COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) — Texas A&M’s defense allowed six long touchdown drives to top-ranked Alabama and defensive coordinator Mark Snyder says the lessons his young players learned will last a long time.
“There was a lot of great teaching,” Snyder said after the Aggies reviewed film of Saturday’s 49-42 loss. “The thing is, our kids care. There were a lot of hurt kids in the locker room. They played their tails off.”
Still, the Aggies rank 115th out of 123 Bowl Subdivision programs in rushing defense, allowing 260 yards per game. They rate 112th in total defense (allowing 489 ypg) and 107th in scoring defense (36 points per game). The numbers suggest a Southeastern Conference title will be tough going for the 10th-ranked Aggies, at least at this point.
“There are things that need to get fixed,” Snyder said Tuesday. “The good news is they’re all fixable.”
A&M (2-1, 0-1 SEC) has been especially soft in its pass rush, collecting only three sacks and three quarterback hurries over its first three games. The Aggies host SMU on Saturday night in a nonconference game.
“We’ve gone against a senior quarterback from Rice, then an option team (in Sam Houston State) and then against the No. 1 team in the country with a couple of really good tackles, so it’s come down to how the schedule has laid out for us,” Snyder said. “But do I need to see improvement as we go forward? Yes.”
A year ago Snyder inherited precious little talent from Mike Sherman’s coaching staff, and the Aggies have a dozen underclassmen in their latest depth chart. While starting safety Floyd Raven (collarbone) missed the Alabama game, for the first time this season Snyder had his defense mostly intact following suspensions to key players over the first two games.
“We’ve settled down into repping and practicing the guys who are going to play,” coach Kevin Sumlin said. “What you miss (because of the suspensions) is communication - being able to line up and make adjustments. It takes some experience and wherewithal to do that in a game.”
Senior safety Toney Hurd Jr. vowed the Aggies will improve from here, with their parts back in place. Linebacker Steven Jenkins, cornerback De’Vante Harris and defensive end Gavin Stansbury, who all started against Alabama, missed the first two games because of undisclosed violations of athletic department rules and regulations.
“For that being our first time out as a unit, I feel like we communicated well,” Hurd said of the Alabama results. “For the most part, 10 guys were doing their job, and it was just one guy making a mistake. All 11 guys have to be on the same page, especially when you’re playing a veteran team like Alabama.”
Now, the Aggies will face coach June Jones’ spread offense against SMU, quite a change of pace from the Crimson Tide’s straightforward, balanced attack.
“We’re back in our comfort zone, playing another spread team,” Snyder said. “But we’ve got to get it cleaned up, for sure, because we’re going to see (an offense like Alabama’s) again.”