Aggies Sack Auburn to Open SEC Play – Texas A&M Athletics

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BRYAN-COLLEGE STATION, Texas — In a game highlighted by the Aggie defense and the stellar reserve quarterback work of Max Johnson, the Texas A&M football team soundly defeated the Auburn Tigers, 27-10, at Kyle Field Saturday to begin SEC play.

Spelling starter Conner Weigman due to injury with a precarious 6-3 lead coming out of halftime, Johnson completed his first five passes for 95 yards, including a pair of touchdown strikes, to lead Texas A&M in a dominant second half.

Meanwhile, the Texas A&M defense overwhelmed Auburn, holding the Tigers to 200 yards of total offense thanks in large part to a season-high seven sacks. The visitors were only able to scrounge up 56 passing yards on the day with three different quarterbacks taking snaps.

Auburn’s first four drives of the second half resulted in three-and-outs and Texas A&M outgained the Tigers 146-2 in total offense in the pivotal third quarter. The Maroon & White held the Tigers to 3-of-15 on third-down conversions for the game, including just 1-of-10 through the first three quarters.

After the Aggie defense held Auburn to a three-and-out on the first series of the second half, Johnson led Ol’ Sarge’s charges on a six-play, 46-yard drive, hitting his brother Jake Johnson for a 22-yard scoring toss, staking the Maroon & White to a 13-3 lead with 9:42 remaining in the quarter.

The Texas A&M defense stymied the Tigers again on the next drive after just three plays and the Aggies followed with another touchdown drive. This time they traveled 65 yards on six plays, capped by a precision 37-yard aerial to Evan Stewart in the end zone to stretch the margin 17 at the 6:22 mark of the third quarter.

Auburn’s lone touchdown was scored by its defense early in the last quarter. Kayin Lee forced a Rueben Owens fumble at the Tigers’ 33-yard line and Eugene Asante picked it up and rambled 67-yards to cut the A&M advantage to 20-10 with 12:16 left in the game.

Amari Daniels iced the game with 4:20 remaining when he weaved his way to a career-long 79-yard run, taking the ball down to the Auburn 4-yard line. Le’Veon Moss pounded his way into the end zone on the next play for the final score of the game.

Max Johnson ended the day hitting on 7-of-11 through the air for 123 yards and two touchdowns.

The Aggies mounted a 6-0 lead with a pair of first quarter field goals by Randy Bond. He closed out Texas A&M’s game-opening 12-play, 41-yard drive with a 51-yarder. With 5:31 remaining in the period he hit a 32-yarder following a three-and-out by Auburn.

Texas A&M appeared to score a defensive touchdown when the Tigers’ Damari Alston caught a flare pass from Payton Thorne and turned up field and fumbled the ball after getting thumped by Tyreek Chappell. Edgerrin Cooper scooped up the ball and scampered 63 yards. Video review in Birmingham overturned the action deeming it an incomplete pass.

The second quarter was a field position battle with neither team able to cash in until the Tigers’ Alex McPherson put a 53-yard field goal through the uprights with five seconds remaining in the half. The highlight for Texas A&M in the quarter was 3.0 quarterback sacks.

The backfield tandem of Moss and Daniels gobbled up career highs for rushing yardage. Moss ended the day with 97 yards on 15 carries. Daniels added 85 yards on five totes as the Aggies rolled up 209 yards in the ground game.

Linebackers Taurean York and Cooper played like mad dogs in a meat market to lead the A&M defense. York registered a career-high 11 tackles, including 2.0 TFL. Cooper logged eight tackles, including 3.0 TFL and a career-high 2.0 sacks. Walter Nolen and Chris Russell Jr. both checked in with 1.5 sacks.

