HOUSTON (AP) — Texas A&M’s defense knows they need to tighten things up.
While the offense ranks third in the nation in total yards, the defense has struggled and is allowing more yards than all but 10 teams in the nation (489 yards per game).
The unit was back to full strength for the first time this season last week against Alabama after missing players to suspensions in the first two weeks, but it still had problems in a loss to the top-ranked Crimson Tide.
Now the 10th-ranked Aggies look for improvement in the unit as they prepare for SMU on Saturday.
“The things that we saw are correctable,” Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin said. “Our players understand that. We’ll get some continuity and not as much newness for the rest of the year on defense.”
Teams aren’t simply piling up yards against the Aggies; they’re also piling up points. The Aggies rank 107th nationally in scoring defense by allowing 36 points a game. This week they’re facing another up-tempo offense in the June Jones-led Mustangs.
“It’ll be another challenge for our defense because it’s different than what we saw last week,” Sumlin said. “We’re going to have to defend the whole field-vertically and sideline-to-sideline-because they are going to stretch us out to make us play in space.”
The Mustangs’ potent passing attack is averaging more than 352 yards a game and Texas A&M’s secondary has struggled through the first three weeks. Texas A&M defensive coordinator Mark Snyder expects his group to get better as it matures.
“They played extremely hard,” he said about last week, “it just wasn’t always smart.”
Five things to know about SMU-Texas A&M:
JOHNNY FOOTBALL: Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Johnny Manziel has thrown for more than 400 yards in consecutive games, the first A&M player to do that. His 379 yards of total offense a game ranks fifth in the country. This week the dual-threat quarterback will face a defense that is allowing more than 419 yards a game.
GILBERT’S GAME: SMU quarterback Garrett Gilbert, the former Texas quarterback in his second season at SMU, is averaging 393.5 yards of total offense a game, which ranks third in the nation. His 38 completions a game lead the nation and his 352.5 yards passing a game rank fourth. Gilbert completed almost 73 percent of his passes last week and led the Mustangs on a game-winning touchdown drive for a 31-30 win over Montana State.
EVEN EVANS: Texas A&M receiver Mike Evans leads the country with 518 yards receiving. The 6-foot-5, 225-pound Evans set an A&M record with 279 yards against Alabama. The previous record of 250 yards receiving was set in 1965. Evans has at least six catches and 80 yards receiving in six straight games.
OLD FOES: These former Southwest Conference foes first played in 1916 and played annually from 1919-1995, except in 1987 and 1988. The Aggies got a 48-3 win last season and have won the last four meetings. SMU’s last win in the series came 1984, but the teams played to a 21-21 tie in 1994.
DOUBLE TROUBLE: The Mustangs have a pair of receivers who rank in the top-20 in yards receiving a game in Jeremy Johnson and Darius Joseph. Johnson is eighth in the country with 121.5 yards receiving a game. Joseph 108 yards a game are tied for 17th. Joseph grabbed a touchdown pass with 12 seconds left as SMU rallied for the win over Montana State. It was one of three catches he had on the winning drive.