As the No. 9 Texas A&M Aggies take a break from the rigors of the Southeastern Conference to host New Mexico State on Saturday, they are far more worried about improving than they are about their opponent.
And that’s not simply because they’re 48 1/2 -point favorites.
“Our identity as a team this year is playing the next week,” quarterback Trevor Knight said. “It’s about us and a nameless, faceless opponent. And that’s no disrespect to who we’re playing, but we want to worry about us and play as best we can.”
The Aggies are looking to rebound after taking their first loss of the season last week in a 33-14 defeat at top-ranked Alabama. Linebacker Justin Evans said it’s easier to move on from that game since a single loss to the No. 1 team could still give them an outside chance at the College Football Playoff.
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“We know with just one loss we can still do a lot,” Evans said. “We don’t want to look too far ahead, but in the back of our mind we know that we’re still playing for something so it’s going to be there.”
Texas A&M returns to SEC play next week with a trip to Mississippi State before hosting Mississippi on Nov. 12.
But first they’ll meet New Mexico State for the first time. New Mexico State has had a tough time this season with just two wins and is coming off a 22-19 loss to Georgia Southern.
New Mexico State coach Doug Martin knows things will be tough for his offense on Saturday in facing a defense led by Myles Garrett and Daeshon Hall. New Mexico State is tied for 111th in the nation after allowing 21 sacks this season. Texas A&M has piled up 23 sacks, which ranks 12th in the country. Garrett leads the Aggies with four sacks and Hall and Jarrett Johnson have 3 1/2 each. Garrett and Hall have also combined for 18 quarterback hurries.
“The two defensive ends are first round draft picks so it’s going to be a real challenge for our offense to move the football,” Martin said. “But we’re a pretty good offensive football team so looking forward to that challenge.”
Some other things to know about the game:
Texas A&M ranks third in the nation by averaging 251.4 yards rushing a game. The Aggies success has come from splitting carries between freshman Trayveon Williams and Keith Ford and with quite a bit of help from Knight. Williams leads the team with 727 yards rushing and Ford has added 304 yards rushing. Knight has 526 yards rushing and leads the team with nine rushing scores.
Ford, who has missed time with an injury this season, impressed coach Kevin Sumlin by leading the team with 62 yards rushing against Alabama.
“At beginning of year I said we’d need all the backs,” Sumlin said. “All provide change of pace for difference defenses. That was more of a Keith Ford-style of football game and I think you saw that. His experience in those situations showed. Way he runs showed. Physical, tough guy in that situation, a different back than Trayveon.”
New Mexico State has seven different players who have at least 150 yards receiving this season, giving quarterback Tyler Rogers plenty of targets each week. The group is led by Gregory Hogan, who has 26 receptions for 335 yards and three touchdowns and Tyrian Taylor with 304 yards receiving.
“Our offensive kids have a lot of confidence,” Martin said. “We have a really good group of wide receivers that can really compete against anybody and it kind of gives us an edge.”
WE HAVE GOOD RECEIVERS, TOO
New Mexico State isn’t the only one with a solid group of receivers as the Aggies’ receivers might be the strength of A&M’s offense. Josh Reynolds has 515 yards receiving and five scores and Christian Kirk also has five touchdowns and has added 410 yards receiving. Ricky Seals-Jones missed two games with an injury before returning last week against Alabama and has 200 yards receiving.
“I still say that’s the best receiving corps in the country,” Knight said of A&M’s receivers. “And they’ve proven that time and time again, and it’s just getting the ball in their hands and being more consistent.”
PILING ‘EM UP
New Mexico State linebacker Rodney Butler leads the nation with 102 tackles. Butler had a season-high 24 tackles against New Mexico on Sept. 10 and has had at least 12 tackles in all but one game this year.
New Mexico St. at No. 9 Texas A&M
6:30 p.m. Saturday, ESPNU