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Texas A&M Football

Hop's Top 10 most impressive A&M defensive performances under Elko

December 1, 2023

Texas A&M has a new head football coach, and the administration found a familiar name to take the reins of the program moving forward.

Mike Elko was officially named A&M’s head man on Monday after a successful two-year stint at Duke, where the passion lies with the round ball and not the pigskin.

Prior to his first head coaching job, Elko spent four seasons as the defensive coordinator in Aggieland. His track record of success at A&M certainly played a big role in bringing him back two years later to be the head coach.

Here’s a look back at the top 10 Texas A&M defensive performances while under Elko’s leadership from 2018 to 2021.

1. Texas A&M vs. No. 13 Kentucky – W, 20-14 (OT) – Oct. 6, 2018 (College Station)

  • Defensive points allowed: 7
  • Total yards allowed: 178
  • Defensive points scored: 0
Matt Sachs, TexAgs
Kingsley Keke dropped Kentucky QB Terry Wilson twice for 10 yards in losses.

Ironically, Elko’s top defensive performance in his four-year tenure as the defensive coordinator at Texas A&M came against Kentucky’s Mark Stoops, whose name was also connected to last week’s head coaching search. The Wildcats were rolling and undefeated at 5-0 before coming to Kyle Field with a stingy defense and a tough, ground-based offense led by Benny Snell. However, Elko and the A&M defense held Kentucky to 70 yards rushing and 178 yards of total offense. The game went to overtime, and Kingsley Keke’s third-down sack led to a long-field goal try that missed. That set the table for Trayveon Williams’ 10-yard somersault into the end zone for the winning score.

2. No. 14 Texas A&M vs. No. 13 Auburn – W, 20-3 – Nov. 6, 2021 (College Station)

  • Defensive points allowed: 3
  • Total yards allowed: 226
  • Defensive points scored: 8

In a day where no offensive touchdowns were scored, Mike Elko’s defense surrendered a first-quarter field goal to the No. 12 Tigers, and that was it. Remember, Auburn still had triggerman Bo Nix at the helm, and the Aggies defense held him to 20-of-41 and 153 yards passing with an interception. Not a bad performance in retrospect, considering Nix’s Heisman Trophy-caliber performances at Oregon in 2023. The only touchdown scored was on the memorable 24-yard fumble return by Micheal Clemons with his unique mid-air twisting and grabbing celebration that we now see on pre-game hype videos at Kyle Field.

3. No. 7 Texas A&M vs. South Carolina – W, 48-3 – Nov. 7, 2020 (Columbia)

  • Defensive points allowed: 3
  • Total yards allowed: 150
  • Defensive points scored: 0
Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports
Leon O’Neal has six career interceptions, including six during the 2020 season.

One of the few times A&M went on the road and dominated an SEC opponent on both sides of the ball. While Kellen Mond accounted for five touchdowns, the Aggie defense stifled the Gamecocks, giving up a meaningless fourth-quarter field goal to win convincingly 48-3. The defense held South Carolina to just 50 yards on the ground and 100 yards passing. The win moved Texas A&M to 5-1 on its way to a special 9-1 season and an Orange Bowl victory.

4. No. 7 Texas A&M vs. New Mexico – W, 34-0 – Sept. 18, 2021 (College Station)

  • Defensive points allowed: 0
  • Total yards allowed: 122
  • Defensive points scored: 0

This was Elko’s only shutout in his time as defensive coordinator at A&M. Nobody will mistake the Lobos for being a good team, but statistically, this was the most dominant defensive effort in his four years. They finished with just 122 yards total and 33 yards passing. The longest play from scrimmage was a 16-yard run. It wasn’t the most relevant defensive performance, but it was the best by the numbers.

5. No. 11 Texas A&M vs. Mississippi State – W, 28-14 – Oct. 17, 2020 (Starkville)

  • Defensive points allowed: 7
  • Total yards allowed: 217
  • Defensive points scored: 0

Due to 34 yards in QB sacks, the Bulldogs officially rushed for minus-2 yards. Their only offensive touchdown drive came midway through the fourth quarter, with the Aggies firmly in control 28-7. Mississippi State’s other score came on an interception return for a touchdown. Elko’s defense held Will Rogers in check all day, forcing short passes that averaged just 5.5 yards per completion.

