Texas A&M's defense ranks 7th in the SEC in total defense, giving up just under 340 yards per game. But where A&M’s defense excels isn’t at flat out shutting out opponents, it’s at stiffening in the red zone and taking advantage of opportunities to get off the field. And the stats prove it.
Does Damontre Moore belong in the conversation about the SEC's best defensive ends?
Opponents have converted just 26.5 percent of their third down attempts against the Aggies, which leads the SEC. As does their 54.5% red zone defense. In scoring, the only defensive stat that really matters, the Aggies are third in the SEC. They’re allowing just 11.8 points per game. Only South Carolina and Alabama have allowed fewer.
Saturday’s game against Arkansas showed everything the Aggie defense is right now. Arkansas had a huge day offensively, averaging more than five yards per play on their 98 offensive plays and racking up more than 500 yards in the game. However, they were just 9 of 22 on third down, 1 of 5 on fourth down, and scored just one time, a field goal, in five trips into the red zone.
You can also see the defense improving at attacking the football. Mark Snyder said after the Florida game that tacklers needed to look to get the football more than they were. Going into Saturday the Aggies were one of just seven teams in the country that hadn’t recovered a fumble. But that changed in a big way when Damontre Moore punched the ball away from Knile Davis and Tramain Jacobs picked it up and scored. A&M also forced a fumble earlier in the game, but Dustin Harris didn’t pick it up and Arkansas was able to recover. Steven Terrell also added two interceptions. After the game, the players talked about the emphasis in practice on getting turnovers.
Senior linebacker Jonathan Stewart said even though they got three turnovers, he wasn’t happy with that.
“Getting turnovers has been our focus all season long,” he said. “We didn’t get very many in the first three games, but today we made them. We still missed too many opportunities. There are still more opportunities. We’re not happy with how many turnovers we got today – three – because we left opportunities right there on the table and in a close game, we have to make them if we’re going to win those games.”
His partner in crime Sean Porter said that another emphasis of the Aggies was coming out strong in the second half.
“We have been talking about that all summer,” he said. “We talked about just coming out and finishing, coming out in the second half and continuing to play the way we’ve been playing. If we just play our game – it’s all about us – I think we can compete with anybody.”
One player who can definitely play with anybody is Damontre Moore. Moore is a rising star on the Aggie defense, and he currently leads the SEC in sacks and tackles for loss. But his quotes about his role on Saturday are what defines this Aggie defense so far.
"I’m happy I get (sacks), but I’m not worried about that," he said. "I’m worried about what I can do. If I do my assignment right and I just hold them and one of the other guys gets the sack, I’m just as happy because it’s not about me, it’s about the team. It’s about getting the win. It’s selfishness like that, when you’re worried about the sack. At the end of the day, you wouldn’t be happy about the sack if you come up with a loss.”
Not many are going to confuse this defense with the famed “Wrecking Crew” defenses of old when it comes to intimidating their opponents and flat out shutting down offenses. Though Moore is a rising star and Porter and Stewart are solid linebackers, the Aggies still lack the depth on defense to be considered athletically elite. But when it comes to getting the job done when it matters, you can’t argue with their results so far.