Diagnosing the problem for Texas A&M football
As I have said, the problem in the Miami game—outside of a certain stretch in the second quarter—was really not the offense. They moved the ball well, answering the bell in the second half. The unfortunate breaks were a special teams mishap that surrendered a touchdown, and two turnovers in their own territory—one of which was the result of a receiver slipping after Weigman had already thrown the ball. They only punted once after halftime.
No, the problem was the defense, and the defensive scheme. DC DJ Durkin has endured a lot of undeserved hate from the Aggie fanbase for running too many three man fronts (an overblown narrative if there ever was one), but his game plan for Saturday was just completely confounding. One can only assume that the defensive coaching staff had a higher assessment of the Aggies’ ability on the back end when it comes to one-on-one coverage than actually played out in real time; but perhaps the most perplexing thing was the lack of adjustments after the half, when it became very clear that simply trying to collapse the pocket and man up against everyone else with one safety on the back end was not working against Miami. The Hurricanes victimized the Aggies over and over due to this strategy, hitting deep shot after deep shot behind max protections up front. This all culminated in the defense finally folding when the Aggies needed them most, giving up a long touchdown pass in the waning minutes of the game when down only one score.
That was not fun to watch. It was confusing and frustrating to witness. But it can be fixed—and fixed rather easily.
Since returning to the defensive coordinator ranks, Durkin has run a multiple scheme, showcasing as much versatility when it comes to different looks and personnel on the field as any DC in the country. What we saw on Saturday was an aggressive strategy that was almost doggedly insistent on remaining in a basic Cover 1 for the whole game. It is completely out of character for how he has approached defensive strategy in his time at A&M. As fans, we hope that this was a wakeup call for the defensive staff about what works and what doesn’t, and that they switch back even to what they were doing in 2022 on that side of the ball. Because, as it stands, if you pair this year’s offense with last year’s defense—deficient as they were in defending the run—we win a whole lot more games.
The offense is fine. As the distance between now and last Saturday grows, the more I grow impressed with Weigman’s performance under duress against who I think will prove to be one of the top DCs in the country—certainly one of the toughest DCs the Aggies will face this year. Barring injury, the offensive attack for Texas A&M football will only get better.
The question is whether the defense can match them. Just by pure talent, they should. By what we’ve seen—with this one exception—from the defensive coaching staff, they should. But will they?
I guess we’ll find out. But I’m choosing to be optimistic.