Texas A&M will stick with the hot hand, choosing to ride freshman Kyle Allen at quarterback after his four-touchdown performance last week in an upset at Auburn.
“He won last week,” A&M coach Kevin Sumlin said. “He’s played pretty well, so I think he’s earned the right to start and earned the right to continue to play at that level.”
That doesn’t mean sophomore Kenny Hill won’t play, but Allen will get the first crack and unlocking Missouri’s stingy defense at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Kyle Field, where the Tigers and 24th-ranked Aggies square off for the fourth time in five seasons.
“Kevin has a great system and I don’t care who the quarterback is, whether it’s (former A&M quarterback Johnny) Manziel or these two guys,” MU coach Gary Pinkel said. “They have a system in place, they get good players and they do what they do. It’s going to be a challenge for us. They’ve got great wide receivers and they make plays. The offensive line is exceptional. The combination of all those things present a lot of problems for us.”
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For more insight on A&M, we sought out Bryan-College Station Eagle beat writer Aubrey Bloom for a Q&A about the game.
Now, onto the questions:
Q: Do you think it’s the right call to stick with Kyle Allen, and why has Kenny Hill fallen out of favor?
Bloom: I don’t think Sumlin really has a choice. With Hill’s two-game suspension for the now-standard “undisclosed violation of team rules,” they had to go with Allen the last two weeks.
Allen’s play last week against Auburn also makes it impossible for Sumlin to bench him. Hill is probably still better than Allen in a few ways, namely protecting the football, but since A&M is out of the national title picture playing Allen is also probably a nod to next season when most people believe Allen would have overtaken Hill anyway.
It’s harder to nail down what exactly Hill’s problems have been lately, but suffice it to say that they start off the field.
Q: Texas A&M has a good offense and struggling defense, while Missouri has a good defense and struggling offense. Which is more critical the Aggies’ ability to churn out points or the defense's ability to keep Maty Mauk and company in check?
Bloom: It’s definitely A&M’s ability to score. The defense has actually performed much better than it did a year ago. Granted, that’s not saying much, but in A&M’s big losses to Mississippi State and Ole Miss it was really the offense that left the defense hanging.
Against Alabama, everything was a mess and it looked like A&M didn’t even want to be there, so I take that game out of the mix for the most part. The Aggies are built around offense, and when the offense falters they simply aren’t any good. As last week showed, they can still win with a substandard defensive performance.
Q: Missouri is down two starters in the secondary until at least halftime. Does that put extra weight on the opening half for Texas A&M to establish an early lead?
Bloom: I don’t think so because the pressure will already be so high to score early. One of A&M’s biggest keys is scoring first and putting pressure on opposing offenses. They’re one of the few teams in the country that will take the ball if they win the toss. So, given how much of a focus it is to score early, I don't think a couple of missing starters will add any additional pressure to that.
Q: Who has a better game, Missouri defensive end Shane Ray going against A&M’s new left tackle or Aggies freshman Myles Garrett going against an inconsistent Tigers offensive line, and why?
Bloom: The reason I’m going with Ray is because the Tigers’ defense has some other weapons and is just a better overall defense, so A&M can’t focus on just one guy. Myles Garrett is really A&M’s only consistent pass-rushing threat, so the Tigers can do some things to scheme against him.
Other teams have done that, and it’s led to his stats being a little misleading. Eight of his 11 sacks this season are against Lamar, Rice and Louisiana-Monroe. He has just three sacks in six games against SEC opponents.