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Photo by Jamie Maury, TexAgs
Texas A&M Football

Strong running game precursor to Aggies possibly running the table

October 20, 2021

If Texas A&M is to run the table, the Aggies must run the football. A strong running game gives A&M a strong chance to win its remaining five games.

That’s not a brilliant deduction. The conclusion merely requires average eyesight, not amazing insight.

The running game is the strength of the Aggies’ offense. When they’ve struggled to run, they’ve lost or struggled to win.

When they’ve run well or even efficiently — as they did against Alabama — they are a difficult team to defeat.

Jamie Maury, TexAgs
Sophomore speedster Devon Achane has rushed for 453 yards and four touchdowns on 66 carries this season.

A strong running game not only churns out yardage but opens holes in the secondary for the passing game and allows the defense to rest on the sidelines.

With a consistently successful running game, the Aggies could run all the way to a New Year’s Six Bowl.

With a little help, they could even run to Atlanta for the Southeastern Conference Championship Game. OK, they need a lot of help. Somebody else needs to beat Alabama.

That’s not likely to happen. But A&M going on a long … well, run … is a distinct possibility for a variety of reasons.

First of all, powerful Isaiah Spiller and mercurial Devon Achane are among the most productive running back tandems in the Southeastern Conference.

Don’t take my word for it. Consult statistics.

Spiller and Achane have combined for 1,112 rushing yards. That’s the second-highest total in the SEC. Only Kentucky’s Christian Rodriguez and Kavosiey Smoke have combined for more yards (1,252).

We already knew Spiller and the thriller could produce big yardage if given adequate blocking. The question is whether they would.

Injuries, inexperience and ineffectiveness had head coach Jimbo Fisher and offensive line coach Josh Henson seemingly shaking up the offensive line on a weekly basis in search of the right combination.

They haven’t quite hit the Yahtzee of a year ago, but in the last three games, they’ve seemed to have at least gotten the large straight.

In those games, A&M rushed for 162 yards against Mississippi State’s No. 21 ranked run defense. They had 94 yards against Alabama’s No. 12 ranked run defense. That might not sound like much, but it’s the second-highest total the Crimson Tide has allowed. Also, A&M exploited Missouri’s rush defense for 283 yards.

That production has coincided with stability on the offensive line.

Jamie Maury, TexAgs
With 659 yards in seven games, Isaiah Spiller appears to be on pace to reach the 1,000-yard plateau for the second time in his career.

Freshman Reuben Fatheree II has settled in at right tackle. Left guard Layden Robinson is back from injury. Freshman center Bryce Foster is adapting to the more physical college game.

Kenyon Green, who has bounced up and down the line, appears to be stationed at right guard moving forward. Jahmir Johnson has started all but one game at left tackle.

It looks as though the Aggies finally know their starting offensive line.

“I think we do,” Fisher said, but he quickly added a caveat that individual matchups could result in Blake Trainor or perhaps even Akinola Ogunbiyi starting.

“When you have young players, like we do up there, sometimes going into a game plan … ‘Alright, we have to be able to run this. That’s something that he does,’” Fisher said. “Maybe we’ll tweak a guy or move a guy. We plan on staying with what we have.

“But we also have proven there are a lot of guys that can really help us win. We’re going to need them all the rest of the year.”

The rest of the year could be grandiose.

All of A&M’s remaining SEC opponents have, at times, had problems containing good running teams.

• South Carolina is ranked 79th in the nation in run defense, but the Gamecocks’ 151.2 average per game is skewed. They allowed only 31 rushing yards to Eastern Illinois, 115 to Troy and 106 to Vanderbilt. However, Georgia rushed for 184, Kentucky had 230 and Tennessee lit them up for 247 and three touchdowns.

• Auburn is allowing 124.1 rushing yards to rank 39th in the nation. Again, that’s somewhat skewed because Akron was held to minus-three rushing yards, and Alabama State had 49. However, Georgia State (267), Arkansas (232) and Georgia (201) all exceeded 200 rushing yards against the Tigers.

• Ole Miss’s defense is among the nation’s weakest against the run. The Rebels are allowing an average of 198.3 rushing yards to rank 111th. They have given up 14 touchdowns via the run. SEC opponents Tennessee (222), Alabama (210) and Arkansas (350) have run successfully against the Rebels. Even FCS Austin Peay managed 114 rushing yards.

• LSU is allowing 151.8 rushing yards to rank 75th in the country. Take away games against McNeese (51) and Central Michigan (56), and the Tigers are allowing 191.4 yards. But give them credit. They did limit Florida to 138 yards last week. Of course, that might be due to the Gators passing for 350.

Discussion from...

Strong running game precursor to Aggies possibly running the table

6,003 Views | 8 Replies | Last: 7 mo ago by fightintxaggie10
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Thanks Olin, good article and I agree. The other thing a good and successful running game gives Jimbo is ball control and time-of-possession. I believe the Aggies led the SEC last year in that statistic and we won a lot of ball games doing so.
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Sounds like we need to be patient and pound the rock the rest of the way. I like it.
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Everyone has a strong-looking run game vs Mizzou
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Spiller & Thriller
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You take what they give you. Jimbo answered your question by saying when the box was stacked he passed instead. Don't fall for silver bullet explanations. But, yes, we need to score early and then use the run game to keep our defense bored and resting.
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