6. No. 5 Texas A&M vs. LSU – W, 20-7 – Nov. 28, 2020 (College Station)

  • Defensive points allowed: 7
  • Total yards allowed: 267
  • Defensive points scored: 7
Lia Musgrave, TexAgs
Buddy Johnson scored two defensive touchdowns in his Aggie career, including a scoop-and-score at Ole Miss in 2019.

Elko’s defense was hitting its stride in the 2020 pandemic year with a commanding 20-7 performance over regional rival LSU. The Aggies held the Tigers to just 36 yards on the ground, and the longest run by an LSU running back was six yards. The defense almost pitched a shutout, but the Tiger offense scored a touchdown in the final minute of the contest. Buddy Johnson scored for the defense on a 15-yard interception return for a touchdown.

7. No. 5 Texas A&M vs. Colorado – W, 10-7 – Sept. 11, 2021 (Denver)

  • Defensive points allowed: 7
  • Total yards allowed: 260
  • Defensive points scored: 0

The Aggies needed every defensive stop in this early season match-up with the Buffaloes in Denver. With second-string QB Zach Calzada struggling to move the offense and Colorado clinging to a 7-3 halftime lead, the defense forced the Buffs to punt on its first five possessions of the second half, gaining just 49 yards on Elko’s stout defense. When A&M scored to take a 10-7 lead in the closing minutes, Colorado had one more chance to tie or take the lead, but the Aggie defense snuffed out any hope of a comeback with a quick turnover on downs in four plays. Colorado managed to gain a scant 89 yards through the air.

8. No. 10 Texas A&M vs. Vanderbilt – W, 17-12 – Sept. 26, 2020 (College Station)

  • Defensive points allowed: 10
  • Total yards allowed: 255
  • Defensive points scored: 0
Craig Bisacre/Texas A&M Athletics
DeMarvin Leal has a pair of tackles for loss in the A&M victory over Vanderbilt.

This was the opening game of the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, and both teams were understandably rusty on the offensive end. The Aggie offense lost three fumbles and allowed Vanderbilt to keep the game close. The Commodores managed a first-half field goal, a safety and a third-quarter touchdown to stay within a score at 17-12. The Aggie lead was tenuous in the fourth quarter. Vanderbilt got the ball twice in good field position needing a touchdown to potentially win the contest. However, the defense stepped up when Leon O’Neal intercepted a pass in the red zone to quell a potential game-winning drive, and Elko’s unit turned away a final drive in the final minute of the game.

9. No. 19 Texas A&M vs. North Carolina State – W, 52-13 – Dec. 31, 2018 (Jacksonville)

  • Defensive points allowed: 13
  • Total yards allowed: 273
  • Defensive points scored: 7

The Aggies ended the 2018 season by dominating North Carolina State in the Gator Bowl. The Wolf Pack actually held a 13-7 lead midway through the second quarter, but Elko’s defense put the clamps on their offense and pitched a shutout in the second half. Meanwhile, Trayveon Williams ran wild for two touchdown runs (93 & 17 yards), and Tyrel Dodson added a 78-yard pick-six to turn this game into a blowout. Even the 12th Man, Cullen Gillaspia, scored on a 13-yard touchdown run late to make it a perfect night for A&M fans.

10. Texas A&M vs. South Carolina – W, 30-6 – Nov. 16, 2019 (College Station)

  • Defensive points allowed: 6
  • Total yards allowed: 260
  • Defensive points scored: 0

The A&M defense, under Elko’s guidance, did not allow a touchdown and held the Gamecocks to 45 yards rushing in a dominant 30-6 win. Sophomore tailback Cordarrian Richardson had his best game as an Aggie, with two touchdowns and 147 yards from scrimmage. The A&M defense had things well in control all game, forcing eight punts and nine drives of 25 or fewer yards. It was an efficient defensive performance in a game well in hand by the end of the third quarter.

Discussion from...

Hop's Top 10 most impressive A&M defensive performances under Elko

6,621 Views | 3 Replies | Last: 2 mo ago by Iraq2xVeteran
AWP 97
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There are a lot of bad teams on that list. I'm not really sure what the point of that article was. Is it to make us feel good about Elko or "Hop"?
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What game was the booth dance after a big stop?
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The best team on that list was 2018 Kentucky, who finished 10-3 (5-3 SEC) for their first 10-win season since 1977 and only 3rd in team history.
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