Coach Jimbo Fisher and Texas A&M are going through a dilemma on offense.
Junior quarterback Kellen Mond is the most consistent player with the ball for the first time in his career, but the pieces are not coming together in the backfield, the offensive line or the receiving corps.
According to College Football Reference, the Aggies are second-to-last in the SEC in rushing yards per game with 133.6 and are averaging 73 rushing yards per game in conference play. Freshman tailback Isaiah Spiller is touching the ball more often than Jacob Kibodi, but has struggled with turning the ball over and gaining any significant yardage consistently through those matchups.
Alabama presents another opportunity for A&M to succeed on the ground. After losing All-American linebacker Dylan Moses to an ACL tear in fall camp, the Crimson Tide’s defensive front isn’t stopping the ball like it has been in years past.
This year, Alabama is allowing 3.66 yards per carry, compared to the 2.82 yards per carry the Tide allowed over the past 10 seasons.
Just two weeks ago, the Tide allowed Ole Miss freshman quarterback John Rhys Plumlee to carry the ball for 109 yards. Two of the Rebel’s running backs ran for at least 68 yards, as well.
Over the open date, Fisher and several starters for A&M stressed the importance of the fall camp-like practices last week, which focused primarily on fundamentals.
“I think we’re starting to figure out how close we are,” offensive tackle Carson Green said. “We keep making little mistakes every week, and we just need to fix them. It all comes back down to practice.”
Since Kibodi and Spiller are replacing injured Jashaun Corbin as the main contributors in the backfield, that focus on fundamentals shifts to them.
The offensive line is another key unit that needed the bye week to get back into gear. Against Arkansas the offensive front allowed four sacks and couldn’t dominate the line of scrimmage.
The odds are in the offensive line’s favor if it can provide quality blocking throughout the contest. Alabama has only garnered 10 sacks in 2019 on 5.9 percent of its opponents’ passing attempts.
Establishing a high-tempo offense has been successful for A&M this season too. When the ball is able to get out of Mond’s hands quickly, A&M eats up yardage.
“I think that’s because you think less,” wideout Jhamon Ausbon said. “It’s more so reacting on fundamentals and stuff like that. That’s why coach Fisher [did] things like last week, having those periods where we are competing. He sees that we do our best when we’re not thinking.”
With these pieces lined up, A&M could be looking at the first significant offensive performance against a Power 5 program this season.
For Fisher, the solution is very straightforward.
“Those No. 1 teams are No. 1 for one reason,” Fisher said. “They play very well. And that’s what you have to do, that’s what we have to do. Go play well, you can’t get caught up in what we’re trying to do, [and] the emotions of the game. You technically, physically and psychologically got to compete against the guy in front of you. You got to win more plays than he does.”
A&M will face Alabama on Saturday at Kyle Field. Kickoff is set for 2:30 p.m. and will be televised on CBS.