Month: September 2022

Thoughts from the Miami Game

I heard a lot of disappointment from Aggies on the fact the Aggies beat a higher ranked team and covered the spread while missing four key freshman.  Seriously.  I get the frustration but this Aggie team was staring down the barrel of a 1-5 start.

The Aggies beat a Top 15 team who has a quarterback that’s a potential first round pick.  They beat a Miami team that has a lot of excitement and momentum.

This Aggie team lost to App State last week and a win over Miami still isn’t enough for a lot of fans.  This is why we can’t have nice things.  We ain’t winning the National Title this year so get excited about positive developments with some occasional struggles.

The Aggies won a football game that just might get their season back on track.  Sure, there’s still plenty of questions and concerns but a win is a win.  Enjoy it for a bit.  This week will feel much better than last week.

Overall this win is what I call a “Jimbo Special.”  Jimbo has won many times like this in his short tenure at Aggieland.  The defense does the brunt of the work while the offense jabs away trying to land a couple knock out punches that never land.  In the end the jabs are enough and the Aggies get a win.

I’d prefer to land knock out punches and put games away early but I like winning.  Winning is fun. I’ll take this over losing.

There’s still some questions and concerns about the rest of the season but let’s not get greedy just yet.  Let’s enjoy a win that was desperately needed.  At least that’s what I’m going to do.

Offense:

Devon Achane:

I’m starting with the guy that might be the most underrated player in college football.  A lot of people know his name and know about his speed but the dude is basically single handedly carrying this Aggie offense.  I don’t think people realize the amount of work he’s doing compared to the rest of the offense.

He’s the only guy that’s consistently doing anything.  It’s remarkable.  The dude is a football player but really isn’t that flashy.  We all know he’s fast but his ability to bounce off hits is uncanny for a guy his size.  He’s done it time and time again in his three years in Aggieland.

His touchdown catch early in the 3rd quarter completely changed the game in my mind.  It put the Aggies up by two touchdowns causing how the Hurricanes and the Aggies managed the rest of the game.  The Aggies were able to focus on playing mistake free football while Miami had to have a much higher sense of urgency. Well, they should have but their head coach didn’t exactly look like it. Fine with me.

The catch itself was typical Achane.  It was a short pass that looked like Achane would work to get 10-15 yards as a defender made contact.  Next thing you know Achane somehow sheds a couple defenders and he’s running free to the endzone.  Nothing flashy but he just somehow got free and then used his world class speed.

Beyond that catch he did a remarkable job running all night.  He carried the ball 18 times for 88 yards for 4.9 yards per carry.  That’s REALLY damn good considering the game plan and I bet you didn’t realize that.  There’s obviously issues with the offensive line but Achane is still out there producing even though there’s not a lot of room to run.

At one point in the third quarter he was averaging 6.6 yards a carry.  It didn’t seem like it because we weren’t scoring more points but Achane was absolutely producing on an offense that had struggles everywhere else.

I don’t think people realize what we have in Devon Achane.  He may be the most underrated Aggie player ever.  He’s extremely talented and productive but there’s no flash because he’s so damn smooth in what he does.  Can’t say enough good things about this guy.

He’s the ONLY bright spot on this offense right now.  In fact, he’s the Aggie Team MVP through the three games and there’s not even a close second.

I think we’re 1-2 without him.

We also might have got shut out by App State without Achance. Major ouch.

Offensive Line:

It was good to see Bryce Foster back.  It seemed to help a little bit but there’s still some issues.  I think it centers around the fact we haven’t settled on the five guys yet.  We’re still unsure who should be the left guard as Ogunbyi and Moko rotated throughout the game.  Moko started but Ogunbyi got some playing time.

I was a little surprised this group struggled so much with the pass rush.  They’ve been better against the pass rush in their first two games.  In this game they seemed a little better at establishing the run than pass blocking.  Not sure why that is but just more of the inconsistencies with this offensive line.

I don’t think this line is as bad as most people think.  It DEFINITELY needs improvement but it’s somewhat serviceable right now.  It’s definitely not as bad as the 2019 offensive line.

We need to decide on a left guard and let the five guys play together.  I don’t think it’s going to be the 2020 offensive line that just dominated people but I do think we’re going to start seeing more improvement with Foster back and settling on the left guard.

We’ll find out a lot about this unit on Saturday night against Arkansas.  I know you’re ready for the final answer but these things do take a little time to develop.

Wide Receiver:

Thanks to a rumored kick ass party at Prairie View A&M on Friday night we got to transport back to 2021 where our receiving unit was Ainias Smith and some other dudes.

We REALLY missed Evan Stewart in my mind.  None of the other receivers other than Ainias Smith could get any separation from the defender.  When they did get separation they dropped passes that should have been caught.

We had 140 yards of receiving on 20 attempts with 116 yards of that between Ainias and Achane.

Hopefully Evan Stewart stays in his hotel in DFW and Chris Marshall doesn’t fight anyone at practice this week.  We really need their talent on the field.  With Max Johnson at quarterback I think we’ll be able to exploit their talent so we need them.

People love to bitch about the offensive line not blocking and the quarterback not passing but when there’s not open guys it’s really a moot point.  There weren’t many open guys on Saturday night other than Smith and Achane.

Tight End:

Donavan Green had a nice 18 yard catch on the first series of the game but we never saw anything develop for the tight end the rest of the night. This is a little confusing as Jimbo has shown he loves tight ends catching balls in his previous four seasons.

