On Monday, Sept. 27, fresh off No. 15 A&M’s first loss in 358 days, Aggie players and coach Jimbo Fisher sat down with the media heading into hosting Mississippi State.
The Aggies 20-10 loss to the Razorbacks exposed many of the imperfections the maroon and white have been facing in 2021. Offensive inconsistencies, hesitant starts and a lack of solid quarterback play were among the topics harped on Monday. Primarily, A&M’s personnel agreed upon using last week’s loss as motivation and a tool for learning.
“After evaluating the film, we have plenty of things to fix and get better at,” Fisher said. “We played in spurts and did not play well consistently. It’s about doing ordinary things better and becoming fundamentally sound. The offense moved the ball and did not have a three-and-out in the first half. We just did not execute.”
Despite the upset loss, A&M has a clear focus. After losing to Alabama in 2020, the Aggies generated an 11-game win streak and knocked off two top-15 programs — something they hope to recreate now.
“It’s just one loss at the beginning of the season,” junior defensive back Demani Richardson said. “We know we have mistakes we have to clean up, so we just know we have to make it an urgency.”
Fixing a team that through a rough patch goes further than mentality, though. A&M’s offense has only produced 40 points through four first halves, and the hesitance to come out firing cost the Aggies last week. Fisher said that while some of the blame falls upon inexperience or injuries, there are certainly errors that can be corrected.
“Guys have to get experience in the saddle,” Fisher said. “They did a good job of battling back. We can’t get behind 17-0 right off the bat. That game could’ve gotten out of hand if we didn’t get a fourth-down stop. We have to execute better and practice better. We have to push that level with these young guys.”
Much of the offensive woes have fallen on the shoulders of redshirt sophomore quarterback Zach Calzada. After three games, Calzada has the lowest completion percentage in the SEC and has been sack the most times — even in one less game. Junior wide receiver Ainias Smith said the A&M receiving corps needs to have better practices to build Calzada’s confidence.
“I feel like our main job right now is to make sure Zach is back there comfortable,” Smith said. “He should be able to know that he can get the ball to us and we’re going to be able to do something with it. When it comes to getting open, I feel like we’ve got to work harder in practice.”
With the focus turned from Arkansas onto Mississippi State, A&M will be able to find some security in its one-dimensional offense. While Arkansas was able to pick the Aggies apart on the ground and in the air, it is nearly certain Mike Leach’s offense will air out the ball 90 percent of the time.
Richardson said the defensive game plan will be the same as 2020′s in which the Aggies held the Bulldogs to 14 points. The difference now lies in A&M’s offense which has no lack of room to grow, creating plenty of space for a close game on Saturday.
“Mississippi State is playing very good defense right now,” Fisher said. “Offensively, you know Mike is going to throw it. Will Rogers is completing 75 percent of his passes right now. They’ve had some tough luck in their games so far. They’re getting better and better. It’s going to be a tough game.”
A&M and Mississippi State will face off on Saturday, Oct. 2 at Kyle Field where both teams will look to pull the series record (currently 6-6) in its favor. While 2021 has seemed a significant step down from last season’s play, Fisher is intent on raising the intensity in Aggieland.
“I’m not frustrated. We can play better,” Fisher said. “Frustration clouds your thinking. We know what we can do, and we just need to do them better.”