The regular season is over for Texas A&M after a 54-39 defeat last Thursday at home to LSU. With the news that Kevin Sumlin is likely to be retained for the 2017 season. The Aggies post mortem looks at the 2016 season which saw the usual fast start fall away with a poor November to leave them 8-4 on the year and 4-4 in SEC play.
The Aggies offense was hit and miss over the course of the season. The biggest weakness was their inability to take time off the clock late in the game with a lead. Three times this year they gave up double digit fourth quarter leads to UCLA, Tennessee and Ole Miss. The first two games they escaped with wins in overtime but weren’t so fortunate against Ole Miss. This problem was also apparent against Arkansas but long touchdown runs by Trevor Knight meant they held onto victory by continuing to add points.
The other problem this caused was that the defense was left out on the field for large portions of the game. Tennessee ran over 100 plays against the Aggies in week six for example. Only once this season did Texas A&M win the time of possession battle against New Mexico State, they didn’t even manage this in games against UTSA or Prairie View A&M from the FCS. Against Arkansas the Razorbacks nearly held the ball for twice as long as the Aggies. Having quick possessions isn’t always a bad thing but it puts a lot of pressure on your defense especially when you aren’t scoring consistently.
Trevor Knight at quarterback was a great leader and made big plays when needed, he will be sorely missed next season. The question of who replaces him will be one of the biggest points of interest in training camp. The offensive line was young especially in the interior so they should improve given the extended playing time they got this year.
The LSU game proved that despite some improvements early in the year, the rush defense is still a big problem. Again the games early in the year masked the problem as the Aggies faced teams struggling along the offensive line like Auburn and Arkansas. The Tennessee Volunteers exposed this weakness but the defense forced seven turnovers which allowed the Aggies to escape with a win. They proved to be relatively stout against Alabama but had no answer to Nick Fitzgerald in the Mississippi State or Derrius Guice from LSU.
The defense wore down heavily as the season went on which is an issue that stems from the offense leaving them out on the field for large parts of the game. There were other factors at play like their inability to get off the field on third down at times, the UTSA game being a particularly glaring example. The defense also just doesn’t have the depth at every position that other teams have especially at linebacker. This all culminated in a defense that looked soft throughout November.
Kevin Sumlin knows that he enters the 2017 season on the hot seat. A fast start with another poor finish to the season like the previous three seasons won’t be tolerated this time. Sumlin needs to replace some top tier talent like Myles Garrett, Daeshon Hall and Josh Reynolds as well as fixing some key deficiencies on both sides of the ball.