Texas A&M football: Stock report after Week 3
It was the bounce back game the Aggies needed after the debacle of a 48-33 loss to Miami in South Florida. A cupcake to get things right heading into SEC play.
The 47-3 victory over UL-Monroe probably didn’t answer many questions. The Sun Belt Conference Warhawks didn’t put up much of a fight. But the trouncing did afford head coach Jimbo Fisher an opportunity to employ many players, who were able to gain some confidence as the season gets serious from here on out.
Let’s take a look at the 2-1 Aggies’ stock report after Week 3.
Player of the Week: QB Conner Weigman
The Aggies’ quarterback was nearly perfect, completing 25 of 29 passes (no interceptions) for 337 yards and a TD. He also ran 3 times for 18 yards and another score. To be fair, his receivers made his job easy. They were able to gain separation and make Weigman’s task that of simple pitch and catch.
Still, Weigman made good decisions and stood tall in the pocket, further developing his skill and leadership at the position.
Freshman of the Week: Rueben Owens
The 5-star RB is showing why he was one of the most coveted RBs coming out of high school. Owens rushed for a team-high 51 yards on 8 carries (6.4 yards per carry) and scored a TD. In addition, he had the longest run from scrimmage (21 yards) in pacing a rushing attack that totaled 158 yards.
Biggest surprise: Even Stewart out
WR Evan Stewart was scratched from the lineup and not in full uniform for the game. Equally surprising was the group who made up for the loss of the team’s leading receiver. On Saturday, 10 players caught passes from either Weigman or backup Max Johnson. The 2 Aggie QBs combined for 32 completions in 40 attempts.
Ainias Smith led the way with 7 catches for 127 yards. Jahdae Walker, with 5 receptions for 110 yards and a TD, was perhaps the biggest surprise in Stewart’s absence. The junior from Cleveland, Ohio, had a total of 3 catches in his 2 previous games with Texas A&M after coming over from Grand Valley State.
Biggest concern: Pass defense
The SEC’s best defense last season against the pass has turned into one of the worst this year. The about-face is puzzling. The Aggies allowed only 156.2 yards per game through the air in 12 outings over the 2022 season. But this year, so far through 3 games, the Aggies are giving up 200 per game.
Granted, the Aggies were better on Saturday and through the final 3 periods looked like the defense of last season. After yielding 82 passing yards in the first quarter, the Aggies gave up just 13 more after that, all in the 2nd quarter.
The Aggies did not allow a pass completion in the 2nd half, so maybe the concern is being addressed.
Developing trend: Run defense shining
One of the biggest concerns coming into the new season was that of run defense. It was bad last season. The worst in the SEC, in fact. The Aggies gave up 209 rushing yards per game a year ago. That seems to have been reversed.
Although the Aggies gave up 100 yards rushing on Saturday for the first time this season, over 3 games in 2023, they are allowing just 98.33. That’s a marked improvement over 2022.
Key stat: Aggies scored on 9 of 11 possessions
Only once did the Aggies have to punt. The only other non-scoring possession was the final play of the game. Otherwise, the Aggies had their way with the Warhawks’ defense, scoring 5 TDs while adding 4 Randy Bond field goals.
First impression about Week 4: Now it gets serious
Okay, the preliminaries are over. Now it gets serious. The Auburn Tigers come to town for an 11 a.m. Saturday game to kick off the SEC schedule. Kyle Field will be hopping as the Tigers visit to raise the curtain on the games that count.
The Tigers aren’t considered contenders in the SEC West, but they’ll be a much better gauge on the program’s progress than was UL-Monroe. And who’s to say that Auburn won’t be a factor? They enter Saturday’s game with a perfect 3-0 record, albeit against lesser opponents (UMass, Cal, Samford). It’ll be interesting to see how the Aggies offense fares against Auburn’s solid defense.