2022: Texas A&M Football 31, Sam Houston State 0
Last year’s opener, though again a blowout on its face, showcased a lot of the issues that were to come for the Aggies that year. As I’m sure many of you remember, the Aggies struggled to put together a consistent passing attack, but hit on several big plays that had a number of the Maroon and White faithful excited about what was promised to be a more wide-open offense last year. Haynes King threw for 364 yards (11.7 YPA) on 64% completion with 3 TDs but 2 INTs. The Aggie rushing attack struggled behind what would prove to be a moribund offensive line, managing only 110 yards on 32 carries against an FCS defense.
I mentioned when I wrote my takeaways from that game that this could have been something of a false alarm at the time; after all, Sam Houston had been an FCS title contender in the past. If a team beat North Dakota State 31-0, for example, I think most shrewd college football fans would rightly recognize it as a dominant performance. SHSU didn’t turn out to be that quality of team in 2022, however, and the problems showcased against them by the Aggies hung around—and, indeed, worsened—throughout the year.
The defense didn’t play too bad against the Bearkats, all things considered. They were absolutely locking the Sam Houston QB down, allowing only 91 yards (3.3 YPA) on 50% completion. However, SHSU was able to get way too much of a push up front in the run game, and actually ended up outgaining the Aggies on a per-carry basis (4.0 to 3.4). This was again a game where Aggie fans walked away unsure that Texas A&M football merited their 6th overall ranking in the AP—and would be proven right in that intuition only one week later.
2023: Texas A&M Football 52, New Mexico 10
In contrast to 2021, the Aggies didn’t pile up a lot of yards—only 411 total for the game—but they were extremely efficient when it came to converting scoring opportunities. They scored a touchdown on each of their first five drives, and six of their first eight before Conner Weigman went to the bench at the end of the third quarter. The Aggies faced fewer than one third down per drive, staying way ahead of the chains most of the night. Weigman, as I’ve written, was extremely efficient, almost hitting 80% completion against a Lobo defense that threw everything and the kitchen sink at him in terms of blitzes. Blitz or not, he totaled 236 yards (10.3 YPA) with 5 TDs to 0 INTs, maintaining his unblemished career record.
The Aggies ran for 134 yards on 29 carries in what is a slightly underwhelming overall statline, but New Mexico was absolutely selling out to stop the run, throwing as many bodies as they could at the line of scrimmage. Still, though, it’s something to watch moving forward. It should be said that this is the most points New Mexico has given up since September of 2019, and the most they have given up by far under their current coach. Yes, they’re a low-tier program in the pantheon of FBS, but they play tough teams every year—they played LSU in 2022, A&M in 2021, and Notre Dame in 2019.
Apart from a few drives early on, the UNM offense was largely shut down for the whole game. The Lobos totaled 131 passing yards (4.7 YPA) on 57% completion, throwing 0 TDs and 1 INT. Their rushing attack was held to 91 yards (2.8 YPC) on 32 carries—the first time the Aggies have held an opponent under 100 yards on the ground since 2021. Penalty yardage helped the Lobos on both of their scoring drives, but even so, the Aggie defense stood strong for most of the game (with a breakout performance from newcomer Josh DeBerry).
All things considered, this is by far the best opener that the Aggies have had under Jimbo Fisher, definitely offensively. They’ve had more dominating defensive performances, but the level of firepower showcased balanced with the overall suffocating defense is a reason to be really excited as we continue on into this season.