As I said in my initial game thoughts, this is a tough game to analyze. Yeah, the team won easily and did so early. The offense scored as usual, but the defense opened up the game. Due to some miscommunication, the Aggies uncharacteristically elected to defer and kickoff to start the game. That move did not backfire as the defense forced a punt after one first down with the help of some SMU penalties. The offense quickly reached the end zone for a 7-0 lead. The defensive unit once again held the rope after one first down, and once again the Aggies scored to make it 14-0 and the suspense was over by the midway point of the first quarter. After the onside kick and the Johnny Manziel interception, the unit did give up a 66-yard drive that resulted in a field goal, but the defense held June Jones' pass-happy offense to just 15 yards over the next four drives in the first half. The Mustangs did manage to make a long field goal to end the half with a successful hurry-up series. The unit gave up quite a few yards (245) in the second half, but they also had a defensive touchdown and played a bend-but-don't break approach holding the Mustangs to just 5-of-16 on 3rd down conversions. I thought the defense was more aggressive and put some pressure on Gilbert in the pocket, but they had a hard time closing the deal. SMU threw 67 passes and generated just one sack for two yards. In all, I'm not sure what to take away from this game. Those that want to see improvement can find statistics to support that view. Those that are pessimistic about the A&M defense can find statistics to support their position. Plus, both teams were seemingly going through the motions In the second half when the game was already decided.
Defensive Line D+
Veterans like Julien Obioha and Alonzo Williams made a few nice individual plays on Saturday. Williams batted down three passes, but once again this unit was quiet. With SMU focused on the pass with little threat of the run game, and numerous blitzes from both corners and linebackers, the DL still did not capitalize on the situation with no TFL's or sacks. I'm just wondering where are these heralded freshmen DT's? Isaiah Golden received a few snaps late in the game but in reality the big three freshmen didn't see the field when the game was still in question. We're in week four and nearing the halfway mark in the season. I think we were expecting to see some dividends from the highly-rated freshmen by now. It's not like the veterans are keeping them off the field with good play.
This was a game made for the A&M linebackers. SMU is smaller and their focus is on throwing the ball. Thus, faster coverage guys like Tommy Sanders and Nate Askew used mainly in a 3-3-5 scheme had the ability to make big plays, and both did just that. I thought Askew had his best game as an Aggie with several nice open field tackles, a nice pass break-up in coverage, and applying pressure on the pocket registering A&M's only sack. Now, he also missed Gilbert a few times on the blitz when he had a shot at him, but he was more explosive and energetic than in the previous three weeks. Hopefully, he's turning the corner. I think Tommy Sanders plays with a lot of attitude, swagger, and speed. His limiting factor is his size, and that's why he'll be limited to playing in passing downs against smaller spread teams. But he's a ball of energy and he made a terrific play on that close range interception. I thought Darion Claiborne played a solid game. As I've been saying, he has a nose for the ball and seems to be close by on every play. It would be nice to see him register some disruptive plays and I think that will come in the next few games. I'd keep him out there.
Defensive Backs B-
Now, we must take into account the quality of the opponent, and the SMU receivers had their share of dropped balls so not all was perfect in the defensive secondary. However, I thought Tremaine Jacobs had a nice game in run support. While he gave up the lone SMU touchdown, he also did a pretty good job in coverage. Devante Harris was solid as well. Deshazor Everett was a beat late on a couple of longer passes early in the game that fell incomplete, but for the most part I thought Everett elevated the safety play. Howard Matthews had one of his better games with two pass break-ups and Toney Hurd's hit on a ball carrier resulted in a defensive touchdown. You can always expect better tackling and run support, but I think the secondary performed much better in that area than in the previous three weeks.
Defensive Coaching B-
I liked that Coach Snyder got very aggressive with his defensive calls and started blitzing regularly from the secondary and the linebackers off the edge. While the extra rush resulted in only one sack, the pressure did force Gilbert to make some quick throws, and I think calling blitzes and allowing the players to be aggressive builds confidence and swagger.
OVERALL DEFENSIVE GRADE C+
Hop's Defensive Grades - SMU
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