Maybe he’s saving it for SEC play.

Quarterback:

I wasn’t far off in my guess for how the starting quarterback would play out this year.

This is what I wrote in May of this year:

I think we’re going to see King and Johnson share snaps in the first two games.  How that happens I’m not sure and that doesn’t really matter.  Maybe it’s 2 series and 2 series or 1st quarter and 2nd quarter.  I think you’ll see Johnson in the first half of both of those games though.  That means there is no definitive starter for Jimbo to start the season.

I think at some point in the Miami game Johnson goes in the first half and doesn’t come back out for the rest of the season.  At least as a starter.

I wasn’t totally right on how it played out.  I was right the Miami game would be the definitive moment for the quarterback position.  With that humble brag out of the way let’s talk about Max.

I thought Max looked really good.  Not great by any stretch but the dude was starting his first game in a new offense where he hasn’t got many game snaps.  His previous starting experience at LSU really shined in my mind. 

The moment was not too big for him.  That much was clear.

He was under pressure much of the night and had receivers that couldn’t get separation.  When they did they dropped balls.

The most impressive thing King did all night was his scrambles.  Max isn’t Johnny Football but he showed great awareness of the pocket and the coverage.  His runs were pretty decisive which was great to see.  He clearly saw what was happening on the field and processed it quickly.  I think that speaks to his awareness and experience.

I don’t have any delusions that Max Johnson leads us to the College Football Playoff.  I do believe Max can take us to at least 8 wins and potentially 10.  We weren’t getting that with Haynes King.

I know Conner Weigman is likely the future but Max Johnson is the now.  Let’s not get that confused.

I believe once our freshman receiving threats come back and the offensive line develops more we’re going to see a lot more out of Max Johnson.

He clearly has experience and poise which we didn’t see last year and the first two games this year.

I fully believe Max gets us back on track pushing to a 10-win season.  He’s not going to carry the team but he doesn’t need to.  He just needs to be smart and get the ball in the hands of our playmakers.

Based on what I saw on Saturday night I think Max can be the guy that keeps us from a potential freefall after App State. Thank goodness for quarterback depth.

Defense:

D.J. Durkin Assessment:

Three games in I’m scratching my head because I don’t know what D.J. Durkin is doing defensively.  I know he has a lot of questions when it comes to talent and experience outside of Antonio Johnson and Demani Richardson.

He’s rotating a ton of guys in and out while playing different sets.  That makes sense because he’s got a lot of talented youth.  I haven’t been able to track the sets in great detail because he seems to change it up quite a bit.

I can’t fully diagnose what he’s doing but through three games his defense is averaging less than 9 points a game.  That’s all I need to diagnose at this point.

There’s a lot of statistics in football but there’s two that matter more than anything else -Points Scored and Points Against.  When it comes to Points Against we’re doing REALLY damn good.

Here’s some random statistics that lead to my head scratching:

  • This Aggie defense has only given up touchdowns on Aggie offense turnovers.  This defense has not given up a touchdown when the opposing offense has received the ball via a punt or kick off.  Kind of quirky but interesting none the less.
  • App State rushed 52 times for 181 yards just bludgeoning us for 3.5 yards a carry.
  • App State only passed for 134 yards.
  • App State got 22 first downs.
  • Miami rushed 36 times for 175 yards which is 4.9 yards a carry.  That’s generally a REALLY bad sign.
  • Miami only passed for 217 yards.  Tyler Van Dyke has started a little slow this season but he averaged 351 yards a game last year.
  • Miami got 27 first downs.
  • Miami didn’t score a touchdown.

I don’t like the rushing yards and first downs given up to App State and Miami.  I like the lack of passing yards and especially no touchdowns given up except on two turnovers.

I don’t know if this is a mastermind by Durkin or it’s pure luck but it’s worked the first 3 games.  Our defense has played well enough to win all 3 games and that’s all you can ask for.  This is a good defense that should get better.

I’m interested to see what Durkin does against Arkansas this week.  In last year’s Ole Miss/Arkansas game where Durkin was Ole Miss’ Defensive coordinator Arkansas rushed for 355 yards and passed for 326 yards.  That’s 681 yards of total offense resulting in 51 points.

Lucky for Durkin in 2021 his boss at the time is an offensive mastermind and they totaled 611 yards and scored 52 points to win.

Unlucky for Durkin in 2022 his boss is not an offensive mastermind.  Giving up almost 700 yards and 50 points is not going to cut it for a win.  Durkin is absolutely going to have to come up with a scheme to keep Arkansas from rolling up and down the field on the Aggies.

If you can’t match Arkansas point for point you can’t let them run over you on the ground.  I sure as hell hope Durkin plans on a LOT more guys in the box to force Arkansas to pass more.  In addition, he’s going to have to get creative in how he uses those guys in the box.  If he just fires off our defensive lineman hoping the backers and safeties properly fill the gaps then Arkansas will simply find little seams to run through and bludgeon us on the ground like App State.

Durkin needs to create schemes that Arkansas isn’t expecting and disrupt their running game.

Arkansas is averaging 244 rushing yards a game this season.  They’re going to run the ball and we better come up with stops.  If not, we lose this game.

Personnel Assessment:

From a talent standpoint nobody is really sticking out as individuals.  That’s not a bad thing as it means guys are following the scheme and it’s working.

