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Aggies' Defense Dominates Again In 44-14 Win Over Gamecocks

A&M defense comes up big again in win over cross-division rival South Carolina
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The Texas A&M Aggies were after another conference win on Saturday night at Kyle Field as they took on the South Carolina Gamecocks for the Bonham Trophy.

The Aggies defense has been the most stable side of the ball in 2021, and single-handedly kept A&M in games early in the season in wins over Colorado and New Mexico.

But on Saturday came cross-division rival South Carolina and its struggling football team. These are teams headed in opposite directions, as A&M celebrated a win over then-No. 1 Alabama on Oct. 9. The visiting Gamecocks celebrated a last-minute, game-saving drive last week over Vanderbilt, the worst team in the SEC.

On Saturday the Aggies defense once again came to play, and play it did.

The Gamecocks had only 11 total yards in the first half. South Carolina managed just 22 yards passing and -11 yards rushing in the opening two quarters.

South Carolina quarterback Zeb Noland was hit repeatedly and hit hard. Early in the game, it appeared he was knocked unconscious momentarily as he fell to the ground after being crushed in between two Aggies defenders.

He did return to the game on the next South Carolina drive.

Of course, when the Aggies offense is scoring at will, and special teams adds a 95-yard punt return for a touchdown, the pressure is minimal and defenders can play loose and take chances.

The chances were minimal, and the results were frequently positive, even wiping away an offensive mistake in the form of a Zach Calzada interception. At the 8:46 mark of the first quarter, Calzada threw a pass that was juggled by the receiver and two defenders, with South Carolina's Jalen Foster coming away with the pick. 

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But the Aggies' defense held strong, holding the Gamecocks to a three-and-out.

 The second half brought much more of the same, with the Aggies dominating the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. The defense tossed Gamecocks around like a rag doll and continued its pressure on Noland.

There are times when statistics don't tell the whole story. Saturday was not one of those times. 

Noland was under pressure all night, sacked three times, and hit several more, dirtying his white Gamecocks jersey early and often.

It was after the start of the fourth quarter before South Carolina eclipsed 30 yards of total offense, and it was 1 for 11 on third-down conversions for the game. 

The Gamecocks finally reached the end zone with 12:07 left in the game on a drive assisted by a pair of A&M defensive penalties. South Carolina scored again with 12 seconds left.

Late in the game, the Aggies went deep into the roster on both sides of the ball, and the Gamecocks were able to move the ball a little easier, but the second- and third-string A&M defenders still brought pressure, causing a fourth quarter interception by senior defender Tyree Johnson.

The Gamecocks finished the game with 185 total yards, as well as bruised bodies and egos.

After a bye week, the Aggies will host the Auburn Tigers on Nov. 6 at Kyle Field as they continue their SEC schedule.