Postgame Notes

Team Notes 

  • The Texas A&M defense forced an Auburn punt or turnover on downs on 10-of-11 drives, including five 3-and-outs.
  • The Aggies limited Auburn to just 3-of-15 (20.0%) on third down, which marked the fourth straight game with three-or-fewer successful third-down tries by their opponent. Over the past two games, the Aggies have limited opponents to 4-of-37 (10.8%) on third-down tries. For the season, opponents have successfully converted just 20.4% (10-of-49) on third down.
  • The Aggies harassed the Auburn signal-callers all day, while producing a season-high 7.0 sacks, which marked the most sacks by an Aggie squad since the defense generated 7.0 against South Carolina in 2017.
  • The Maroon & White limited Auburn to 10 points, which marked the first time the defense has allowed 10-or-fewer points in an SEC game since beating Auburn, 20-3, in 2021.
  • The Texas A&M defense has held opponents without a touchdown on all eight opening series of the game and second half in 2023. Auburn was limited to 3-and-outs on both opening drives.
  • Texas A&M has scored at least a field goal on every game-opening possession and added points in three of four games on second-half openers.
  • Texas A&M hit the 400-yard plateau in total offense for the fourth straight game with 402 total yards against the Tigers. The Aggies limited the Tigers to 200 total yards, which was a season low allowed for Texas A&M and season low gained for Auburn.
  • A&M held its opponent to less than 100 yards through the air for the second straight week and the 10th time under head coach Jimbo Fisher after allowing just 56 yards through the air.
  • The Aggies produced 6.9 yards per play, while limiting the Tigers to 3.1 yards per play.
  • Ten different players combined to generate 15 tackles behind the Tiger line of scrimmage. Producing multiple TFLs were junior LB Edgerrin Cooper (3.0), freshman LB Taurean York (2.0), sophomore DB Bryce Anderson (2.0), Sophomore DL Walter Nolen (2.0) and senior LB Chris Russell Jr. (1.5).
  • Today’s captains against Auburn were OL Layden Robinson, DL McKinnley Jackson, DB Demani Richardson and WR Ainias Smith.
  • Individual Notes

  • Sophomore QB Max Johnson came off the bench and connected on 7-of-11 passes for 123 yards including two touchdowns as his two scoring strikes marked the first time in his A&M career he has thrown multiple touchdown passes in a game.
  • Johnson’s interception-free game increased his streak of pass attempts without a pickoff to 102, while at Texas A&M.
  • Johnson came in for sophomore QB Conner Weigman, who left the game late in the second quarter with a lower leg injury. Before departing Weigman had completed 8-of-14 passes for 70 yards.
  • Graduate WR Ainias Smith moved past Jhamon Ausbon (2017-19) into eighth on A&M’s all-time receiving yards list after his 78 yards against Auburn upped his career total to 1,884. 
  • Smith’s 13-yard reception in the first quarter gave him 31-consecutive games with at least one reception, which dates back to the LSU game of the 2019 season and ranks as the 10th-longest streak in the nation.
  • Sophomore TE Jake Johnson scored the first touchdown of his career, battling his way into the end zone after catching a 22-yard pass from his brother, Max, midway through the third quarter. This marked the first time in school history that brothers have connected on a touchdown pass and catch.
  • Sophomore WR Evan Stewart scored the fifth touchdown of his career and third of the season on a 37-yard reception in the third quarter.
  • Sophomore RB Le’Veon Moss posted career highs in both rushing yards and carries with 97 yards on 15 carries. He had a career-long rush of 36 yards in the first quarter and scored on a 4-yard rush for the Aggies’ final TD in the victory.
  • Junior RB Amari Daniels produced the Aggies’ long play of the season with a 79-yard rush late in the fourth quarter. For the game, Daniels rushed for a career-high 85 yards on five carries.
  • Freshman LB Taurean York posted the first double-digit tackles game of his career with 11 stops while also filling the stat sheet with a half-sack and 2.0 tackles for loss.
  • Junior LB Edgerrin Cooper led the way with a career-high 2.0 sacks, while sophomore DL Walter Nolen and senior LB Chris Russell Jr. chipped in with 1.5 sacks to each set new career marks.
  • Junior PK Randy Bond made it back-to-back weeks with 50-plus yard field goals as he sailed a 51-yarder through the uprights to put the Aggies on the board in the first quarter.
  • Postgame Press Conference: Jimbo Fisher

    (quotes courtesy Caption Pros)

    COACH FISHER: Proud of this team. That’s a hard-fought SEC victory. And a game that was very unique in a lot of ways and that we come out offensively. I didn’t think we had enough — we had some self-inflected wounds. Got some little penalties and did some things, but overcame them in the drive and then got down in the red zone.

