Texas A&M's Defense Looking For Rebound Against Air Raid Mississippi State

Aggies must find a way to contain the SEC's top passing offense

COLLEGE STATION -- If Texas A&M were to ever make a statement in the secondary, Saturday would be the time. It's not every day that the air raid attack comes to the SEC. 

Mississippi State's motto might as well be throw early, throw often and if all else fails? Still throw. 

The No. 15 Aggies (3-1, 0-1) aren't going down without a fight. Pressure is on the defense, which has struggled at times on third down. 

Of course, better tackling could help with that. It was missing in Arlington against then-No. 16 Arkansas more than once. 

"It's just one loss at the beginning of the season," safety Demani Richardson said. "We know we have mistakes to clean up." 

A&M's run defense looked better in the second half, but it didn't stop the Hogs (4-0, 1-0) committing to the run. Arkansas ran it 49 time, with three different players averaging more 4.0 yards per carry, and six notching gains of at least 10 yards on the ground. 

READ MORE: Aggies' Defense Appears Dominant, But is it ready?

Arkansas finished with 197 yards rushing and 443 total yards. A whopping 307 yards were gained in the first half, as the Razorbacks moved the ball with ease. 

Don't expect Mississippi State to grind it out on the ground Saturday at Field. Bulldogs coach Mike Leach will let the ball fly. 

So far, the Bulldogs (2-2, 0-1) have recorded 251 total rushing yards and are averaging 3.3 yards per play through four weeks.  

"They're predominantly four-wide (receivers), but they'll mix in a two-back (set)," A&M coach Jimbo Fisher said. "Mike's a shrewd guy. He knows what he's doing." 

Mississippi State quarterback Will Rogers currently leads the conference in passing yards (1,124) and is third in touchdown passes (11). He's recorded at least 45 pass attempts in every game, with two outings reaching 60 throws. 

Rogers is efficient, completing a career-best 75.1 percent of his throws the season. He ran an offensive similar Leach's air raid in high school, making the adjustment to college in 2020 with ease. 

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"They can do a lot of different things passing," Richardson said. "It's a hurry-up offense and it's a tempoed offense. That's what makes it unique."

A&M's secondary is one of the country's best, but two big mistakes led to touchdowns against Arkansas. One was a blown coverage by cornerback Myles Jones against wide receiver Treylon Burks that went for 85 yards. The other score, a 48-yard touchdown pass to running back AJ Green, was a result of poor tackling.

The two plays were accredited for 133 of the Hogs' 246 passing yards on the afternoon. 

The Aggies' pass defense still ranks fourth nationally (119.5 ypg) and has only allowed only those two touchdowns. 

"We just have to lock in from the start," Richardson said. "We can't allow explosive plays and the big amount of yards early on." 

Richardson said even with the offensive struggles, outings like Saturday aren't acceptable. The A&M defense holds itself to a higher standard after finishing near the top-10 in nearly every statistical category in 2020. 

One game shouldn't derail fans, but how long until A&M's offense finds its rhythm? Will it Saturday? How about Oct. 9 against Alabama? Whenever redshirt freshman QB Haynes King returns from his leg injury? 

READ MORE: Texas A&M's Struggles Show SEC Play Could Be Challenging

The Bulldogs are a missed call away versus Memphis from being 3-1. If not for a fumble and a missed field goal, they maybe beat LSU. 

What does this all mean? Mississippi State's offense will be a test. 

"We'll have dime packages, nickel packages, and regular packages," Fisher said. "We'll have that all ready to go."

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