Hop's Report Card - Defense

The numbers don't look so bad, but the Aggie defense was unable to stop the Hurricanes for most of the game. Aggie Websider's David Sandhop analyzes the Aggies defensive performance by position.

At first glance, the overall numbers don't look that bad. The defense gave up 402 yards in the game. The defense limited the Miami ground game to 127 yards. I think just about any A&M observer would have taken that rushing total before the game. However, A&M allowed the worst passing offense in America to complete over 80 percent of their passes for 275 yards and two touchdowns. Remember, this is the same Miami team that struggled to score 23 points against Florida International the previous week.

And it wasn't necessarily about the total yards. The defense set the tone for the game by giving up an 18-play, 80-yard touchdown drive that took what little energy and excitement there was on the A&M sideline and tossed it in the Atlantic Ocean. While the score still indicated A&M was in the game, for all intent and purposes the game was lost on that first drive. The Aggies were never mentally in the game after that point. They were constantly on the defensive, despite being handed a huge gift by the Hurricanes with a fumble on the second drive that took the defense off the field and gave the offense excellent field position. Miami also coughed up a fumble early in the third quarter, but by that time the game was not in doubt.

Every time the Aggie defense was called upon to make a big play, that didn't do it. They gave up four third down-and-long conversions and a fourth down try in that first drive alone, and when they were pressed late in the half to keep the deficit at 14 points, they couldn't stop an average Miami offense from striking paydirt on the first play from scrimmage to give them an insurmountable 21-0 lead.

Overall, it was just a bad night all around.

Defensive Line
Surprisingly, given the score and the circumstances behind Thursday's game, the Miami ground game managed just 127 yards and 3.2 yards/carry. The defense as a whole up-front was fairly solid. The problem was the third down conversions through the air. The DL needed to put more pressure on Kyle Wright, and that was probably their biggest downfall of the night. They were limiting what was supposed to be Miami's biggest threat which is the run, but they didn't help out the secondary once Wright started finding a rhythm.
Grade: C-

Msi Tupe and Mark Dodge led the team in tackles. Tupe registered 10 stops (seven unassisted) and one sack while Dodge had nine tackles (four unassisted). Although not playmakers, these two are solid in run support. However, in pass protection they just don't have the size and speed to stop these short passes in the middle of the field. Too many third down conversions on short passes in that first back breaking scoring drive to open the game.
Grade: C-

Defensive Backs
Queue the broken record on the playing a soft cushion on receivers. We were told by the coaching staff that this would be addressed directly after the Fresno State game, but little has changed. And should we expect drastic changes in game week? Most of the teaching and repetition occurs in spring practice and August drills. You figure if these players weren't taught to play closer to the receiver or even play bump-and-run in the 40+ practices between March-September, why would fans expect to see a big change in four game week practices when the team is focused on the next opponent.

The opening drive was a killer. Miami not only marched 80 yards down the field for a touchdown, but they did it converting on four 3rd-and-long (13, 5, 6, 8) situations all through the air. That took all of the wind right out of the team's sails.

Then, two drives later, a Miami receiver gets 10 yards BEHIND the coverage and makes a 51-yard reception that led to the second score. Let's see, you consistently play soft and allow the underneath passes to beat you, then the opponent goes over the top and beats vertical coverage. Something just doesn't add up here.
Grade: D


Special Teams
Another fumbled punt return, and a fumbled kickoff return near the end of the half gave Miami another field goal before intermission to punctuate a dreadful 30 minutes. Granted, it probably didn't matter in the big picture, but you can't keep worrying about who will catch punts and kickoffs. Also, if you know teams will kick short and away from Kerry Franks and Pierre Brown, can we tell the linemen to fair catch the ball? Better yet, it might be time to put in some tight ends and other sure-handed players in the return game since the odds are pretty good the up-men will see more kicks from here on out.

Punting really wasn't a factor, and I'm not going to deduct grade points from any kicker who misses a 50-yard field goal.
Grade: D

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