The Texas A&M football team played well in a 47-28 loss to top-ranked Alabama. Now the challenge is to rebound mentally and physically to play just as well against unranked Ole Miss on the road Saturday.
The game in Oxford, Mississippi, will mark only the fourth time since the Aggies joined the Southeastern Conference that they’ll play a league game following Alabama. A&M lost at Ole Miss 23-3 in 2015 and the last two seasons it eked out victories over Florida 19-17 and Arkansas 24-17, teams that had season records of 4-7 and 2-10, respectively.
Much has been written about the “Alabama hangover” effect, and statistics show teams typically struggle to play their best after facing Alabama because of how much goes into that game. Four times A&M had the luxury of playing nonconference home games following Alabama week, but even one of them was a struggle — a 21-16 victory over Louisiana-Monroe in 2014.
A&M (3-3, 1-2) arguably played its best game of the season on offense and defense against Alabama, which took advantage of 311 yards in returns to beat the Aggies for the seventh straight time. A&M had managed only a field goal through three quarters in losses to top-ranked Clemson and eighth-ranked Auburn, but the Aggies were in the game down 34-20 against Alabama after three quarters.
“[You] definitely can’t question our toughness and will to fight through four quarters,” A&M quarterback Kellen Mond said.
Mond often walked gingerly back to the huddle Saturday as he had a season-high 16 carries for 90 yards and got sacked a season-high five times.
Mond and A&M’s defense, which allowed a season-high 448 yards, will face a vastly different Ole Miss team from previous meetings. The Rebels are averaging 230 yards rushing per game to rank second in the SEC behind Georgia (237.2).
“They run to throw,” A&M coach Jimbo Fisher said. “Alabama throws to run. They’re backwards. But both of them have balance, and they both know how to throw it, and they’ll do it. Hopefully, we’ll match up well, but it is tough the way they do it with so much quarterback run. That’s a totally different run, because that adds another blocker and evens the numbers up [in the box].”
Ole Miss true freshman quarterback John Rhys Plumlee and senior running back Scottie Phillips have combined for five 100-yard games.
“We’re really going to have to remain solid in our assignments, keep that gap integrity,” sophomore linebacker Anthony Hines III said. “We have to be good in our run support.”
NOTES — Ole Miss, which allowed 562 yards in a 38-27 loss at Missouri, will play the first half without linebacker Jacquez Jones and defensive end Tariqious Tisdale, who were flagged for targeting in the second half Saturday. Jones has 35 tackles, third on the team. Tisdale has 14. ... A&M is 3-1 in Oxford since joining the SEC, but the victories have been close — 30-27 in 2012, 41-38 in 2013 and 31-24 two years ago.