There’s guys that flash from time to time but 3 games in I haven’t seen anyone that’s truly disrupting every play.  Once again, that’s not a bad thing as a defensive unit is much tougher to defend than a defense that has two playmakers and not much else. 

You can scheme to disrupt defensive playmakers and attack a defense’s weakness if you have the offensive playmakers.  Just think back to the secondaries of Kevin Sumlin and the defensive lines under Mike Sherman and Fran.

We’ll see if any single player starts dominating against Arkansas but I’ll be happy if this defense continues to keep teams out of the end zone.  That’s more important than anything else from a defensive standpoint. Don’t let them score touchdowns.

The loss of Demani Richardson on a BS targeting call was pretty big but I thought Bryce Anderson did a really good job of filling in.

I also thought Jaylon Jones did a damn good job in his first game back.

These guys are playing great as a unit and I think as they get more games under their belt we’re going to see guys start to show some dominating tendencies.

Looking Forward:

We are truly in a week to week situation when it comes to assessing Aggie football.  Just look at the last two Saturdays.  After App State Aggies everywhere thought the world was ending.  A Saturday later they stuck up their head thinking it might be safe to wear maroon in public again.

This team is likely not going to the College Football Playoff so get that out of your head.  The reality is we can still salvage a 10-win season with a trip to an NY6 Bowl Game winning that for 11 wins.  If we played in any other division besides the SEC West it would be a much easier path.

Part of the price we pay for playing in the toughest division in college football but still possible.

I think we showed on Saturday night that we’re a Top 20 football team.  We’ll figure out in the next 3 weeks if we’re a borderline or even Top 10 team.

Calm down and let’s watch things develop week to week.

Recruiting Effect:

What a lot of you probably don’t realize is the most important thing that came out of Saturday’s game was some serious positive momentum with recruits.  We had a fair number of big names in attendance.  The environment and results didn’t disappoint based on feedback from the recruits that were there.

We take it for granted but 107,000 people in an electric environment is REALLY damn impressive.

We don’t return to Kyle Field until October 29th.  The last major memory in the mind of many recruits will be the environment they experienced at the Miami game.  It’s not as big as last year’s Bama game but it’s a serious positive swing for future recruiting classes.

If you’re bitching just know a bunch of important recruits had a great time.  That’s the most important thing that came out of the Miami game.

I saw D.J. Lagway’s father in the concourse before the game.  D.J. is one of the top quarterbacks in the country from Willis.  I introduced myself and just told him we would love to have his son play for the Aggies.  He told me his son really likes Texas A&M. 

I said, “Well, I sure hope he comes here.” 

He smiled at me and said, “Oh, he loves it here.”

I did my part.  I hope Jimbo can do his part.

But first he needs to get through Arkansas…

Thoughts on the App State Game

I’ve struggled on where to begin with this game.  I’m not totally shocked by what happened.  There were some big questions after the Sam Houston State game. I am a little surprised the Aggies lost to App State. I didn’t expect it at all.

I really thought we’d win this game until about 5 minutes in the 4th quarter.  I really thought at some point our superior athletes would take over and our coaching staff would throw a wrinkle or two at App State they weren’t ready for.

Neither of those things happened an App State walked out of Kyle Field with a victory over a Top 10 team.  It’s been 15 years but they got another.  It’s what App State does.  App State is a decent enough football team but there was no reason for them to walk out of Kyle Field with a win.  Credit to them as they outcoached and DEFINITELY outplayed the Aggie squad.

So what happened?

Two things – No quarterback play and arrogant ignorant coaching.  They were pretty equal in my mind and actually worked hand in hand this game.  Haynes King didn’t make any plays but Jimbo arrogantly and ignorantly kept calling his regular plays over and over with no wrinkles.  He also completely ignored Max Johnson when it was clear Haynes King had nothing.

Before I go any further I feel like I need to state this – Jimbo ain’t going anywhere anytime soon.  Barring a massive collapse he’s going to be our coach for at least 2-3 more years.  Likely longer.  I’m actually okay with that as he can recruit and I think he’s a pretty good football coach.  His offensive coaching offers PLENTY of questions but I don’t know who we would replace him with.  There’s only one Nick Saban and he’s caused irrational coaching changes along with driving up coaching salaries.  I don’t want a coaching carousel as that’s not going to help anything.

Jimbo is the best overall football coach we’ve had since R.C. Slocum in the mid-90s.  I truly believe for running a big time college football program he’s easily in the Top 20 and likely Top 10 of coaches.  The dude loves to coach football and can run a big-time college football program.  Can we find someone better than him?  It’s possible but not very likely.  To me Jimbo is in that first tier of college coaches that aren’t named Nick Saban.

Ultimately the play calling falls on him and there’s plenty of questions there but I don’t think pulling the trigger on firing Jimbo is very prudent right now.  I’m not going to discuss that because I don’t think it’s productive.

If there’s one positive that came from this game it’s we got our question about Haynes King answered.  He ain’t the answer.  I know Jimbo locks onto his quarterbacks but we’ve seen enough of King.  I don’t know what Max Johnson gives us but it’s time to find out.

Hopefully this game serves like an alcoholic waking up staring in the mirror of a jail cell wondering how they got there.  Maybe Jimbo just goes back to King like an alcoholic to the bottle but hopefully Jimbo looks for some help.  He certainly needs it.

Tossing out the Prairie View game Jimbo hasn’t looked great as an offensive coordinator in his last 5 games.  This goes all the way back to Auburn when we didn’t score a single touchdown.  We then struggled offensively against Ole Miss and LSU to close out the season.

