Texas A&M football: Grading the Aggies' performance vs. Ole Miss
Give the Aggies credit for not giving up. They were completely outplayed in the 1st half. The game could have, and likely should have, been over by halftime.
But it wasn’t. Evan when the Rebels moved the ball up and down the field in the 1st half; even during those individual drives, the Aggies showed no quit. And that’s why Ole Miss had problems finishing those drives.
Sure, Texas A&M should have won the game. Despite being outplayed; despite giving up 500-plus yards, the Aggies were still in position to win the game.
But that’s not the path they took. Instead, they gift-wrapped the Rebels’ final 2 touchdowns, and that was the difference.
Here’s a look at each aspect of the game and the grading of each.
Inexplicably, the Aggies were unable to get anything going on the ground. Yes, Devon Achane rushed for 110 yards and had some exciting big-gainers. But as far as a consistent running game, it just wasn’t there. The Aggies managed just 141 yards on the ground.
That’s pretty amazing when you consider the Aggies were averaging 263.3 yards on the ground over the last 3 games. Only Alabama (94), Colorado (98) and Arkansas (121) held the Aggies to fewer rushing yards than did Ole Miss.
It’s quite concerning when you consider that the Rebels came into the game next-to-last in the conference against the run, giving up 195.33 yards per game.
On the surface, it would seem difficult to criticize Zach Calzada for his passing performance. He completed the same number of passes as Heisman Trophy frontrunner and Ole Miss counterpart Matt Corral. He threw for nearly the same number of yards (237, to Corral’s 247).
The difference, of course, was in taking care of the football. Corral did that; Calzada did not. Calzada did not throw a touchdown pass, at least to his own team. He threw 2 crucial picks in the most inopportune times. As stated above, it was the difference between a stirring comeback and a disappointing loss.
Calzada regressed against a defense that statistically is among the worst in the SEC, although from the eyeball test, it didn’t look bad at all.
For all the hype about Corral and his passing abilities, the Rebels rank 2nd in the SEC in rushing offense. Yes, Corral has much to do with it because of his ability to use his legs and pick up sizable yardage on the ground as well.
Ole Miss ran for 257 yards on Saturday, the most allowed by the Aggies this season. Kent State rushed for 226 yards in the season opener. Until Saturday, it was the only team to rush for more than 200 yards on Texas A&M all year.
And the Rebels didn’t even need Corral’s efforts to get there. Jerrion Ealy ran for 152 while Henry Parrish Jr. and Snoop Conner combined for another 113.
Now, giving up 247 passing yards might not sound like a good effort, but consider the source. Likely the Heisman Trophy frontrunner, Corral did not have one of his better games. Only 3 times this season has he thrown for fewer yards in a game. Corral threw for 186 yards against LSU, 213 against Alabama and 231 against Tennessee.
True, only 2 teams have thrown for more yardage against the Aggies in 2021. Alabama threw for 369, and Mississippi State threw for 408. The Aggies held Corral in check, relatively speaking.
Maybe we’re grading on a curve here, but the Aggies did not allow a potential Heisman Trophy winner to beat them. The loss was more self-inflicted than anything.
It was more than a little disappointing that Texas A&M was not up to the speed in which Ole Miss started the game. The Rebels had their uptempo game humming along while the Aggies acted surprised by it and unprepared for it — at least initially. Put the blame on coaching for not having the team ready from the opening kick.
However, the fight the team exhibited from start to finish, regardless of the situation; regardless of the score, is a tribute to coaching. So there’s good with the bad.
As far as the overall game plan, it seemed somewhat pass heavy on offense, probably dictated by the score and the flow of the game, but that’s not vintage Aggies football.
Defensively, the plan appeared more reactionary than aggressive, especially after the initial shock of Ole Miss’ next-level uptempo offense. And maybe that’s why the Aggies were able to bend without breaking?