Lost in all the ballyhoo over finding a serviceable quarterback for the foreseeable future is the fact that Texas A&M has a pretty darn good defense, at least when it counts most.

The Aggies held then-No. 13 Miami out of the end zone and limited the Hurricanes to just 3 field goals in their 17-9 victory on Saturday night in front of 107,245 fans at Kyle Field. It was the 3rd-largest crowd there and largest for a nonconference game. It was the first time Miami has been held under 10 points in a game since the 2019 Independence Bowl, when the Canes were shut out by Louisiana Tech.

That’s not to say that Miami did not move the football. In fact, the Canes (2-1) far outgained the Aggies (2-1) and were just 8 shy of 400 total yards for the game. But when it counted most, in or near the red zone, is when the Aggies defense played its best football. It turned away the Canes on 4 trips inside the 20-yard line, forcing field-goal attempts each time.

It was the key in holding a Top 25 opponent without a touchdown for a second consecutive season. Last November, the Aggies topped No. 12 Auburn, 20-3.

Texas A&M moved up 1 spot to No. 23 in Sunday’s new AP poll, while the Canes fell 12 spots to No. 25.

It certainly took a concerted effort on defense to get the job done, but not to be overlooked was the contribution of punter Nik Constantinou, who continuously pinned the Canes deep in their own territory. That crucial aspect of the game was definitely not lost on head coach Jimbo Fisher, who including his tenure as head coach at Florida State is now 8-1 all-time against Miami.

“You got to understand, when you’re pinning guys back on the 1-, 2-yard line, it makes it easy for a defense to win, too,” said Fisher, whose Aggies teams have now defeated 7 Top 15 opponents. “I’m not taking anything away from our defense, they’re doing a great job, but I thought we played very opportunistic and won the field-position battle in the game. That’s what we did very well. They gained yards. But they started how many drives inside the 10? Three? A couple of them at the 1?”

Among the many defensive standouts, junior defensive back Jaylon Jones, who was making his season debut following an injury, led the team on Saturday with a career-high 9 tackles, including 8 solo. He was instrumental in helping the Aggies defense stiffen up near the goal line.

“One thing we hone on is finish,” Jones said. “Don’t look at past plays, don’t live in the past. Move on to the next play and finish. That’s our motto. That’s how we go about ourselves.”

Jones also recorded 1 of 8 pass breakups, after the Aggies tallied just 6 over the first 2 games of the season. They got 2 each on Saturday from DBs Tyreek Chappell and Jardin Gilbert, and another 2 from linebacker Edgerrin Cooper.

Jones’ play was even more critical considering how thin the Aggies became in the secondary. One freshman DB was suspended prior to the game and 2 senior DBs were ejected in the 1st quarter for targeting. One of those was Demani Richardson, a leader in the secondary who prior to the ejection forced a critical fumble on a punt that led to an Aggies touchdown.

“It’s great to have Jaylon back,” Fisher said. “Jaylon is a high-quality person. He’s a tremendous human being. Came out there, and he hit it right on and getting back in time. It really worked out good for us because if he had been hurt, we could have been in trouble. I thought he played a really good game.”

In addition to Constantinou’s efforts, another special teams play by freshman defensive lineman Albert Regis helped Texas A&M retain momentum in the game. Regis batted away a 3rd-down pass, then blocked Miami’s 36-yard field-goal attempt, and the Canes came up empty after reaching the red zone.

“If you look at last week, he was inches from blocking two field goals last week,” Fisher recalled. “Albert has been playing really good football for us for a while. I love the kid. He’s a hard-working, genuine, really good kid and got a great future.”

Yes, it truly was a team effort on the defensive side of the football. There were the 8 tackles recorded by freshman defensive back Bryce Anderson and 8 more from DB Antonio Johnson before he left the game with an undisclosed injury.

It was an impressive bounce-back victory after the debacle against Appalachian State and a tribute to Fisher, who in his 5th year at Texas A&M improved to 14-2 against nonconference foes, 23-5 overall at Kyle Field, 28-4 when scoring first and a perfect 26-0 when leading after the 1st quarter.

How did the Aggies do it?

“Block out all the clutter; move on,” Fisher said. “Go the next play, go the next day. Don’t listen to anybody. Move on. Control what happens to you and live in your own little cubby hole, live in your own world and block everything out.”

Fisher and his Aggies will now return to their cubby hole and begin preparation for yet another undefeated highly ranked opponent, this time in their SEC opener against Arkansas at Jerry’s World in Arlington, Texas.