The South Carolina football team will look to snap its three-game slide with a road win over Texas A&M on Saturday.
The Daily Gamecock spoke with Luke White and Hunter Mitchell, sports editors from The Battalion, to learn about Texas A&M before the two teams kick off at noon. Last season, the Gamecocks defeated the Aggies 30-24 in Columbia.
The Daily Gamecock: What is the atmosphere around the A&M program right now?
Mitchell: “It's very hard for them to not be excited about football in Texas, football's culture — especially here at A&M. I mean, even after losing to Alabama and Tennessee, there's still people camping outside of Kyle Field to get tickets for the South Carolina game.”
“But there's definitely a lot of frustration. I mean, it is getting deep into (Texas A&M head coach) Jimbo's (Fisher) tenure now, and we've only really had the results that we've kind of expected from it, so far, for about one season. So I think tempers are beginning to boil online and kind of in the student body as well, and I feel like even (among) some of the alumni.”
What has been the main cause of the Aggies’ two-game losing streak?
White: “I think the biggest problem, and it certainly became apparent versus Tennessee, is just the offensive line struggles.”
“You'll hear from every coach and player that the game of football is won and lost in the trenches and particularly on the offensive line. Against Tennessee, A&M really couldn't get anything going offensively because of that offensive line. Granted, Tennessee does have a good experienced defensive line, but there were just a lot of self-inflicted wounds and miscues that really held the Aggies back.”
What does A&M need to do this season that they failed to do last season against USC?
Mitchell: “I think A&M's offense looks a lot different than what it was last year.”
“I think A&M needs to move the ball, to find ways to get it to the guys, get it to the playmakers. Again, A&M brought (offensive coordinator) Bobby Petrino in, and he follows the 'feed the studs' philosophy.”
Who do you expect to make an impact in the game?
White: “I think this is one that can definitely come down to the defense, and that’s certainly been A&M’s calling card this season.”
“I really think you'll want to keep your eye on linebacker Edgerrin Cooper, and that linebacker core as a whole has been really good with Chris Russell Jr. and true freshman Taurean York. But then on the entire defensive line, with guys like Walter Nolen, Shemar Turner (and) Shemar Stewart ... the whole front defense, that pass rush and everything has been loaded, and that's really what's kept A&M in games this season.”
Anything else you’d like to add about A&M football?
White: “This is really the part of the season where — it's kind of big for A&M. They're at three losses, and me personally, my prediction going into the year was 8-4, 9-3 if it was a really good year. 8-4 was more so what I was leaning toward. I didn't foresee the loss to Miami, but … it was hard to imagine A&M beating Alabama and Tennessee, so really they’re only one loss off of what I expected.”
“I think A&M could certainly win out of its home schedule with South Carolina, Mississippi State and Abilene Christian, but really, it's going to come down to how well are they going to play on the road in two really tough games with Ole Miss and LSU.”
Who wins, and what is your score prediction?
White: “It feels like a must-win for both teams to put in some semblance of a successful season — but especially for A&M, given the talent on this squad and everything. But to answer your question, I do think it's going to be A&M. I'm thinking maybe 35-17.”
Mitchell: “I'm almost the exact same. I have A&M winning, but I actually have 34-17. ... I think we're pretty close on that, and the only thing is A&M has struggled in the red zone. So I think they'll settle for a few more field goals this week, so that's why I have 34.”