We scored 31 against Sam Houston but looking back that was thanks to busted coverage more than anything.  The Aggie offense certainly didn’t do anything impressive against Sam Houston.  We just had better athletes.

We saw what happened yesterday.  We basically had two great offensive plays against App State.  The long King scramble and then the Achane touchdown run.  That was it.  We didn’t even have 100 yards of passing or 100 yards rushing.  AGAINST APPALACHIN STATE!!!! 

Less.  Than.  200 Yards.  Of.  Offensive.

That’s shameful.

I’ll get to the defense in a bit as they certainly had some issues but let’s not lose sight of the most embarrassing stat from this game – We couldn’t even muster 200 yards of offense against App State.  Mack Brown’s UNC team put up 567 yards of offense the week before.  We couldn’t muster up 200 yards of offense at Kyle Field against a defense that gave up 567 yards of offense the week before.

If that doesn’t signal something is broken then I don’t know what will.  5 straight games of pitiful offensive output.

Jimbo’s in a prison cell looking in a mirror.  Does he see an alcoholic that’s been making bad decisions or does he see a guy that’s just had a string of bad luck?  We’ll find out against Miami.  It ain’t bad luck.  It’s bad decisions.

Coaching:

The biggest issue with the coaching in this game is Jimbo and his staff wanted to win a game against an inferior talent with no wrinkles.  I think the plan was to establish a base they could build from by just overpowering a lesser talented team.  It didn’t work and that’s on the coaching staff.

Meanwhile App State played and coached a perfect game.  They clearly knew what to do.  They simply played mistake free football and let A&M implode on itself.

On offense they simply took what the A&M defense gave them.  They rushed for 208 yards because the A&M defense let them.  We played a 3-man front for much of the first half and App State just chewed up yards and the clock.  I really thought our rotation of defensive lineman would help us out but App State just kept chewing yards and clock.

It wasn’t fancy or flashy but they just chewed up 3-4 yards a play.  Lots of patience and faith it would work out for them.  The App State coaching staff never panicked and it paid off.

The App State coaching staff obviously realized the Aggie offense was in a complete funk.  They smartly decided to limit touches so it couldn’t get on track.  It worked beautifully as App State ran 82 plays to A&M’s 38.

Read that again – 82 plays to 38.  How the hell did we only lose by 3?  That’s a testament to our talent on defense as a whole.  Schematically we were weak but we should have gotten stomped when their offense ran 44 additional plays against our defense.

As you can imagine time of possession went App State’s way by a LARGE margin.  They held the ball for 41:20 to A&M’s 18:31.  App State held the ball for twice as long as A&M.  Once again, it’s pretty remarkable we only lost by 3 points in looking at the number of plays and time of possession.

The A&M coaching staff completely lost this game.  I have to imagine the App State coaching staff was talking bewildered in their headsets.  The Aggies were letting them get away with a very vanilla game plan because they were just taking what the Aggie defense giving them while their defense did just enough to confuse the Aggie offense.  That ain’t hard to do if you look at our last 5 games.

Just run some basic twists, stunts and delayed blitzes.  It’ll confuse our offensive line and quarterback.  Mostly our quarterback.

The App State coaching staff just called a game to let the Aggie team implode.  It worked perfectly.

I’m going to get to Haynes King next but this game is COMPLETELY on Jimbo.  He couldn’t see his team imploding and didn’t add any wrinkles.  He spent the entire game trying string together an offensive drive and it cost him in seeing other aspects of his team failing.

Haynes King was failing on the field and his defense was scared to give up a big play.  Jimbo either didn’t see this or completely ignored all of it.

App State just played into it perfectly.  Jimbo never called a wrinkle on offense or defense.  He was simply a kid playing Madden convinced if he could get 3-4 plays together his offense would take off and his team would win.  It never happened.

He blinded himself and nobody on his coaching staff said anything to him.  Or if they did he completely ignored it.  Either way it’s a terrible look for Jimbo.

He let his team down with terrible coaching.

Haynes King:

I hate to single this kid out but it needs to be done.  I know the offensive line is struggling and not helping him but King did NOTHING in this game other than that one long run.  He looks lost and shows no since of urgency or desire to create a spark.

He now has 3 full games against non-Power 5 football programs and you can count on one hand the plays that have truly been impressive.  The sample set has gotten bigger and the results have been virtually the same.  They actually regressed against App State which is concerning.

King hasn’t shown us anything to make us believe he’s the guy to be under center.  He’s not even pedestrian.  He’s in his third year in Jimbo’s program and he’s confused.

I’ll point to two plays in the 4th quarter.

The first was a zone read with Achane.  For those of you not familiar with a zone read it’s where the quarterback hands off to the running back while reading a defender.  Generally it’s the defensive end but on occasion it’s someone else.  The point of the play is for the quarterback to pull the ball back out if the defender sells out to the run and leaves the edge open for the quarterback.  It has to be a pretty quick read but it’s a play that’s been around for two decades from high school to college.

I promise you this wasn’t King’s first time to run a zone read.

On this particular play King held onto the ball entirely too long holding up Achane.  I don’t know if King was trying to pull the ball back out or was just making a slow decision.  Either way Achane had the ball and wasn’t giving it back.  It was completely botched by King.  That decision must be made pretty quickly.  If Achane has the ball King must let it go.  Instead King help up Achane and we got no yards on the play.  We might have even lost a yard.

