Utah State Grades: Defense

The Texas Aggie defense held the New Mexico Lobos to two harmless field goals in week one. Well, Coach Kines will have a lot of work to do to put the swagger back into his troops after giving up 30 points and 521 yards of offense to the Utah State Aggies on Saturday.Websider's David Sandhop breaks down the defensive performance and grades each position.Read his analysis of week 2 in the tailgate

After week one when the Texas Aggie defense held the New Mexico Lobos to two harmless field goals, A&M fans were starting to feel pretty good about the direction of a young defense that flashed a little swagger around Kyle Field. Well, Coach Kines will have a lot of work to do to put the swagger back into his troops after giving up 30 points and 521 yards of offense to the Utah State Aggies on Saturday.

The numbers on paper aren't pretty to say the least. In addition to the 521 yards, the other Aggies racked up a mind-boggling 31 first downs and scored on drives of 96, 94, 82, and 78 yards. Known as a running quarterback with an inaccurate arm, Utah State quarterback Diondre Borel threw for 334 yards and a touchdown along with 83 yards rushing. The A&M defense still has problems with a mobile quarterback which is the understatement of the year.

But if you look at the numbers closely, you'll see that after Utah State quickly scored two touchdowns on long drives of 94 and 82 yards, the Texas A&M defense actually stiffened up and shut down the Utah Aggies. In fact, from the five minute mark of the first quarter until the 8 minute mark of the fourth quarter (42 game minutes), Utah State was held to only three points which included seven punts and one turnover on downs. Sandwiched around those 42 minutes of good defense is 18 minutes where the Aggies surrendered four touchdowns and 348 yards.

If you are an optimist, you can see that after struggling to figure out a talented and elusive quarterback, the Aggie defense stifled the Utah State attack over nine drives while the offense built a 21 point lead into the fourth quarter. It wasn't until the team had let up its guard that Utah State scored two late touchdowns to make the final outcome look much closer than it really was. Also, with the swine flu hitting the Texas A&M campus hard last week and several football players weakened by illness, it's understandable that the defense faded in the final minutes.

On the other hand, this was Utah State and regardless of circumstances, giving up 521 yards and 30 points to a non-BCS conference opponent is inexcusable any way you slice it. The linebackers did a poor job of spying and stopping Borel when he left the pocket, and the defensive backs had a very poor night in run support both in containment and in clean, crisp tackling.

No matter where you fall in this analysis, one thing is clear. If this team expects to exceed expectations and win some big games in the Big 12 against more explosive offenses, the defense must be more consistent and have the ability to occasionally slow down better athletes than what they faced last Saturday. Needless to say, the defense took two steps backward after opening the season in promising fashion.

Defensive Line C

The defensive line had the best effort of the three units on Saturday. The line combined for 6.5 tackles for loss and sacks led by Von Miller with three sacks. However, Tony-Jerod Eddie also had a nice effort garnering six tackles (one for loss) and a sack. Matt Moss, Eddie Brown, and Lucas Patterson all registered tackles behind the line of scrimmage. The line didn't completely dominate up-front though, and gave up three short yardage fourth down conversions. Anytime you are on a defense that gave up 521 yards, you didn't have a good day, but compared to the other two units the defensive line had a better day relatively speaking.

Linebacker D-

This unit was hugely disappointing after a promising first game. The linebackers appeared to be a step slow in pursuit of Borel and on a few occasions when they were in position to make a play there were several missed tackles. For example, Ricky Cavanaugh did a good job of recognizing a screen pass that was well-executed by Utah State. Cavanugh split two blockers and got his arms around the ball carrier but could finish what would have been a play for no gain. Instead, the runner slipped out of the tackle and had about 20 yards of clear sailing down the east sideline. Despite Kyle Mangan having 10 tackles, I thought he missed some opportunities. Garrick Williams registered eight tackles and in my opinion had the best game of any linebacker. The freshmen linebackers as a whole struggled. The staff tried to work in Michael LaMothe but it may have been a little too soon as he missed a couple of assignments. Overall, not a good game at all for the linebackers.

Defensive Backs D

I thought Dustin Harris and Terrence Frederick did a pretty good job in man coverage. Harris was put on an island early and often and other than a few hiccups, he did a good job. Where Harris and the defensive backfield struggled was in run support. Harris especially lost outside containment on Borel and the pitch man that led to several long runs. The cornerback must keep outside containment in those situations. I also thought Trent Hunter had a bad night, and that's the first time I've said that in his career. Normally an aggressive, sure tackler in run support, I thought he was tentative at times and at other times he missed the tackle. I also thought Jordan Pugh completely whiffed on a couple of run plays that resulted in big yardage. I thought the freshman Steven Campbell made a couple of nice tackles, but for the most part I was disappointed in the secondary's run support.


Special Teams C-

The return teams had a solid night. Christine Michael didn't break any long returns, but he ran without hesitation and typically put the Aggies in good field position. Dustin Harris showed that he can be a playmaker in the return game, sidestepping a defender and weaving his way 28 yards deep into Utah State territory and setting up a quick touchdown. The coverage teams allowed one kickoff return of 41 yards with a 15 yard face mask penalty tacked on, while the other five returns were minimal. The field goal team gave up a partially blocked field goal that would have iced the game late in the fourth quarter. That's enough to drop what would have been a solid B grade down to a C-.

Aggie Digest Top Stories