The phrases have become oft-repeated adages for a reason. Defense wins championships. The best offense is a good defense.
It’s why a team from the defensive-minded SEC has won the national title for the past seven seasons.
Yet 10th-ranked Texas A&M is hoping to disprove the defensive concept of winning titles. It’s become evident that with an under-performing defense, the offense will have to hold up its end in a scorefest each Saturday for the rest of the season.
Coming into Saturday’s home game against SMU, the Aggies are averaging an SEC-high 52 points per game. Conversely, the defense is giving up 36 points. That’s last in the SEC.
Last Saturday, top-ranked Alabama won a shootout with A&M, 49-42. This was the game after the Crimson Tide offense managed just 14 points in its opener against Virginia tech. And it was the game where the A&M defense was supposed to be at full strength, with all the suspended or injured players back in the lineup.
In the Alabama game, in which the Crimson Tide built a 21-point lead, the defense couldn’t manage a pass rush and they were continually burned by the quarterback bootleg. AJ McCarron was hurried on only one of his 29 throws and A&M got nowhere near a sack.
The Tide turned a simple swing pass into a 51-yard touchdown. And the Aggies had no idea how to defend a flea-flicker, which turned into a 44-yard, second-quarter touchdown. The Tide offense did nothing complicated, other than to use an unbalanced line, yet reeled off 568 yards, the second time in three games the Aggie defense has been torched for at least 500.
“For that being our first time out as a unit, I feel like we communicated well and for the most part ten guys were doing their job and it was always just one guy with the mistake,” Aggies safety Toney Hurd said. “Each and every play all 11 guys have to be on one accord. One guy not being in his gap can make a big difference especially when you are playing a veteran team like Alabama.”
Defensive coordinator Mark Snyder is optimistic that the problems are fixable. Through three games, though, the same mistakes are being committed. Snyder has used 19 different starters as he seeks to find a pass rush or a cornerback capable of defending a receiver.
“We’ve played a veteran team in Rice, an option-oriented team in Sam Houston State and the number one team in the country,” Snyder said. “It’s a little bit of how the schedule’s laid out, but that’s the way it is. We need to see that improve moving forward.”
Opposing offenses are also averaging six yards per run and 14.3 per pass. It’s not a formula for winning games, but the Aggie offense is atypical in that they have an innate ability to pile up yards and score on most every possession.
Now comes SMU with its up tempo, spread offense led by quarterback Garrett Gilbert, a former Texas Longhorn. Snyder is hoping his defense will be in its “comfort zone” defending against an offense similar to what it encounters daily in practices. Gilbert is leading the country in completions per game, averaging 38 a contest.
The things that we saw are correctable,” Coach Kevin Sumlin said. “Our players understand that.”
10-Texas A&M vs. SMU, 6, ESPNU, 1370