The other play was the option play.  This is a play that’s been around for 50 years.  Any quarterback with his salt knows how to run this play even if it goes nowhere.  Especially a quarterback that’s supposed to be a running quarterback.

On this particular play King took the snap and ran to the right with Achane leading down the line with him.  It became apparent REALLY quickly the Aggies were running an option.  App State read it perfectly sealing the edge.  King had a decision to make to either cut up or pitch. He actually did neither and continued trying to stretch the play running into the defender.

I’d be okay with that decision if he pitched in time but instead he held on to the ball for too long not pitching until the defender made contact.  That caused him to have a bad pitch to Achane.  Achane missed the pitch but luckily fell on the ball for just a 7 yard loss.  It could have been a catastrophic turnover but luckily Achane fell on it.

It was the 4th quarter when the Aggies needed a massive spark and King couldn’t make quick and smart decisions.  That’s the sign of someone that’s overwhelmed and not confident.  I don’t want that in my quarterback.  Jimbo has to see this.

King got his shot and has done nothing with it.

Should Jimbo Name Max Johnson the Starter?:

Jimbo is a damn fool if he doesn’t.  I know he’s deeply invested in Haynes King and believes in him but tape don’t lie.  Haynes King hasn’t done ANYTHING of substance against non Power 5 opponents.  What’s going to happen against Power 5 opponents and especially the SEC?  The sample set says it ain’t gonna be good.

Jimbo is a stubborn fool if he runs King out against Miami.  There’s nothing that says he should do that.

I wrote a blog this summer about King and Johnson.

https://rcwouldhavegonefor2.com/2022/05/24/who-will-quarterback-the-2022-aggies/

This is what I wrote over the summer:

Here’s What We Know From Games:

  • Haynes King has started 2 football games.  None of them in the SEC and only played one full game.
  • Haynes King’s one full game was against Kent State where he was a 64% passer with 2 touchdowns and 3 interceptions.
  • Max Johnson has started 14 games with 10 of those being SEC games.  He’s played in 3 other SEC games.
  • Max Johnson is a 60% career passer at LSU.  He’s 58% in the SEC.  57% in SEC starts.
  • Max Johnson has thrown 35 career touchdowns and 7 interceptions.  That’s an outstanding 5 to 1 ratio.  In career SEC games he’s thrown 22 touchdowns to 5 interceptions.  In SEC starts it’s 20 touchdowns to 5 interceptions.  That’s still an outstanding 4 to 1 ratio.
  • Max Johnson has played significant snaps in these stadiums – Auburn, Texas A&M, Florida, Mississippi State, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Alabama.

We now have 2 more games for King and his resume hasn’t improved one lick.  We’re about to hit a serious run of 4 games against Miami, Arkansas, Mississippi State, and Alabama.

Based on those bullet points above with the addition of the last two games I have no clue how you can hand the keys to King for another game.  Jimbo is damn stubborn fool if he runs King out there against Miami.

I don’t know if Max Johnson is the ultimate answer but I do know his experience and resume is INFINITELY better than King’s at this point.  I want to at least try him against this four-game stretch we’ve got coming up.  It ain’t gonna hurt.

We’re seriously staring down the barrel of a 1-5 record if you keep doing the same thing that isn’t working.  At least offensively.

If you’d rather have King going into the Miami game over Johnson you’re a damn arrogant stubborn fool.  Or you’re just a terrible coach that doesn’t know how to utilize the experience and ability of Max Johnson.

We’ll see what Jimbo is.  I don’t have faith he gets help but instead just goes back to the bottle expecting a different result.  I fully expect to see King trot out as the starting quarterback against Miami.

The Rest of the Offense:

We all know the offensive line is struggling.  Fatheree got flat out run over which led to King fumbling a ball.  I was floored when I saw that.  They did a nice job of blocking on Achane’s touchdown run as he wasn’t touched.

I don’t think this offensive line is the biggest issue with this offense right now.  They ABSOLUTELY need to play better but there’s a bigger issue at play.  It’s the play calling by the head coach and execution by the trigger man.

Supposedly Bryce Foster is coming back this week.  There’s no doubt he’s going to be a little rusty but even rusty Bryce Foster should be a boost to this offensive line.

Achane was the sole savior of this game.  He was responsible for our only two touchdowns with one being on special teams.  The dude is a damn weapon.

He averaged 6.6 yards a carry with his long touchdown run being 26 yards.  He averaged 4.5 yards on his other 9 carries so he was pretty productive all things considered.  He was at 5.25 yards a carry if you take away the idiotic zone read error by King and the long touchdown.

That’s damn productive so that tells me the offensive line had some level of success if Achane is getting 5.25 yards a carry when you take away his longest and shortest run.

We’re completely wasting Achane’s talent right now.

Jimbo needs to figure this out.

The Defense:

I feel bad for these guys as they were out there all damn day.  It’s pretty remarkable what they did for the amount of time they had to play.

They had some really costly penalties in the first half but I don’t know how much it really mattered in the grand scheme.  I feel like App State was destined to win this game because the offense was inept.

The Aggie defense gave up 342 yards of offense and 17 points in over 40 minutes.  App State just chewed up this defense on the ground.  For whatever reason it seemed like Durkin and Jimbo were afraid to give up a big play through the air.

