Texas A&M looks to rev up offense in trip to No. 1 Alabama
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By KRISTIE RIEKEN
COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) Texas A&M's offense has sputtered all season, remaining stagnant despite a quarterback change.
As the Aggies prepare to visit top-ranked Alabama on Saturday, coach Jimbo Fisher is adamant that they can turn things around if every player simply makes a commitment to doing things right on every play.
"Football's the ultimate team game," he said. "It's all 11 at all times to play and do well."
Texas A&M was expected to compete for the SEC title entering the season, but a loss to Appalachian State in Week 2 and a mistake-filled blowout loss at Mississippi State last week has dropped the team out of The AP Top 25 poll and has it searching for answers on how to get on track.
Fisher constantly preaches about the importance of creating good practice habits that will translate into games. He said the lack of execution hasn't come from a poor effort and he believes the team's hard work will pay off soon.
"We haven't been perfect yet," Fisher said. "It hasn't all clicked yet. We have to keep working at it and we have to give them the confidence and we have to give them the knowledge and educate them and coach them well to make sure they're in the right space and doing the right thing consistently in practice to allow it to go into the game."
The Aggies rank last in the SEC and 105th in the nation in total offense with just 335 yards a game. They are also scoring the fewest points in the conference at just 21.8, a total that is 108th in the country.
Things could get even tougher this week when they face an Alabama team that ranks fourth in nation by allowing just 236.4 yards a game.
Texas A&M started the season with Haynes King at quarterback, but he was benched after the loss to the Mountaineers and replaced with LSU transfer Max Johnson. But so far, the switch hasn't done anything to get the offense going.
Johnson lost a fumble - one of four turnovers against the Bulldogs - before injuring his hand late in the fourth quarter last week and his status for Saturday's game is in question. King had a tough time filling in for him after the injury. He had a touchdown run soon after he came in, but threw two interceptions after that, including one that was returned for a touchdown.
Despite his performance, Fisher raved about King's attitude and how well he's dealt with the benching.
"He has been a tremendous, tremendous human being, handling the situation as well as any human can ever be expected to," Fisher said. "And he actually was a benefit and a help to Max on the information and things that are going on."
While much of the criticism for Texas A&M's offensive woes has been directed at the quarterback, a bigger problem might be the subpar play of the offensive line. It's an inexperienced group that includes three sophomores and a freshman.
The unit has improved since the beginning of the season, but still has plenty of work to do if the Aggies expect to compete with the Crimson Tide this weekend.
"They did progress," Fisher said. "And I think we're running the ball very well. We're getting better on pass pro. I think those guys did a good job on the edges."
While A&M has been inconsistent in its passing game, the running game has steadily improved this season. Running back Devon Achane has been the star of the team and ranks third in the SEC by averaging 93.2 yards rushing a game.
But he lost a fumble last week, too, as the Aggies made mistake after mistake in the 42-24 loss.
Tight end Max Wright believes the Aggies are close to putting everything together and that the offense can be much better if the players pay attention to detail and limit their mistakes.
"We just need to trust ourselves a little bit more and just go back to your training," Wright said. "Coach always talks about whenever you get into tough situations and in situations where stress comes, you fall back on your training. I think that comes from us preparing better in the week in terms of our mental preparation."
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Updated October 4, 2022