to be very difficult for me to establish a program, whether it was at Houston or here, to do that during a game. When I was a coordinator I couldn't tell you what was happening special teams- or defense-wise because we were so focused on good plays and bad plays.... The ability to manage the game became more difficult to me by becoming a play-caller.
We played a lot of close games; history will tell you we have a great track history in close games of clock management and what happens in the end, and a lot of that had to do with me and the whole staff being able to communicate and seeing the big picture instead of being myopic. That's the big picture and that's the philosophy. - Kevin Sumlin
One of the main game management goals Sumlin has stated a desire for is better communications on-the-field and on the sidelines. He believes that Kyle Allen's communication with the sidelines needs to improve, although Jake Spavital would seem to disagree when stating that he thought "there weren't any communication errors."
There's room for the true freshman quarterback to grow into this offense, but the job is "his to take," said Spavital referring to whether or not he would be the starting QB for the remainder of the year. Spavital reaffirmed during multiple questions that "He [Allen] was the guy that deserved the start," indicating that his start had nothing to do with Hill's suspension, even though the play book was simplified dramatically for the the January early enrollee quarterback.
There were players that noticeably went missing during the A&M game - both literally and figuratively. There's been concerns over a lack of effort shown by certain guys in the past few weeks, but Trey Williams never left the sidelines on Saturday, which Sumlin says was due to Trey not "[handling] his business the week before the way that we wanted him to."
A&M lost defensive leader Deshazor Everett during the ULM game to what's being diagnosed as "a ruptured tendon in his elbow... ligament actually," said Sumlin, and he's iffy to go for this weekend.
ULM's quarterback Pete Thomas noticed at least one A&M player who wasn't lacking in effort. DE Myles Garrett was in the backfield with Thomas on multiple occasions - nabbing 3 1/2 sacks and an SEC freshman record of twelve on the year for the star A&M defensive end. Defensive Coordinator Mark Snyder says that Myles' current challenge is to put the sack record out of reach, asking Garrett: "Why not smash it, not just break it?"
Players like backup center Ben Compton got a shot at some playing time this week, as he lined up at the beginning of the game as an additional blocker at H-back. Sumlin noted that he brought some needed attitude, and Spavital noted that he liked what Compton "brought to our run game in the toughness area."
This season is clearly one of the toughest that Sumlin has had to deal with in his career. The lack of execution that's led to this offense blowing a flat tire has put OC Jake Spavital and A&M's position coaches under scrutiny. More damning is the building narrative that this team has discipline issues, highlighted by Kenny Hill's suspension, and players giving less effort than past teams with off-the-ball tasks like WR blocking.
Sumlin was asked today if he's talked with any of his coaching friends or mentors about his current struggles:
Sumlin: The first guy that probably called me was Bob (Stoops). It was a good conversation. Everybody's been through something like this at one point or another. I talk to different people. Some I want to talk to, some I don't.
Reporter: Can you tell us who you don't?
Check out the press conference videos for more discussion about the upcoming game against ULM:
Football Weekly Press Conference | Kevin Sumlin 11.4
Football Weekly Press Conference | Mark Snyder 11.4