Things that need to be cleaned up in College Station from 2015
Many things contributed to five losses last season. Aside from a general lack of leadership, the Aggies had specific areas in which they were deficient. Cleaning up those areas could help reverse some of those outcomes.
Here’s a look at five areas in which Texas A&M must improve on if it hopes to put up more Ws and contend in the highly competitive SEC West.
1. Rush defense: The Aggies were second-to-last in the SEC last season in rush defense. The Aggies gave up 2,778 yards on the ground over 13 games. They allowed opponents to rush for 5.01 yards per carry on average over the season, and that’s way too many. In the first half of games last season, Texas A&M yielded a whopping 1,501 yards or 5.8 yards per carry by the opposition. The first quarter was the worst. The Aggies defense gave up 829 yards and 6.5 yards per carry on average to opponents in the opening period of games last season, and an average of 5.98 yards per carry on first down over the course of the season. Tightening up in those situations would go a long way in turning things around for the Aggies in 2016.
2. Red zone offense: The Aggies scored an average of 77.8 percent of the time they reached the red zone. But that translated to only 55.6 percent of the time scoring touchdowns, the lowest percentage for the program in many years. Field goals are fine, but they won’t win many games in the SEC. Putting the ball in the end zone will, and the Aggies must do more of it in 2016, especially on the ground. Texas A&M averaged just 2.4 yards per carry inside the red zone last season, although the Aggies did manage 12 rushing scores. They completed just 51.9 percent of their passing attempts in the red zone and totaled 17 touchdowns. Better production when having the opportunities to score is a must for a better season in 2016.
3. Third-quarter passing game: For whatever reason, the Aggies were terrible at throwing the football in the third quarter last season. Call it defensive adjustments by the opposition or simply a slow start to the second half, but the bottom line in 2015 was that the passing game just didn’t work in the third quarter. The Aggies completed just 45 percent of their passes in that period for the season and threw more interceptions (six) than touchdowns (five). The Aggies gained just 455 yards through the air in the third quarter all season. It’s a mystery considering they completed 62.2 percent of their passes in the first quarter and 61.1 in the second. The percentage picked up again in the fourth quarter (55.4), but the Aggies will have to be far more efficient through the air at the start of the second half in order to enjoy a successful 2016 season.
4. Road penalties: Another mystery to the 2015 season was the discrepancy in penalties between home games and those either on the road or at neutral sites. The Aggies generally behaved themselves in Kyle Field. They were flagged for only 28 infractions totaling 272 yards. That’s an average of four penalties and 38.9 yards per game. However, away from Kyle Field, the Aggies were flagged 55 times, or an average of nine times per game, for a total of 441 yards. That’s an average of 73.5 penalty yards per game. Being more careful on the road could lead to more positive results in 2016.
5. Non-conference turnovers: Whether it’s a lack of concentration against what are perceived as lesser opponents or simply bad luck, the Aggies turned the ball over far too frequently against non-conference opponents. The Aggies were even in turnovers (13-13) vs. SEC opponents. Surprisingly, against non-conference teams — including Louisville in the Music City Bowl — Texas A&M was a minus-6 in the turnover ratio. The Aggies came up with only five turnovers against the five opponents outside the SEC while giving up 11. Granted they came away with victories in four of those five games, only losing to Louisville in the bowl game, but it doesn’t do much for confidence when you’re giving the ball away with such frequency. Getting a better handle on things can only help the cause carrying it over to SEC play.