Opinion: Gasp of air
A&M defense finally lived up to billing Saturday
Published: Monday, October 28, 2013
Updated: Monday, October 28, 2013 22:10
One week removed from an upset loss against Auburn that left students disappointed and reeling, Saturday’s Aggie game day at Kyle Field had a different feel to it.
Before the game, many questioned whether the 12th Man or the Texas A&M defense alike would show up ready to make an impact against the Vanderbilt Commodores.
The 12th Man arrived, 86,584 strong. And when the Aggie offense began to sputter, the Aggie defense flexed its youthful muscle like its 12th Man counterpart.
Two weeks ago, I wrote that this Aggie defense has been bad. But Saturday, when the offense was good but not great, defensive coordinator Mark Snyder’s defense virtually said, “We’ve got your back.”
The result was a lopsided 56-24 A&M victory that left optimism in the eyes of the Aggie faithful.
“There has been a lot of pressure lately,” said defensive end Gavin Stansbury, who accounted for two sacks and nine total tackles, spearheading the Aggie attack. “We basically decided that we needed to get back there and make some plays. People have been looking for us to get into the backfield and to make big plays on the quarterback.”
Unlike the seven games prior, this wasn’t a lopsided performance in which the Johnny Manziel-led offense stole the show while the defense whittled in the corner. This week was different.
In the first seven games of the season, Texas A&M accounted for seven quarterback sacks. Against Vanderbilt the Aggies generated enough pressure to force seven sacks in one game.
The defensive performance started with a three-and-out series by Vanderbilt, garnering a shattering round of applause from those in attendance in Aggieland. It was part excitement and part sarcasm. Could the A&M defense really keep this pace up?
Those sarcastic rounds of applause paved the way for pure joy when Commodore quarterback Patton Robinette was sacked by Stansbury later in the first quarter.
“I felt comfortable calling these pressures because everybody knew where we were supposed to be,” Snyder said. “I told the TV crew on Friday that this would be our game where we started becoming who we have been, who we are going to be and who we have always been.”
The Vanderbilt attack was less than spectacular all day, but in comparison to the Aggie defensive output against other “lesser” offenses like Rice, Sam Houston State and SMU, to name a few, Saturday’s showing was a gasp of fresh air that had everyone in attendance breathing easy.
The Aggie offensive line has had two of its least impressive games in consecutive weeks. Couple that with four A&M fumbles against Vanderbilt and a Manziel interception, and it’s not quite back-to-the-drawing-board following the game but it left the offense frustrated.
In the third quarter, when Travis Labhart fumbled the football in the end zone, A&M held Vanderbilt to a punt. On the ensuing drive Tra Carson fumbled the ball at the 40-yard line. The Aggies once again responded with stops on three consecutive plays, forcing a Commodores punt.
The Aggies then rolled to a 49-17 lead by the end of the third quarter, which included knocking Robinette out of the game and A&M’s Howard Matthews picking off a pass for a score.
Many worried, “What will happen when the record-setting offense has an off day?” A week ago some said there might be no hope even if the offense is on its game. Aggies left disappointed, wishing they could swap their defense for another.
This week we learned that this defense is more than capable of making an impact on games, accounting for seven sacks, three interceptions and holding Vanderbilt to just 95 rushing yards after being gashed for 379 yards on the ground by Auburn.
Finally, the talk of improvement and progress for A&M’s defense started to show on the football field. If that kind of play continues, the momentum could be enough to catapult Texas A&M into a BCS bowl game.
They say you’re only as good as your weakest link, and Saturday, the Aggies’ weakest link gained strength and confidence.
“We made [the pass rush] an emphasis because we know how little pressure we put on quarterbacks,” defensive end Julien Obioha said. “Today we just saw the fruit of our labor with how much we worked on the pass rush, and it was great to see.”