Texas A&M’s offense is getting a break from the elite defensive fronts and talented secondaries.
For the first time in 2019, the Aggies are going against an opponent with a losing record and one of the worst defenses in the SEC in Ole Miss.
The Rebels give up the second-most points per contest in the conference at 27.4 behind 1-5 Vanderbilt - who recently lost to UNLV in Nashville.
Despite its lack of defensive prowess through the first half of the season, the Rebels are an improved unit compared to 2018 — giving up 60 yards per game less on average.
Last season, Ole Miss gave A&M a scare on its home turf, and it took a late comeback from the Aggies to seal the game. This season, both programs have taken a step back from their success offensively, and face a must-win scenario in order to have a chance at a winning record.
For A&M, the opportunity to bounce back on a conference opponent’s turf is crucial for the Aggies to get back on track for the rest of the season — and maybe even pick up an upset in the last two regular season games.
Following the 47-28 loss to Alabama, A&M coach Jimbo Fisher said the running game was halted after the Crimson Tide took a quick lead, and wasn’t able to revive. Ole Miss is in the middle of the pack in conference play as far as rushing yards allowed per game, so a successful run game would be a great sign for a struggling A&M offense.
Tailback Isaiah Spiller will be the one with the most to prove on Saturday after losing a fumble in each contest since Auburn came to College Station in the conference opener. Since then, the freshman has only rushed for 27 yards and a touchdown over the past two games.
The most consistent runner from week-to-week is junior quarterback Kellen Mond. The signal caller has gotten better on the ground, steadily increasing his rushing yards per game since the beginning of conference play.
“Usually when you’re running the ball out of the pocket you don’t take the hits that you do in the pocket,” Fisher said. “You know when those hits are coming, you may get hit you may [not].”
Although his rushing performances may depend on the opponent’s defensive schemes, it’s hard to ignore that Mond is uncomfortable in the pocket. Constant blitzes, bull rushes from interior defensive linemen and edge rushes have force the junior out of the pocket quite a few times — and there isn’t anyone to blame other than the blockers up front.
The offensive line isn’t nearly what it was a season ago with leaders like Erik McCoy and Keaton Sutherland, but there just isn’t any other significant amount of experience to make any permanent substitutions. Offensive line coach Josh Henson and his crew may not have what they are looking for this season.
Ole Miss isn’t going to allow an easy run game either. While it is significant for the offense to get a break from the elite competition it’s faced, the Rebels aren’t an easy team to beat at home. The only loss was to then-20th ranked California — and only by an eight-point margin.
“Its very important for us to find ourselves and truly learn from [the loss to Alabama],” junior wide receiver Jhamon Ausbon said. “We can have a 10-3 season from this point on, and it's just important that we take notes from this.”