    You heard me say on Monday, it was critical that I thought we scored touchdowns. Well, we didn’t; we scored two field goals. Our defense was playing lights out. But you are dominating the game and you get two, three possessions in, and you dominate, but you’re only up 6-0, we’re one score to get you behind.

    But our defense never blinked. They kept right on playing. The offense because we went two good drives and didn’t score and then three three-and-outs, and then we’re in halftime. And then we lost our quarterback. And we were just playing with inconsistency.

    And then I thought second half, we really grouped. Defense came right out again, got a three-and-out. Max [Johnson] comes in, takes us straight down the field for a touchdown. Then we come back, get another three-and-out? I believe it was a three-and-out.

    ALAN CANNON: Yes, it was a three-and-out.

    COACH FISHER: Then come right back down and throw another touchdown.

    Then we are on another roll when unfortunately on offense — and we find a way to make it interesting, because we come back again and hit two beautiful — we had a pass play down to the 29-yard line. Micah Tease caught a pass, we got a holding call. Turned around, hit a drag route to Evan [Stewart]. He breaks it all the way down, think to our 20. They said illegal pick or whatever, holding. Wasn’t trying to. He might have did it, but wasn’t trying to, I promise.

    You are putting the game away and then you get it under control again. Get them backed up, and you’re driving on about their 40. Unfortunately, we fumbled the ball and put it back to a two-score game. And then we moved it, didn’t get anything, and then the defense come out and held them again and they get a drive and they are down in field goal range.

    Luckily, they got that holding call. Went on fourth down. I didn’t want to give them the chance. He just hit a 52-yarder. So I didn’t want to give him another one, because that would have made the game 20-13 and been a one-score game. So we moved him back and then the defense still got a hold, so they couldn’t kick the field goal. So we got the punt and got the ball back and broke the run and were able to seal the game. And did a good job of finalizing it all.

    But one thing I will say, the grit, the toughness, the ability for our guys to keep figthing and coming back. There’s a lot of mistakes in there we got to clean up. But the defensively I thought we were outstanding. I think we had 14 tackles for loss. We had seven sacks. That’s 21 negative plays and super, big-time negative plays that — and just the constant pressure on what they did. I thought our defense was outstanding on the day.

    They broke some runs, a couple tackles, I wish we could have made in the open field a little better. But offensively, we ran it and threw it, but we got to get some more consistency in what we did. Kicking game, field goal kicker (Randy Bond) was awesome. Hit a 52-yarder right off the first drive. Hit another one that put us up there. Our kicking game, we’re covering pretty good in what we’re doing.

    We won the game and still didn’t play close to what we’re capable of. And we got to get better going into the SEC playoff. I think Some of these guys got an education of what this game is going to be like. It’s a physical, bruising game that you’re gonna have to play like this the rest of the year. So hopefully we’ll get better and move on from here. But very proud of our guys and the way we competed, and I though our defense was absolutely outstanding.

    Q. What is Conner [Weigman]’s status?

    COACH FISHER: I don’t know. We’ll wait and see.  The x-rays were negative. We will see what all we go with, where he’s at and how he feels coming back. But like I said, I thought Max [Johnson] — I can’t say enough great things about Max and how he came in and played. I think we have two starting quarterbacks. I’m very proud of him. And we will wait to see how Conner gets. I don’t have any idea.

    Q. You’ve talked about having two quarterbacks, which isn’t a luxury you’ve had in years past. How good is that now that something like this has happened?

    COACH FISHER: It’s critical. If you’re going to play — I’ll take three. You never know. Because that’s a unique position and you’re one play away from something happening. And it’s not just them. A guy falls into him and steps on him. That’s basically what happened to him. He was stepping forward on the play and their feet come together, whatever, it looked like on what happened.

    But, I mean, you can’t have enough good quarterbacks. And we are blessed to have them and we have some good ones behind him. But Max was outstanding on the day coming in on what he did.

