Texas A&M’s rout of UTSA wasn’t a surprise, but tailback Isaiah Spiller’s performance definitely was.
The freshman posted a season-high of 217 yards on the ground and another three touchdowns en route to a 45-14 victory on Saturday.
With a bye week coming up and the remainder of a rigorous conference slate ahead, A&M has a chance to look like a legitimate team down the stretch.
A balanced offense
For the first time since the Texas State contest this season, A&M’s offense generated more yards on the ground than in the air.
When the Aggies kicked off in the opener, a then-healthy Jashaun Corbin and Spiller gained a combined 209 yards. Since then, the offense has seen a significant amount of change in the backfield.
Spiller is now the primary ball-carrier, and tailback Cordarrian Richardson is seeing an increased number of carries in a backup role. The two combined for 252 against UTSA, and junior quarterback Kellen Mond has been another threat on the ground for opposing defenses to account for.
Mond has improved gradually in the run game in conference matchups, and is the primary reason the offense is as balanced as it is right now. With A&M running the ball at a high level and the emergence of young playmakers in the receiving corps, the Aggies have an offense that Georgia and LSU won’t be able to take lightly.
“That's huge,” junior wide receiver Jhamon Ausbon said. “I think anytime someone has to play two phases of the offense, it's hard in the game plan. With [Spiller] having 200 yards in this game, that was huge for us. Made everything easy. So I just advise him to keep doing that and keep helping us out. It's going to help us out a lot in this next few games coming up.”
Emerging threats on defense
With the loss of defensive back Roney Elam and defensive end Micheal Clemons, A&M utilized some of its talented depth to take the place of veterans, and that has paid off.
Defensive lineman DeMarvin Leal has stepped up into his starting role on the strong side of the trenches in the last two contests, recording 12 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and 0.5 sacks. Since the freshman has started, the Aggies are allowing less yardage on the ground.
“He's a young sponge ready to soak up knowledge of the game, and it's a great thing for him,” junior defensive lineman Justin Madubuike said. “I feel like the sky is the limit for him. I tell him this all the time, he's always eager to get plays. I tell him to take it one day at a time and do your job and it will just come to you in due time.”
The defensive secondary is one of the most improved units for the Aggies this season. Defensive coordinator Mike Elko has experimented with different rotations all year long, and it has worked tremendously over the last three games.
Since the Aggies’ 98th-overall finish last year in passing yards, their current national ranking stands at 31st. In the SEC, only Georgia, Kentucky, Alabama and Missouri allow fewer passing yards per game.
Demani Richardson and Keldrick Carper have been two of the best defensive backs in that rotation, with both making their first starts this season. In the last two games, Carper has posted eight tackles, a sack, a tackle for loss and a fumble recovery.
“It was great getting my first one,” Carper said of his sack against UTSA. “I appreciate coach [Mike] Elko for that. We draw up a great blitz. Sometimes it won't open up for you, you won't get there, but when you get your chance, you got to make the best of it.”