Hop's Defensive Grades

In what was arguably their best performance of the season, the Texas A&M defense held the Buffalo offense to 17 points and allowed for a crucial Aggie victory at home on Kyle Field. Aggie Websider's David Sandhop takes a look at who stood out for the defense, as well as who still has room to improve.

Had A&M's Wrecking Crew defense given up 400 yards of offense in a game 15 years ago, it would be considered an unconditional failure. Well, times have certainly changed. First, offenses have definitely gained the upper hand in college football today, and that is especially true for the Big 12 where a thousand yards of total offense in a game is not out of the question. Second, A&M's defense this decade has been dormant to say the least, and it's been more of the same this season as the defense had given up an average of 492 yards per contest in conference play. In addition, the defense came off its worst performance of the year giving up 574 yards against a mediocre Iowa State offense. Thus, allowing 392 yards to the Buffaloes is an improvement although not an Earthshattering result by any stretch.

However, the goal is to keep the opponent out of the end zone, and by that barometer the defense had a stellar day giving up only 17 points, an 18 point improvement over the previous low point total in Big 12 play (35 points – ISU). They did it with turnovers and big plays, something the A&M defense has had troubles creating in recent years. The Aggies still gave up yardage at a consistent clip, especially in the first half with drives of 71, 43, 43, 40, and 31. However, the 71 yard drive ended in an interception by Jordan Pugh in the end zone and the other four drives combined for 10 points. Then in the third quarter down by a touchdown, the defense came out energized and very aggressive, forcing CU to punt on its first four possessions while the Aggie offense scored three touchdowns in the third quarter to take command.

In the fourth quarter it was the Trent Hunter show. The freshman safety picked off two Buffalo passes with the last one coming after CU closed the margin to 24-17 on a 98-yard scoring drive which was the lone blemish on the defense in the second half. Attribute the aggressiveness of the defense for this performance, both in the defensive line and in the secondary. They gave up almost 400 yards, but along the way they created three turnovers and eight tackles for loss that kept Dan Hawkins and his team out off the scoreboard for a good portion of the second half.

If there was a downside, it had to be the tackling at certain points of the game. Tyler Hansen is an elusive QB and Darrell Scott is one of the most talented young running backs in the Big 12, but some of the missed tackles were costly at the time.

Defensive Line B+

This was easily the best game for the defensive line. The unit accounted for 6.5 tackles for loss and a sack. Michael Bennett was in the backfield all day with 3.5 TOL's and several plays that disrupted the CU offense. Equally impressive was Cyril Obiozor who had probably his best game as an Aggie, collecting two TOL's for 13 yards and several QB hurries. Obiozor physically manhandled his opposition with bull rushes that collapsed the pocket. Even Lucas Patterson and Kellen Heard got in on the action. On one play, Heard was double-teamed, yet he still won the point of attack and pushed both linemen back into the running play that caused a disruption and allowed the A&M defense to swarm and make the play behind the line of scrimmage. They did have some troubles bringing down CU's Tyler Hansen, but overall it was a good effort.

Linebackers C+

It's hard to judge the linebacker unit these days mainly because there are so few true linebackers actually on the field. Coach Kines has moved Alton Dixon into a linebacker spot and utilized a lot of five DB sets, with Matt Featherston in the middle. I thought Featherston actually had one of his better games on Saturday. While he only had four tackles, they were stops near the line of scrimmage. In fact, he had a TOL for three yards and a forced fumble. On one play, he actually raced across the field in pursuit on a pitch to the opposite side of the field and made the play without hesitating or slowing down. It's too early to tell if that was just one play, or if he's getting comfortable and starting to take the brakes off on the field. If Featherston can show more of that from here on out, this defense will be greatly improved.

Defensive Backs A-

This was easily the best game for the secondary in years, and not just because of Trent Hunter's two interceptions. Certainly, the picks were huge but I really liked how aggressive and tight the coverage was with the cornerbacks on several occasions. It wasn't perfect, as Terrence Frederick still gives a little cushion on those short out routes, but I thought Arkeith Brown was great in coverage and challenged almost every pass that cane his way. When CU threw short passes to his side, he was right there to minimize the yards after catch and keeping those dump passes down to 3-4 yards versus 8-9 yards that teams were getting against A&M's coverage in the past. Brown had one bad game early in the season, but I think he's been consistently the best cornerback for the Aggies most of the year both in coverage and run support. While Frederick gave up some short completions, I think he's become very proficient in longer routes. He made a couple of nice plays on long balls, and on one play did a great job of establishing inside position on the receiver and walling him off from the pass. Add Hunter into the equation and you have a unit that is starting to get it. Now, that's not to say they are dominant, but they are starting to make some plays that they weren't making in September.

Defensive Coaching B

Occasionally, there are still some gap integrity issues and players bunched up on the field. Also, A&M has become way too predictable on third down and long with the blitz packages. Plus, the blitzing linebacker or safety comes in off the ball and in most cases is not affecting the play which leaves the secondary in man coverage. However, you could see the defense make strides on Saturday. They are starting to play faster and fly to the ball. Spinning down Dixon to linebacker appears to have paid dividends. The defense is playing very small, but so what when the offenses are all playing out of the spread and throwing the ball. This is still a work-in-progress and there are still issues, but a step forward was made on Saturday.



The kickoff return unit had its best game of the year. Of the four kicks that were returned, the longest was only 16 yards and the Buffs best starting spot after a kickoff was the 26 yard-line. That's what you want to see from the unit. Chevar Bryson had a very good day. The punt team had mixed results. They pinned CU inside the 20 three times, and Justin Brantly hit a monster 63 yarder that was high and turned over with very little return, which was probably his best punt of the year. However, the unit also gave up a critical 31-yard punt return at the end of the half that resulted in a CU field goal. The punt coverage must get better. It's been an issue all year. With that in mind, Brantly needs to focus more on hang time than gross yardage. He's very talented and when called upon to pin a team back near the goal line, he can drive a high ball that allows the coverage to settle under the ball. I wish he would be instructed to do more of that in other areas of the field. With the coverage problems, I'd rather see a high punt go for 40 yards and no return than a line drive 50-yard punt that has a 50-50 chance of being returned longer than 10 yards and possibly a bigger play like what happened on Saturday. Randy Bullock has been money on his field goals, and you can't ask for more from a freshman. His kickoffs are a bit short, and A&M will need to look at finding a kickoff specialist in the coming years.

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