They really didn’t gamble much but when they did it seemed to work.  Case in point the blitz that was initially ruled a scoop and score by Fadill Diggs.  It was correctly overturned as an incomplete pass.  It was a beautiful blitz that caused the quarterback to make an errant throw under pressure.

For whatever reason Durkin just thought he could get off the field with his base defense but it didn’t work.

App State converted 9 of 20 third downs which is pretty decent but the kicker was they converted 3 of 5 fourth downs.  That’s the killer stat as there were 5 times App State felt confident enough to attempt a 4th down conversion due to the game situation and field position.  3 times they converted.  I don’t know if one of those was the defensive offsides but either way they converted 3 of 5 fourth downs and that was the difference defensively.

I like to hope this game was a perfect storm of an inept offense, new defensive coordinator, and inexperienced players.

Durkin’s body of work is pretty solid and this defense is loaded with talent.  I’m not too worried about the defense just yet.  The defense certainly dug their own hole a time or two but unfortunately Jimbo and King decided to jump in and make that hole MUCH bigger.

Special Teams:

What a kick return by Achane.

What a botched kick by Davis.  Pressure moment and the dude didn’t even hit it clean grounding his foot before kicking the ball.  We didn’t even get a chance to see if he can be accurate.

Kind of appropriate for the game.  Just ineptness all around for anyone without the last name of Achane.

Going Forward:

I’m not worried beyond Miami right now.  I just want to see what happens next Saturday.

Believe it or not this season can still be “salvaged”.  By “salvaged” I mean an 8-4 record.  That would be remarkable based on our first two games.

I think the ceiling is 10 wins and that’s a pretty big stretch unless 2020 can be repeated.  It’s always possible.

It’s all going to depend on what Jimbo wants to do.  He’s currently in a prison cell with no clue how he got there.  Everyone else knows how he got there.  Bad decisions and a lot of denial.

What’s it gonna be Jimbo?  You gonna go back to that bottle that got you there or do something different and get some help?

We’re all waiting…

Thoughts from the Sam Houston Game

To say the 2022 debut of the Texas Aggies was frustrating is an understatement.  The performance of some key units to the weather was not what everyone wanted.  I think it’s safe to say we wanted an impressive performance over an inferior opponent.  We didn’t even want dominant.  Just a sign this team was ready to compete for a College Football Playoff spot.

We didn’t get that on the field and the weather delay at half made it that much more frustrating. 

I left about an hour into the delay.  Things were looking bleak for a start so I headed back to Houston.  I made a 4-hour drive from Uvalde that morning where I had been dove hunting the previous couple of days.  I was tired and ready to head home.  I wanted my couch. 

I don’t think I missed a whole lot in the second half based on what I read and saw.

Defense:

I’m starting with the defense because they were by far the best unit on the field.  It wasn’t even close.  Sam is an inferior opponent but they’ve been pretty good at their level with an offense that can score points.  They did absolutely nothing against the Aggie defense.

I normally break down the units but since I’m only doing a half of football I’m going to talk about the whole defensive unit.

The thing I thought was the most impressive was the rotation of players.  D.J. Durkin played the vaunted true freshman and they did not disappoint.  I was having trouble keeping up with everyone because there was so much rotating going on.  It was clear they wanted to get as many people as possible real game experience to see what we have.

We seem to have plenty of talent.  It needs experience but the raw talent and numbers are clearly there.  That’s a great place to start when you’re talking about defense.

We ran a basic defense where we just mauled Sam’s offensive line with 4 guys and let everyone else fly around to the ball.  We didn’t need to do much because we had so much talent on the field.  I’m assuming we’ll get a little more complex so I’m fine with what we did defensively on Saturday.

From a participation standpoint Walter Nolen, Shemar Stewart, Lebbeus Overton, Denver Harris, and Anthony Lucas saw a significant amount of snaps.  These are all true freshman. 

All 5 of these guys were 5 star recruits.  It shouldn’t be any surprise they got the most snaps of the true freshman.  I thought they all looked impressive.  I thought Harris had some great moments as he looks like a difference making corner which we’ve been lacking.

Overton should be a senior in high school right now.  People forget he was in line to be the top recruit for 2023 but he re-classified.  Crazy that he’s on the field looking the part when he should be in high school.

As for the “older guys” I thought Fadil Diggs was the game’s MVP.  Dude seemed to be in on most of the plays and was all over the field.  He’s a redshirt sophomore so this is his third year in Aggieland.  Based on one game he looks ready to break out.

I thought our experienced safety duo of Demani Richardson and Antonio Johnson looked great.  They really look like two of the best safeties in the country.  Jardin Gilbert looked great as the other safety. 

Our corners really didn’t get tested thanks to the pressure from our defensive line.  Sam only completed 14 passes in 28 attempts for 98 yards.  A lot of those were just short little routes because their QB spent a lot of time running from pressure.

We were missing two experienced guys in Jaylon Jones and McKinnley Jackson.  Jaylon is a third year corner and McKinnley is a third year defensive tackle.  Both of those guys have next level talent but have played a little inconsistent over the last couple of years.  In prior years I’d say you DEFINITELY miss guys like that.  We didn’t really miss them at all.  That’s not really a knock on them but more of a testament to how much talent Jimbo and his staff have been stacking on defense.  It’s damn impressive.

Getting those two guys back will only make this defense better.

This defense has a long way to go as these young guys need to get more experience.  They’re going to play much more talented offenses than this one so we’ll have to get by on more than raw talent.  Raw talent is a great place to start when you’re talking about defenses though.

