The Texas A&M football team is happy to be back home, but it’ll be happier if it starts finding the end zone with more regularity.
The most points the Aggies have scored against a Power 5 Conference team is 26, which was enough to beat South Carolina by a field goal but came up two points short against second-ranked Clemson.
A&M (5-4, 3-3 SEC) has many impressive offensive numbers. The Aggies average 458.1 yards to rank 24th in the country, and they have 53 plays of at least 20 yards, but that hasn’t translated into a lot of points, partially because of red-zone issues. The Aggies rank 94th in the country, having scored on 34 of 42 opportunities (81 percent) inside the opponents’ 20-yard line, but 11 of those are field goals.
A&M is coming off back-to-back Southeastern Conference losses to Mississippi State and Auburn in part because it scored only two touchdowns on seven red-zone trips, settling for three field goals.
“We gotta line up and be more physical,” A&M coach Jimbo Fisher said after the Mississippi State loss when A&M wasn’t able to score a touchdown in three red-zone trips.
Fisher said defensive coordinators in the red zone are putting more players closer to the line of scrimmage than ever, which puts a premium on every yard.
In SEC play, A&M has scored 10 touchdowns in 25 red-zone trips, but also settled for nine field goals.
Even Ole Miss (5-4, 1-4 SEC), which plays the Aggies at 11 a.m. Saturday at Kyle Field, has one of the nation’s worst defenses, yet the Rebels rank 38th in red-zone defense. A&M’s last regular-season opponents, UAB and LSU, also rank fifth and 22nd, respectively in red-zone defense, so A&M will have a chance to show improvement.
“We work on red zone as much as anyone,” Fisher said.
The Aggie offense is expected to roll against an Ole Miss team that has some horrendous defensive statistics, starting with being ranked 124th in the country in yards allowed at 499.1 yards per game. The Rebels rank 111th in scoring defense, allowing 36.1 points per game. They allow 210 yards rushing per game to rank 109th and have allowed 289.1 yards passing per game to rank 123rd. Their team passing efficiency defense is just slightly better, ranking 108th.
That potentially creates favorable matchups for A&M, which averages 188.2 yards rushing per game to rank 49th and is coming off a 203-yard performance against Auburn, its best effort in SEC play.
A&M, a 13-point favorite, will need to solve its red-zone issues or score from long range. Ole Miss opponents have scored on 39 of 49 red-zone trips, and only 25 of those scores were touchdowns.
Fisher said A&M’s offensive struggles at Auburn — when it couldn’t extend a 24-14 lead in a 28-24 loss — were because of little things.
“We just have to execute better,” he said.
That’s especially true in the red zone, where yards are at a premium.