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Texas A&M Football

Through stifling defense, A&M hopes to find its road game redemption

November 1, 2023
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Decades of trials and tribulations gave Ellis Boyd Redding unique credibility to offer sage advice.

“Hope is a dangerous thing,” he said to his friend, Andy Dufresne. “Hope can drive a man insane.”

Redding — or “Red” as he was better known — was warning Andy not to have false hopes of leaving Shawshank prison.

He could’ve been warning the Aggies as they embark on a road trip to face Ole Miss. Texas A&M has been imprisoned in a seemingly inescapable eight-game losing streak in true road games.

Each loss has been like a disappointing denial of parole.

  • There were two late interceptions in Oxford. Rejected.
  • There was a last-minute touchdown pass by LSU. Rejected.
  • There was the offside blocked field goal at Mississippi State. Rejected.
  • The final-play incomplete pass at Alabama’s goal line. Rejected.
  • There was a 17-0 hole in the first five minutes at South Carolina. Rejected.
  • There was the sleeve issue at Auburn. Rejected.
  • There was a plague of missed tackles at Miami. Rejected.
  • There was the punt returned for a touchdown by Tennessee. Rejected.

Yet, on this trip to Oxford, the Aggies hope.

Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports
In last season’s 31-28 loss to Ole Miss, A&M was dominated on the ground to the tune of a 390-142 deficit in rushing yards.

There is hope the Aggies end their skid, beat No. 10 Ole Miss and start a winning streak that could lead to a 10-victory season. That’s not just the irrational gibberish of a crazy man.

Winning in Oxford isn’t pie-in-the-sky hope. In fact, the hope is quite literally grounded.

The Aggies’ hope is largely based on its strong defense against the run. A&M is second in the SEC in run defense.

Meanwhile, Ole Miss relies heavily on its running game. The Rebels average 187.5 rushing yards and rank third in the SEC behind star running back Quinshon Judkins, who has rushed for 691 yards.

“He’s in a groove now,” A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher said of Judkins. “He’s hitting the runs. You see the cuts. He very rarely misses cuts.”

But the Rebels appear extremely vulnerable when struggling to run. They only managed 56 rushing yards in a 24-10 loss to Alabama.

Also, they only had 89 rushing yards in a 37-20 win over Tulane. That looks like a blowout, but the score was tied going into the fourth quarter. Tulane trailed by just a touchdown with two minutes remaining.

A long field goal and a fumble returned for a touchdown made the final score deceivingly lopsided.

Limiting the Rebels’ running game will greatly enhance A&M’s chance of winning.

Of course, skeptics will point out that just two games ago, A&M allowed a season-high 232 rushing yards in a loss to Tennessee. Additionally, the Rebels’ offense is similar to the Volunteers’ in that the offensive line often takes wide splits.

However, A&M defensive tackle Shemar Turner contends the Aggies learned from their mistakes in Knoxville.

“I don’t feel like it was effort or toughness or anything like that. ...We’ve been locked in and keying in on a lot of different runs a lot of teams will try to do and use.”
- Texas A&M DT Shemar Turner

“The problem we had against Tennessee is they brought out a different run game than we’re used to seeing,” Turner said. “A lot of times, we were just out of place and not fitting the run correctly. I feel like that was really our main problem stopping the run against Tennessee. I don’t feel like it was effort or toughness or anything like that. I feel like that was the main problem, just us being where we need to be each and every play.

“We’ve been locked in and keying in on a lot of different runs a lot of teams will try to do and use, especially Tennessee’s runs because that’s what they were successful with. We’ve been locking in and really paying attention and trying to get right with those fits.”

Further, in that loss, A&M linebacker Edgerrin Cooper, who is performing at an All-American level, did not play in the second half because of injury.

Also, nickel back Bryce Anderson missed the game with an injury. Though he plays in the secondary, Anderson plays a key role in A&M’s run defense, too.

“Our safeties and corners and our nickels are all like linebackers,” Fisher said. “Their gap responsibility is huge in what you do in the run game.”

A&M’s defense hasn’t allowed more than 24 points to an SEC opponent. If the Aggies can keep Ole Miss under that number, they would seem to have a legitimate chance to win.

They would at least have hope.

And as Dufresne wrote to Redding: “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things. And no good thing ever dies.”

But maybe a losing streak on the road will. Aggies certainly hope so.

Discussion from...

Through stifling defense, A&M hopes to find its road game redemption

3,049 Views | 3 Replies | Last: 6 mo ago by laruejd
Timberwolf
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AG
Love the Shawshank Redemption reference! You're creative, Olin.
nu awlins ag
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AG
Jimbo is no Andy though....
laruejd
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AG
Jimbo has never won on the road against a top 25 team. We have lost the 2nd half of the last three games with zero TD's in the 2nd half. We have a 2 year+ road losing streak of 8 games. I am trying to remain optimistic but this looks like another "second half loss" to me.
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