There’s going to be hiccups along the way but I think this will be a better defensive unit from last season simply because there’s more talent.  This is the level of talent you need to win national championships. 

I’m excited to see how this side of the ball develops.  Based on early returns we gonna defense like it’s the early 90s.

Offense:

Wide Receiver:

I’m going to start with the most impressive offensive unit on Saturday and it wasn’t even close.  I’ve been adamant the issue with our receiving units in Jimbo’s first four years was a talent issue.  We simply didn’t have the talent.

Based on a short sample set from a half of football we don’t have that issue anymore.

The biggest benefactor sems to be Ainias Smith as he turned 6 receptions on 9 targets into 164 yards with two touchdowns including a 63-yard touchdown.  Smith is back for his 4th season and I’m hoping this game isn’t an anomaly.  I don’t think it will be.  We finally have some talent to go with his talent.

As for the rest of the receiving unit Evan Stewart certainly showed why he was a 5 star recruit.  He “only” went for 57 yards on 5 receptions but he was a receiver getting separation and getting yards after the catch.  He looks like the real deal.  I haven’t seen a true freshman look like him since Christian Kirk.

Yulkeith Brown is a sophomore that had a beautiful touchdown catch and even more beautiful block to spring Ainias on his long touchdown catch.  Chris Marshall “quietly” had 4 catches for 41 yards and I thought he looked great.  He’s a true freshman and looks like he can contribute this season.

Chase Lane started at receiver but he didn’t do much only catching 2 balls for 25 yards.  I think Chase is going to get passed by Brown and Marshall.  Just proof it’s been a talent issue.

Jimbo ran four wide for a reason I’ll get to later but the most interesting thing was the long touchdown passes came from slot receivers.  It appeared they used deep crossing routes to confuse the safeties and corners and it worked.  It’s a hopeful sign we finally have both the awareness and ability to attack teams downfield with multiple receivers. 

That will pay huge dividends down the road if we can work out the issues with the other parts of our offense.  For the first time in five years I’m hopeful for production from Jimbo’s receiving unit.

Running Back:

Poor Devon Achane.  Poor.  Devon.  Achane.

The dude had nowhere to run but he kept plugging away. 

The reason is our next group.

Offensive Line:

The offensive line looked like garbage on Saturday.  They couldn’t get any push against an inferior opponent.  Most notably the left side of the line.  We lost time of possession in the first half against Sam Houston State.  That’s because our offensive line struggled to block Sam Houston State’s defense.

I’ll get to Haynes King and his issues but losing the time of possession battle in the first half is my biggest concern from this game.  Time of possession is generally the best indicator of who won in the trenches.  Not always but 9 out of 10 times I believe it’s the truest indicator of who pushed who around.  Offenses that stay on the field chew clock and defenses that get off the field don’t.

Based on the time of possession in the first half we didn’t push same around.  Our defense obviously did their job so that means our offensive line didn’t do it’s job. 

Trey Zuhn and Aki Ogunbiyi spent most of the first half confused by pretty basic twists and stunts.  Sam defenders were routinely disrupting runs to the left side of the line.

These two did better pass blocking than run blocking but they need to step up in a big way.  If these guys don’t develop we’re in big trouble.

Bryce Foster had been suspiciously limited during much of Fall Camp.  It came out late last week that he has/had mono.   This is actually decent news.  I was worried he dropped off talent wise or there was some nagging injury holding him back.  It’s not good in the short term but hopefully Foster can get back out there to starting at the center position.  Just his coming back will be a big boost to this line.

Matthew Wykoff started at center and did decent enough but had some issues with snaps.  That’s not uncommon for a center starting in their first few games.  I remember both Erik McCoy and Bryce Foster had issues with their snaps during their early starts.  Either way, let’s just get Foster back.

Layden Robinson was getting substituted for by Jordan Moko.  Apparently Robinson has a nagging injury but not serious.  Robinson is easily our best offensive lineman so we don’t need issues with him.  We don’t have much depth so we need Foster and Robinson to be healthy.

Fatheree had a penalty but I’m not worried about him.  He’s going to be fine so it looks we don’t have to worry about one guy on our offensive line.

If we get Foster back and get some development out of Zuhn and Ogunbiyi or Moko we should be fine.  This is the unit to watch the most in my mind.  If we have a line like 2019 this is an 8-4 football team even if we get improved quarterback decision making.  We need a 2020 offensive line if we truly want a shot at the College Football Playoff.

Hopefully we see a massive improvement against Appalachian State on Saturday.

Tight End:

This is probably a bigger issue than is getting discussed from Saturday.  Something happened to Max Wright where he wasn’t available to play.  He was on crutches with a leg brace on.  I know a lot of people aren’t high on Max Wright but the reality is he has more experience than anyone else at playing tight end in Jimbo’s offense.  I think he would have improved a lot of blocking issues when it came to the left side of the line.

Dametrius Crownover is a back up tackle and was wearing 89 on Saturday.  He’s a converted tight end but spent most of the spring and fall camp as a backup tackle.  He seemed lost at times blocking on Saturday.  Not sure what’s going on with Wright but my guess is Crownover was thrown into tight end duties at the last minute. 

You may not like Wright as a receiver but he’s our best blocking option as a tight end.  That’s been pretty critical for Jimbo to establish the running game.  That likely created some of the blocking issues.

It’ll be interesting to see what Jimbo does with the tight end position.  It’s been a key component of his passing game with Sternberger and Wydemeyer but that seems like it might not be necessary with our young receiving talent.