    Q. What was it like the moment when you saw Max [Johnson] touchdown pass to his brother?

    COACH FISHER: I knew we were up two scores. I was very happy. His mom and dad were — I got it. Trust me, I got it. Mom and dad I know were happy. That is unique that you can do that. It was outstanding. It was a big play in the game and very happy for both of them because both kids are tremendous kids. Very good players.

    Q. One kind of silly thing, on that fumble return, you almost —

    COACH FISHER: I was on the field. I was mad because we should have thrown a bubble screen. Anyway, I thought the ball was in front of us, and he was running around the corner. I thought the play was dead. And I was yelling at somebody else on the side. The ball is coming back my way. I said, dang, that ain’t supposed to happen. Lucky I didn’t get ran over. Bad execution on my part. Should have got out of the way.

    Q. Jimbo, what do you attribute y’all’s ability to get to the quarterback and put so much pressure on the quarterback?

    COACH FISHER: We have it. Like I said in that game, they slid and picked and chipped and did some things and some pass things that I don’t care if you had the steel curtain or the purple people eaters, you weren’t going to get to them in some of the protections they had and how they did it on certain plays.

    I think by winning the first and second down and now you get to third and long, now you can ramp up. They become one dimensional. You are in second and longs, you’re in third and longs. And the pressures we brought, we got pressure and we brought blitzes and we did some different things and we were able to cover.

    Q. You mentioned y’all didn’t play your best, not what you are capable of. What is this team capable of moving forward?

    COACH FISHER: Hopefully we’ll find out. I have said before, I love this team. This team can play with anybody on our schedule. But we have to — talent is one thing. Execution is another. Toughness is another. Competitive nature is another. We have those things, and then keep the poise to do it.

    I think we’re at a place right now, we’re getting there. I think our guys are wanting to do it so much. Just take a deep breath and keep a little poise as you do things, you know what I’m saying? We’ve got to do a little better job of that. 

    Q. Couple things.

    COACH FISHER: Do three. (laughter)

    Q. You probably had a pretty good look at it. Were you surprised that they didn’t give you the touchdown on the fumble return?

    COACH FISHER: Yeah, I did. That was so close on what was that right there. That’s shocking. I thought it was still — because it was called that way, and to me it wasn’t obvious that it was forward, in my opinion. But, hey, who am I?

    Q. Conner [Weigman]’s been playing so well. As a coach, when you find out he’s going to be injured and not be able to come in, do you have a sinking feeling at all that goes through?

    COACH FISHER: No, because you have confidence in the backup. And I have always said that. I feel it for him. I mean, personally that you are doing things well and you’re playing and you hate to do that.

    But unfortunately, what you got to understand, and they have to understand, and he has to understand: That’s football, man. You’re going to be banged. You’re going to be bruised. That’s how it’s going to be battered. At the same time, I feel confident in the guy we have behind him. I’m sad for him, no doubt, because he’s doing an outstanding job.

    Very happy for Max [Johnson]’s opportunity. Like I say, very confident in his abilities.

    Q. Was that like the sack against Alabama?

    COACH FISHER: I want to see it again. I think he was stepping on his pass and the guy stepped on his ankle or stepped on his foot and the follow-through is what I think. I couldn’t see it cleanly. I will wait and see. I don’t want to say that until then.

    Q. Jimbo, in this day of the transfer portal, did you ever come close to losing Max [Johnson] because he is a quality guy? What do you think his best asset is?

    COACH FISHER: His best asset? He’s a tremendous person. I always say that about all the great players. The great ones mostly are tremendous people, and he’s a tremendous person in who he is and he understands the team and all those things.

    And then he has all the attributes. He has the physical attributes, the mental attributes, he’s a tremendous competitor and great teammate.

    Q. Were you sweating the transfer portal at all?

    COACH FISHER: You always sweat the transfer portal. That’s like a constant. That’s a constant sweat that there’s no air conditioning for.

    Q. Jimbo, you said the defense, you were super proud of how they played. Talking about Taurean [York] specifically, 11 tackles, kind of a career day for him? What did you see from him today?

    COACH FISHER: Career day? He’s only played four games.

