Hop's Defensive Grades- ISU

The defensive performance wasn't dominating and it wasn't sexy. However, you can't argue with the results. If this defense can hold the rest of the opponents on A&M's schedule to 324 yards and 10 points, the Aggies will be the toast of the Big 12 and going to the Holiday Bowl. Websider's David Sandhop grades the Aggie defense against the Cyclones.

The defensive performance wasn't dominating and it wasn't sexy. However, you can't argue with the results. If this defense can hold the rest of the opponents on A&M's schedule to 324 yards and 10 points, the Aggies will be the toast of the Big 12 and going to the Holiday Bowl.

Yes, the defense allowed 169 yards rushing, and seemed to have a bend but don't break approach which rarely gets fans and pundits excited. However, think about where this defense has been over the last 3-4 years, and you'll be a little more appreciative of the results. The storyline wasn't the five drives over 40 yards given up by Joe Kines and his unit. It wasn't the 10, 12, and 11 play drives that ISU sustained as they drove several times into Aggie territory. The story was the big plays this unit finally made in big situations. It was Kyle Mangan filling the hole and turning away the Big 12's leading rusher on fourth and one at the A&M 23 yard-line. It was Jordan Pugh breaking on a pass and making a critical interception at the Texas A&M 34 yard-line. It was Justin McQueen stepping in front of a Cyclone receiver and picking off a pass near the A&M goal line that thwarted yet another scoring threat.

The A&M defense wasn't making these plays earlier in the season, especially during the three game losing streak. Dustin Harris dropped an interception in his hands in the end zone that was caught by OSU for what eventually was the difference in that ball game. Fumbles weren't being recovered, and big negative plays were lost due to missed tackles.

Whether it was a lack of experience, bad luck, or simply being too anxious and too tight when a big play presented itself, the Aggie defense played solid defense for the most part in September and the first three weeks in October but couldn't come up with that big game changing play. However, starting with the Texas Tech game, the defense did start to make those big, game changing plays. Terrence Frederick intercepted a pass in the end zone at the end of the first half. Garrick Williams picked off a pass, and Von Miller caused a fumble that was recovered by Tony Jerod-Eddie. Then there was the two interceptions against Iowa State.

A lot of people look at the resurgent offensive line as the difference in this turnaround, and I don't disagree with that as the line has been critical to the offense's success the past two weeks. However, few Aggies are talking about a defense that has now figured out how to be opportunistic and make big plays that prevent scores and sets-up the offense with short fields.

Defensive Line C+

The defensive front did get pushed around some by a bigger, more experienced ISU offensive line. Tony Jerod-Eddie still isn't 100% and when he's not active up-front, this unit tends to struggle. This group will need to step up this weekend as the Buffaloes do have a physical running game that could cause A&M some problems. Lucas Patterson and Eddie Brown are doing a decent job, but this unit needs a difference maker in the trenches, and Jerod-Eddie is the only one capable of filling that role now if he's healthy.

Linebacker B

The linebackers made some big run plays, most notably Kyle Mangan's fourth down stop of Alexander Robinson that changed the momentum. Michael Hodges also had a couple of nice tackles at the line of scrimmage. Garrick Williams continues to make some nice open field tackles. To stop the run, Kines did something that he's been hesitant to do in his tenure here, and that's employ the run blitz up the middle. R.C. Slocum lived and died off the run blitz during the Wrecking Crew days, and it worked nicely on Saturday the handful of times Kines made the call. Against another running team like CU, I think the run blitz should be used a lot more on Saturday. With CU's passing game struggling right now, it's worth the risk.

Defensive Back B+

The secondary had its ups and downs on the day giving up several big gains in the passing game including a 45 yarder against an offense that's not known for throwing the ball. But you also have to give the secondary credit for the two interceptions. Those weren't tipped balls or poor passes. A&M defenders read the quarterback and broke on the ball, which is something that nearly brought a tear to my eye. It's been years since an A&M fans has seen an Aggie defensive back break on a pass and make a big interception.

Special Teams D+

Well, A&M didn't punt all day. A&M didn't attempt a field goal during the game. A&M didn't return a punt. About the only activity came on kickoff returns, and the result was a Lionel Smith fumble to start the second half. I know Smith has gotten a lot of praise over the season for his kick returns, but I don't like the fact that he catches the ball with his weight on his back foot going backward as opposed to catching the ball with forward momentum. It sounds trivial, but on a play where tenths of a second mean the difference being tripped up at the 15 yard-line or going 90 yards for the score, it's significant and something that should be corrected (or have somebody else do the returning which is what happened after the fumble).


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