He’s got two great true freshman receiving talents in Donovan Green and Jake Johnson but we might not need to lean on them like he leaned on Sternberger and Wydermeyer.  Maybe these guys need to get their feet thrown to the fire to see if they can block.  If so, that could really help the left side of the offensive line.

No idea what Jimbo does with the tight end position based on what we saw on Saturday.  There’s some massive unknowns here with the receiving talent and lack of experience at this position.

It would be REALLY nice if one of Green or Johnson proves themselves as both an adequate blocker and receiver.  I think that will help a ton with the blocking issue we saw on Saturday but don’t know how capable of blockers those two are.

Quarterback:

This is clearly the most frustrating part of Saturday’s game.  This is Haynes King third year in Jimbo’s system.  I think I speak for everyone when I say we finally wanted to see some excitement from Haynes King.

We didn’t.

We simply saw more of what we’ve seen in his limited sample set.  He’s wildly inconsistent from a passing standpoint.  In addition, he doesn’t appear to be super elusive as a runner despite reports he’s one of the fastest guys on the team.  Just because he’s fast doesn’t mean he can allude defenders. 

Based on what I’ve seen I think Kellen Mond and Trevor Knight are better runners than King.  Knight for sure.  Mond wasn’t super elusive but he was pretty productive with his legs.  I haven’t seen that from King yet.  I think we can put to rest he’s the true dual threat quarterback he’s been made out to be.  He’s simply a guy with decent mobility that if he ever hits open field can run away from everyone.  Getting to open field appears to be a challenge though.

As for his passing in 5 career games King has 6 touchdown passes and 6 interceptions.  That’s not good.  He throws some great passes from time to time but then he throws some complete stinkers missing wide open guys along with struggling to see defenders throwing interceptions.  He also didn’t see a couple guys that were open choosing to throw to guys that were covered.  It’s a lot easier to complete passes to guys who aren’t covered.

Quarterbacks are going to miss passes from time to time but King threw two REALLY bad interceptions this game.  It really makes me question his decision making because he shouldn’t be throwing interceptions against an opponent like Sam.  In two starts he’s thrown 5 interceptions in 6 quarters of football against Kent State and Sam Houston State.  He also threw an interception in his debut against Bama.  The small sample set says he’s prone to throwing interceptions.

He must stop turning the ball over through the air.  There’s no reason for that.

He really reminds me of Kellen Mond prior to the 2020 Florida game where you can see all the tools but the decision making and consistency are in major question.  I defended Mond because I felt he was the best quarterback option for Jimbo’s offense.  There was nobody else on the roster.

I don’t feel that way with King.  Max Johnson and Conner Weigman have plenty of talent.  In Johnson’s case he has plenty of experience starting in the SEC.  If King is going to keep throwing interceptions there’s better options on the bench.

Jimbo has proven to be very stubborn with his quarterbacks.  He seems to pick a guy and stick with him through thick and thin.  Based on the snaps on Saturday it appears he’s fully prepared to ride King.  Max Johnson didn’t see snaps until the 4th quarter. 

I’m not feeling great about the Haynes King decision right now.  Maybe he turns the corner but he really doesn’t offer much from a running standpoint and he throws interceptions at a regular rate.  You can’t have your starting quarterback having a 1:1 ratio for touchdowns and interceptions.  2:1 really isn’t great either.  That just seems like the mark of a bad decision maker.

Max Johnson has a 4:1 ratio in SEC starts.  At some that ratio has to matter in who plays quarterback for the Aggies.

If Haynes is throwing 5-6 touchdowns a game I can handle a couple interceptions.  He’s not doing that so I have some real concerns.  A 1:1 or even 2:1 ratio isn’t going to cut it in the SEC.  That’s a sign of bad decision making.

You can’t have a bad decision maker at quarterback. 

We’ll see what King does against Appalachian State.  I think he should be on a short chain if he throws an interception.  If he throws 2 interceptions on Saturday he needs to be pulled and give Max Johnson some snaps.  You can’t consistently turn the ball over and expect to win in the SEC.

Hopefully Jimbo doesn’t have blinders on when it comes to Haynes King actual game performance. I don’t care what he looks like in practice.  Live bullets matter infinitely more than practice bullets.  King’s live bullets show he’s got issues when it comes to decision making.

Overall:

We have two main things we need to clean up in the left side of the line and interceptions.  If we get those two things cleaned up we’re going to be just fine. 

By fine I mean a 10-win team.  If not, we’ll be a 8-4 or even 7-5 win team. 

I don’t see us as a College Football Playoff team right now even with improvement to those two areas I mentioned.  It’s a big leap from 10 wins to the CFP and I just don’t think we have the experience and talent right now to get there.  I hope I’m wrong but I don’t see it.

Our defense is going to keep us in games.  However, at some point our offense has to exert it’s will on the ground and not give up passes to the defense.  You’re gonna lose football games if you can’t run and throw interceptions.  I don’t care how much talent you have.  You must run and protect the ball in the SEC if you want to win football games.

The good news is based on a half of football all those millions we spent on the 2022 recruiting class appear to be money well spent.

Jimbo might be stubborn when it comes to his quarterback decisions but he’s pretty astute at spending our booster’s NIL money.

For that we should be thankful even if it pisses off Nick Saban.

Let’s just hope there’s improvement on the field from Week 1 to Week 2.