Texas A&M heads into a bye-week following their 30-17 victory over the Mississippi State Bulldogs on Saturday, and prepare to play the Alabama Crimson Tide on 10/17.
The Aggies were blown out in their matchup with Alabama last year 59-0 in a game that ultimately led to QB Kyle Allen being handed the keys to the offense for the remainder of the season. While A&M's win was one of their most impressive outings on the season, continued red zone efficiency and run defense issues may be the difference between another Alabama blowout and a competitive nail-biter.
Another item of note from Saturday's game was that Kyler Murray, who had been used as a change-of-pace player in previous weeks, didn't step on the field for a single snap. Instead of Murray, we saw Kyle Allen hold the reins from the game's beginning and, on a handful of snaps, play in the wildcat with WR Christian Kirk.
Members of the media met with Texas A&M coaches today at their weekly press conference, and asked them about some of these issues:
Kevin Sumlin on the 59-0 blowout, and changes to the team since then:
"As I've said before, everyone is trying to compare this season to last season and it's two different teams. What we've done, from a chronological standpoint, immediately after that there were some changes in personnel. That's probably the biggest thing that came out of that. There were guys in starting roles, critical roles, that were replaced.
The last four games of the season, we won a couple of them and were within a touchdown in the other two and then won the bowl game. The biggest impact coming out of it was the personnel changes."
Jake Spavital on issues in the red zone:
"We did have a few drops but those weren't the only mistakes in the red zone area. We had a couple mental busts and some assignment issues as well. We have to figure out how to get into the red zone more efficiently and that is something they take pride in. The thing I like about this team is there isn't as much finger-pointing when they get to the sidelines. 'The next time that opportunity comes, we're going to make that catch.'"
Jake Spavital on getting under center in the red zone:
"It goes down to just exchange problems. You're putting a quarterback and center in a situation you don't practice often. And if you're in a situation where the game's on the line and there's an exchange problem, that's why you see a lot of teams just stay in shotgun. You even see some teams do the victory formation in the shotgun. We practice it but sometimes when the game's on the line and you've got a 330-pound nose guard on Mike Matthews, the best thing to do is get in the shotgun and snap it so we have a clean exchange."
Jake Spavital on not playing Kyler Murray, and the Christian Kirk wildcat:
"Kyle was great, he started nine for nine and was moving the ball efficiently. We wanted to limit substitutions because Mississippi State's line is so big, they weren't made for sideline-to-sideline. You saw some wildcat deals with Christian Kirk which was part of not subbing... That was to avoid substitutions from Mississippi State and play as fast as we could."
Note: Texas A&M ran a 2015 season high 86 offensive plays on Saturday night. (26s per play)
Christian Kirk Wildcat:
John Chavis opening comments:
"...There's some things we've got to clean up. The biggest thing in getting the negatives out of the way is giving up a 52-yard run. That's unacceptable, it shouldn't have happened, it gave us a bit of life. Our defense was improved in that game. We can't eliminate plays after they've happened, we have to own it, but we'll continue to get better.
It was a physical game and it made our guys made it physical. It was impressive to be honest with you. They were flying over the field and forcing turnovers. They set the tone, and again for the second week in a row I thought we played as strong a fourth quarter as we could possibly play."
John Chavis on Donovan Wilson
"It needs to be contagious, and he's been that catalyst for us. He's made big play after big play. Tyrann Mathieu is a kid I had the opportunity to coach at a different place and he had the it factor, and we're starting to see some of that with Donovan."
Donovan Wilson's forced fumble:
John Chavis' assessment of the progress of the defense in 2015:
"In a lot of areas we're a long ways ahead of where I thought we'd be, but there's some areas where we're not. ...You look at how this team has played in SEC play in the last two fourth quarters, and that's remarkable when you're able to finish games. I thought our defense did a great job in a lot of areas, but those two fourth quarters really stood out to me."
Kevin Sumlin on the Ricky Seals-Jones Ejection:
"...We usually send in all our stuff Sunday or Monday and then [Steve Shaw] gets back to me. I saw the TV copy, and somehow in between doing the commentary of the game Brent Musburger was able to talk to Steve Shaw.
You have to remember that the rule has changed dramatically since it's been put in place. It gets back to 'defenseless player.' So it's not necessary a targeting rule. The defenseless player rule applies to, say an interception, and you see it all the time where you have a change of possession and the ball's picked off ... And not just helmet-to-helmet, but above the shoulder. Combine that with defenseless guys not looking, it can be interpreted that way. The rule has expanded for player safety, which I agree with."