    Q. His first career sack.

    COACH FISHER: Again, he’s only going to get better and better and better in what he does and the reads he makes and alignments and assignments. The kid is a heck of a player and a very mature kid, and that’s what allows him to do it. Very happy for him. That’s the way he practices every day. The way he comes to work every day.

    Our SID didn’t get me the numbers on the tackles. I didn’t get to see that.

    ALAN CANNON: Tauren [York], 11 tackles and one sack, two tackles for loss.

    COACH FISHER: Who had the most sacks?

    ALAN CANNON: That one I don’t have just yet. [Edgerrin] Cooper’s got two.

    COACH FISHER: I thought there were more sacks than six or seven.

    ALAN CANNON: I will check.

    COACH FISHER: How do you get 14 tackles for loss? Seemed like there was more to me. Didn’t it you, watching the game? They only had seven. They had seven credited.

    You guys don’t have to pass math to be a writer? (laughter)

    Q. Was there a play where you felt confident Max [Johnson] was settling in out there, that first drive? I guess for me, that third and five run where he got the first?

    COACH FISHER: Max will do that, he’ll tuck and go. The confidence of reading that, you know he’s feeling the game when he can step up and see those things. There was a couple of them on third downs early that he did a really nice job on.

    Q. The confidence that this gives your team, picking up your first SEC win and going into Arkansas next week.

    COACH FISHER: You got to continually build on those things. That’s is the part. The more you win, the more you have success, and the more you realize you belong out there and you can make the plays. Hopefully we can build. Hopefully we can learn from this. We’re not content with this.

    Like I said, in my opinion, we could have had a better control of the game a little bit early and we need to do that better so we don’t give people enough hope and make it harder on ourselves. Then like I said, we had two drives and we were putting it away, and one we get two penalties and the other, we fumble.

    I’m going to tell you this. We’re going to give the ball to Rueben Owens a thousand more times. he’s going to be a phenomenal player and he made a bunch of good runs. Like I told the locker room, put that one behind you. You will get it a bunch more.

    Q. Conner [Weigman] obviously in the first half didn’t go as cleanly. Is some of that just young quarterback struggles?

    COACH FISHER: Sometimes here or sometimes miss a block up front or sometimes a route gets ran a little bit not like it’s going to run. I have to look and see before you point. Like I say, there’s a lot of things that quarterbacks take blame for, which is part of it. But we’ll wait and see why it was.

    Q. How pleased were you just getting pressure with just the front itself?

    COACH FISHER: Makes a huge difference, man. When you can do that and stay in coverage and keep your guys back and don’t make yourselves vulnerable to all those situations, that’s when the game becomes fun on defense.

    Q. Noah [Thomas] didn’t play today. Any reason for concern?

    COACH FISHER: He’s just banged up a little. Hopefully we will get him back hopefully here in the near future.

    Q. And then Le’veon [Moss] being able to kind of take over the game in the second half.

    COACH FISHER: Getting him very — Amari [Daniels] breaks the run but Le’veon is powerful. You can see it. He has burst, he has size. He’s a really good player. I mean, all of them. You see Amari’s ability to hit and Rueben’s [Owens], too. Happy for Le’veon getting healthy. I keep telling everybody, that guy is a really good player, explosive and powerful.

    Q. With a win like this, it wasn’t a blowout or anything. There were ups, and there were downs. What kind of lessons do you think this will teach the younger players?

    COACH FISHER: That’s what I like about the game. It didn’t go our way. Did I get frustrated? There was no frustration. Defense did okay. Offense, if you are not going to do it that way, as long as they don’t score, we ain’t going to lose. We gave up 7 on offense. They gave up three on defense when you look at it that way, you know what I mean?

    There’s a lot of character in the question you are asking. It’s a very good question because the defense says okay, we’ll just keep doing what we’re doing. Offensively, even though it wasn’t going that way, they kept sawing wood, as I say. They kept coming back, and they didn’t create — the fumble was a fumble, but it wasn’t a lot of crazy frustration trying to make big plays. We kept sawing wood and broke the runs and did what we had to do.

    There’s going to be a lot of days in this conference. That’s just the way this league goes when you play good people. Very proud of the way we kept competing in the game and just keep taking the next play.

