COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Texas A&M resumes SEC play this week when it travels to Fayetteville, Ark., for a matchup with Arkansas. The No. 10 Aggies (3-1, 0-1 SEC) bounced back from their Alabama loss with a 42-13 win over SMU last week. Here are some keys for the Aggies heading into the weekend:
1. Be ready for the running game: Arkansas, under new coach Bret Bielema, will look to run it right at the Aggies' defense. Most of this season, that has been a recipe for success for A&M opponents, as the Aggies rank 105th nationally in rushing yards allowed per game (218.25). The good news for the Aggies is that the totals allowed have come down from week to week. After 306 rushing yards allowed to Rice, it was 240 to Sam Houston State, 234 to Alabama and a season-low 93 to SMU. If the Aggies can keep that trend going, it will be extremely helpful.
2. Communicate: The Aggies' early defensive struggles were in part because of missing personnel in the first two games due to suspensions. This will be the third week with the Aggies' having most of their first-teamers available, and communication continues to be key. Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin and defensive coordinator Mark Snyder have both said that the communication has improved significantly the last two weeks and Snyder specifically cited the secondary and its ability to adjust within drives last week against SMU to reduce errors and missed assignments. The more the Aggies play together, the better the communication will get.
3. Solidify the kicking game: Texas A&M sophomore Taylor Bertolet was removed from placekicking duties after missing two extra-point attempts against SMU and replaced with Josh Lambo. Sumlin and special teams coordinator Jeff Banks call placekicker an "ongoing competition" between the two as a result. Lambo showed some ability in his Aggies debut, but it will be interesting to see who takes the first PAT or field goal attempt on Saturday.
4. Clean up O-line mistakes: The offensive line played well against Alabama but had a few self-inflicted errors, namely penalties, against SMU last week. It'll need to clean that up this week and continue to protect well and open holes in the running game, which it's done well for the most part this season. Arkansas has shown an ability to get to the quarterback early this season, so playing at a high level in that area is important.
5. Max effort from the defensive line: Snyder said he has challenged his starting defensive linemen to play every snap this week. There might not be as much rotation on the defensive line because said Snyder wants to see defensive tackles Kirby Ennis and Alonzo Williams and defensive ends Julien Obioha and Gavin Stansbury out there against Arkansas' offensive line as much as possible.