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…

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