    Q. Just seeing Max [Johnson] take over the game, were you surprised by how he was able to keep his confidence and composure?
    BRYCE ANDERSON: Not at all, because when we were practicing, whenever we’re going 1s with the 2s, there’s no drop-off between Conner [Weigman] and Max. The leadership is still there. The execution is still there. It’s never a drop-off. It’s definitely what we expected.
    Q. From your perspective, you had seven sacks and 14 tackles for the losses. What was going right today for you, especially working up field to get to the backfield?
    BRYCE ANDERSON: Just executing, taking the blitzes up. Knowing you want to get pressure on those guys. Knowing you want to force them to the boundary to where it was going to be hard for them and stuff like that. Yeah, that was really the key.
    Q. The defense, obviously big-time performance from you guys. What was clicking and what does a performance like this do for the rest of the SEC play?
    BRYCE ANDERSON: We have a crazy defensive line. We understand hat the depth they have, the guys come rolling in, that’s making everything better in coverage. The quarterback can’t see down the field because they have 0 (Ainias Smith) in his face, 5 (Shemar Turner) in his face, 3 (McKinnley Jackson) in his face. His odds are in a rush. I feel like that’s a big play on our defense.
    And then [Taurean] York played great, Coop (Edgerrin Cooper) played great. We played real good in the back-end. Today was a collective effort.
    Q. Seemed like a couple times you guys — yourself at times, whether it was linebackers, that second wave of the pass rush, maybe not even a design blitz from the get-go, but when y’all sensed they were under pressure, y’all came in and helped finish the job. Was that something that y’all were emphasizing? How do you feel like y’all were able to do that so well?
    BRYCE ANDERSON: We knew coming into the game, like I was saying, we want to force the quarterback to the boundary. Make his eyes go to the rush. With me, basically we knew we wanted to get me involved, coming in on a rush, making his eyes, look at me, going to the boundary, like I was saying. That was pretty much the key to the game. Make his eyes drop, not be able to get to the receivers downfield.
    Q. What this does for this team’s confidence as you guys get ready to take on Arkansas, having won your SEC opener, because that’s a big one.
    BRYCE ANDERSON: Confidence is through the roof. But we still know that Auburn is not the main goal. The main goal is to go run through the SEC and win a national championship. That’s just a step along the way.
    Q. What changed from the Miami game in two weeks to this defense to look like it did today?
    BRYCE ANDERSON: Just our effort. Effort, getting everybody running to the ball. Playing with a lot of energy, feeding off each other, not being dead on the sidelines, all of that stuff goes into how we play on defense.
    Q. On that pass that you tipped, that [Payton] Thorne then tipped, have you seen a play as screwy as that in your life?
    Q. What did you think? Everybody starts looking for the ball, and nobody moves?
    BRYCE ANDERSON: Actually, at the time, I didn’t know it was a backwards pass. I thought I just deflected pass and it was going to be an incompletion. Now seeing the review, seeing it was thrown behind the line — at the time, I had no clue it was behind the line of scrimmage, a backwards pass.
    Q. Bryce, by chance did you see Jamaal (phonetic) on the field right before the fumble return for the touchdown?
    BRYCE ANDERSON: I didn’t see him.
    Q. Did you think you were going to get run over?
    BRYCE ANDERSON: I didn’t see him. I didn’t see him. I was too busy celebrating.

