The popular Texas A&M topic this week was points. As in how many the Aggies need to score to win a game.
It’s been a touchy subject in these parts, given the near collapse of the defense during the fourth quarters of A&M’s last two games.
“Whatever the other score is, we have to have more,” said split end Mike Evans, who scored four touchdowns a week ago in a losing effort.
Then there was coach Kevin Sumlin, repeating information from Football 101, when asked how many points should be enough:
“One more point than the opponent should be enough to win the game, regardless of the situation,” Sumlin said.
Here’s Sumlin’s conundrum. Texas A&M has scored at least 40 points in the last 10 games, dating back to the end of the 2012 season. No other team in the country can match that production. Yet A&M has lost two games during the stretch — 49-42 to top-ranked Alabama on Sept. 14, and last Saturday to Auburn, 45-41.
A&M has scored more than 40 points in a losing effort five times in school history. Until this year, all those losses came in overtime games.
The defense is allowing opposing offenses to keep up. In the last two fourth quarters against Mississippi and Auburn, the Aggies have allowed 42 points. That’s three touchdowns per final quarter. A&M won on the road against the Rebels thanks to a 39-yard field goal on the game’s final play for a 41-38 victory. The offense wasn’t so fortunate against Auburn.
“We have to be honest with ourselves,” cornerback DeVante Harris said. “We’ve got to fix what’s broken.”
Rush defense was broken last Saturday. The Tigers gained 379 yards, which was the most allowed by the Aggies in a decade, going back to when Texas’ Cedric Benson ran for 283.
But A&M’s defensive line play probably won’t get much better this season. Coordinator Mark Snyder doesn’t have many options, other than to play freshmen and hope for opportunistic turnovers, which have saved wins earlier in the season.
Senior Kirby Ennis and junior Ivan Robinson were the only upperclassmen tackles on the roster. Ennis is out for the season with a knee injury and Robinson is backing up freshman Isaiah Golden.
It’s not much better at end, where A&M has been unsuccessful in generating a pass rush, with seven sacks in seven games. Gavin Stansbury, a junior is starting and junior Tyrell Taylor is a reserve. The only other upperclassman end is redshirt sophomore Brandon Alexander, a top signee of former coach Mike Sherman who has played in two games this season.
The Aggies are attracting top talent, however, receiving commitments this past week from defensive end Myles Garrett — a national top 100 prospect for 2014 and the No. 2 player on the American-Statesman’s Fabulous 55 — and defensive tackle Daylon Mack, a blue chip prospect for the class of 2015.
But those future Aggies do nothing to stop the current problems. The best option is to continue to rely heavily on the offense.
“We know where we are as a team,” Sumlin said. “Our offense understands that. Our team understands that. Our job is to win or lose as a football team. If you’re deficient in one area, you understand that as a coach and try to get that area better. Your goal is to win the game, no matter what. If we were deficient on offense, then it would be our defenses job to allow one point less than we can score.”
16-TEXAS A&M VS. VANDERBILT
11:20 a.m. Saturday, KBVO, 1370