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Photo by Jamie Maury, TexAgs
Texas A&M Football

Aggies focused on gaining the 'Longest Yard' against South Carolina

October 25, 2023

Paul Crewe made dozens of big plays in a stellar NFL career, but he’s best known for picking up one long yard when it mattered most.

Crewe bootlegged right, and with his path blocked, he reversed his field. He retreated back to the 10-yard line, cut upfield and leaped over a cluster of defenders into the end zone for a game-winning touchdown.

Crewe’s nickname “Wrecking” indicates he should have played for Texas A&M. The Aggies certainly could use someone who can gain a tough yard.

A&M’s head coach Jimbo Fisher often says the difference between winning and losing is a matter of inches. Actually, for the Aggies, it’s a matter of 36 inches.

If the Aggies were consistently successful in short-yardage situations, they might be unbeaten and situated inside the top 10. Instead, they’re 4-3 and unranked heading into a Saturday clash with South Carolina at Kyle Field.

Jamie Maury, TexAgs
A&M is 8-1 all-time against South Carolina since first meeting in 2014. The lone loss came last year in Columbia, 30-24.

When facing Power 5 opponents, A&M is 9-for-22 in converting while needing two or fewer yards on third or fourth down. That’s a dismal 40.9 percent.

To put that in perspective, a 40.9 percent success rate on third down currently would rank 66th in the nation. But that’s ALL third-down situations. The success rate should be much higher in short-yardage situations.

“You watch on TV in the NFL, the hardest yards are on third-and-1,” Fisher said. “(NFL teams) throw the ball probably 50-60 percent of the time.”

To be fair, two of A&M’s short-yardage failures have been meaningless. They came near the goal line at the end of the 34-22 victory over Arkansas.

Two other failures — a stuffed run and an incomplete pass — were in the first half of a victory over Auburn.

However, in the other three games against Power 5 competition — all losses to Miami, Alabama and Tennessee — the Aggies are 3-for-7 in short-yardage scenarios.

That doesn’t even include the false start on fourth-and-goal at the 1-yard line against Miami. Nor does it include the holding penalty on second-and-goal from the 2-yard line against Alabama.

The Aggies settled for field goals on both of those drives.

Had they not been 0-for-4 in short yardage, they could’ve beaten Alabama. Had they converted fourth-and-1 at the Tennessee 37-yard — and not trip over each other — the Aggies might have avoided a 20-13 loss to the Volunteers.

“The last two games, we’ve missed a third-and-1, which was a missed assignment. Then we missed a pass,” Fisher said. “Then we missed another third-and-2, which is why we didn’t go for it on fourth-and-1. Then we had another third-and-2 and went for it on fourth-and-1. We got stepped on. We stepped on our foot.”

Self-inflicted mistakes have been a recurring problem. Frustrated Aggie fans are well aware of that. They want to know what is being done to fix the problem.

“Missed assignments, getting our toes stepped on. The other thing is, we’ve got to get pad-level, and we've got to get movement. We’ve got to figure that out with schemes. We’re working on that very hard.”
- A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher

Can it be fixed? Could it be the A&M offensive linemen just aren’t good enough? Are they not physical enough to get the necessary push to pick up a yard?

Should Fisher juggle the starting lineup? What changes could be made? Would it make a difference if Kam Dewberry moved into the starting lineup at guard? Should Mark Nabou shift to center? Is Reuben Fatheree finally healthy enough to play at tackle? Could he move inside?

We won't know if any changes are made until the A&M offense takes the field against South Carolina. But Fisher indicated all of A&M’s short-yardage issues were put under the proverbial microscope during the off week.

“A couple of things have been self-inflicted by us… Missed assignments, getting our toes stepped on,” he said. “The other thing is, we’ve got to get pad-level, and we've got to get movement. We’ve got to figure that out with schemes. We’re working on that very hard.”

If that hard work pays off, the Aggies could — and probably should — beat South Carolina. They could beat Ole Miss next week. Perhaps they could launch a winning streak and eventually travel to face LSU with a chance to post nine victories.

All of that would require the Aggies to be smarter, tougher and more physical. They have to prove they can get a yard when it’s needed most.

Of course, Paul Crewe would tell you when the pressure is on, a mere 36 inches can be the longest yard.

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Aggies focused on gaining the 'Longest Yard' against South Carolina

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