Texas A&M is coming off of a big game against Ole Miss where the team reestablished their defensive presence in a much-needed road win. Now the Aggies shift their focus to a crucial home matchup against a Mississippi State team that is struggling to find an offensive identity.
Last week, the Aggies held an opponent to under 20 points for the first time since their game against Lamar on Sept. 14, as they defeated Ole Miss 24-17. The A&M defense did not put up the most statistically sound game, allowing 405 total yards and 22 first downs to the Rebels, but the team made big plays at key moments that helped seal the win. The defense showed an improved pass rush by recording three sacks with a touchdown coming off a forced fumble sack. The team also recorded its eighth interception, which eclipses the total of seven from last season.
Momentum shifting plays such as these will be increasingly important for the Aggies as the season continues, but the production of the defense must remain consistent. In the past three games to Arkansas, Alabama and Ole Miss respectively, A&M has allowed more rushing yards each game. This trend will need to be corrected in the run-heavy SEC, and especially this weekend against a run-heavy Mississippi State.
The Bulldogs are coming off another tough loss in what has been a difficult season for the team. Mississippi State fell 36-13 to LSU at home, and struggled to find any rhythm on offense. This has been a consistent problem for the Bulldogs, who rank 94th nationally in total offensive production with 371 yards a game. This matchup with the Aggies does not favor Mississippi State as A&M ranks 32nd nationally in total defense, allowing 336 yards a game.
While the Aggies may have the edge, they will have to watch for junior Bulldog running back Kylin Hill. Hill is one of the few bright spots of his struggling offense as he averages 91.9 yards a game and 4.8 yards a carry. With A&M allowing 250 yards on the ground last week to Ole Miss, Hill could pose a problem for the Aggies.
A&M’s answer to Hill comes in the form of junior linebacker Buddy Johnson and junior defensive tackle Justin Madubuike. The pair have combined for 74 tackles this season and have been key to limiting opponents’ rushing attack. If these two and the rest of the front seven can hold Hill and Mississippi State to limited yards on the ground then it will be up to freshman Bulldog quarterback Garrett Shrader to make a difference.
Shrader has struggled tremendously in the air this season with just 118.2 yards a game and four touchdowns to four interceptions.
Kickoff between the Aggies and the Bulldogs is set for 11 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 26. The game will be broadcast on SECN.