    Q. Layden, what was the difference for y’all early on? You had the false starts and Conner [Weigman] was under pressure. Looked like a totally different scene for y’all in the second half. What was the difference?
    LAYDEN ROBINSON: The first half we just had to get settled in. We were real antsy, especially up front. But we got settled in the second half, as you said. That was the problem and we got it fixed quick.
    Q. How did you think of Le’Veon’s [Moss] performance and Amari’s [Daniels] performances, the run blocking in general?
    LAYDEN ROBINSON: They did great. They did their job. That’s what is expected of them every time. Every person on our offense, every person on our team, they have a job. They just did their job today.
    We did our best to open up the gaps for them and they hit them and they made big runs. You just see what happens when you just keep pounding the rock and pounding the rock, something’s got to give. We had a couple of good runs and that was good. But now we just got to evolve better. We could have had a better running game today. Some stops got held up on the line. That shouldn’t have happened. We just got to get better at that in practice. Look at film, see why they didn’t hit, and the next game, make them hit.
    Q. Jimbo was kind of talking about being a back-and-forth game can test the mindset of a team.  What do you think about this kind of game where it is back and forth, and how it does set the tone going into SEC play?
    LAYDEN ROBINSON: There’s resiliency. When you get into games like this and when you play great teams like this, especially in the trench with the mindset up front is, who’s going to break? That’s the mindset that you have to have going against these teams, going against those big guys in the trenches, who is going to break. Are you going to break or are they going to break?
    That’s the mindset that you have to have. You’ve got to have the mindset that you’re not going to break at all, that you’re going to keep your foot on the pedal no matter what the scoreboard is, no matter how tired you are feeling. You’re not tired. You just got to keep going, keep pushing every single play.
    Q. Going into the second half when you are having to make the change at quarterback, is there anything that changes for the O-line? Is there anything that clicked for you guys? Like we really need to lock in because the game plan will be just a little bit different it was than in the first half with Conner [Weigman]?
    LAYDEN ROBINSON: When we really thought about it, when the quarterback change happened, we just had to say, hey, we need to do our job. We figured out what we made a mistake on and we said, hey, scratch that. Next drive, next play. That’s the mindset that you have to have going up front. Their guys are on scholarship, too. They’re going to make plays. You just have to make sure that you have a play that you come back on. That’s how you got to have a rebuttal.
    Q. What’s the emotion from an O-lineman when you see your quarterback take a hit and he’s hobbling to the locker room? I’m sure you feel for him but also have to move forward and get the mindset to the next drive.
    LAYDEN ROBINSON: The emotion is that you never want that to happen to your quarterback. Your quarterback is your pride and joy. We take a very big responsibility with our quarterbacks. I mean, took it hard, when he got hurt.
    At the same time, you have to say, you got to shake that off. The thing about it, is after the game I was just thinking about getting my eyes on him and looking at him and making sure he was okay and checking up on him and his family, because he’s a big part of our team.
    Max [Johnson] did a great job stepping up today. That’s the type of guy you want on your team. No matter what position that he was in, he stepped in and he performed when he needed to.
    Q. Layden, I know you are a big leader on this team. I wonder if at halftime or any time did you have anything to say to Max [Johnson]? And second part to this, what was Max like in the huddle when y’all first went out there in the second half?
    LAYDEN ROBINSON: Max came to me with his own energy and said we’re not going to slow down. That’s what we did, we didn’t slow down.
    Usually — I’m a leader on our offensive line. But the quarterback is the leader of the offense, hands down. So what type of energy the quarterback have, the offense is going to have. So he brought that energy into the huddle, and that’s what we played like. So great job to Max. He came in and stepped up.
    Q. Layden, can you talk about being on the sideline and seeing the transformation of this defense from the Miami game two weeks ago to what you witnessed today?
    LAYDEN ROBINSON: Oh, man, I’m very proud of our defense. Our defense — this is the defense that we’ve went against all fall camp. This is the defense that we went against all spring, that we used to get into tussles with. In practice, the competitiveness was very high. This is the defense and you all saw it today. Now they are just going to keep building on it.
    You all saw something we that we already knew. Just because they were having struggles earlier doesn’t mean they can come back. They showed the world what they can do. And now we just got to build on it.
    Q. Layden, you mentioned battling adversity. What’s something as an offensive line, I know you are looking to physically just dominant every time. But when it is sort of that tug of war, kind of stalemate, so to speak, what are some things y’all say regardless of just pure physical domination. We should always be able to check these boxes. How do you feel like y’all did in those areas?
    LAYDEN ROBINSON: We always check the boxes with technique, hat placement, making sure we’re in the right space at the right time to do our job. Especially, the offensive line, that’s what you’re always thinking. How can I do my job the best this play?
    You got to shorten your train of thought. You think I have to do my job. As I mentioned earlier, there are some things we messed up on that I believe we shouldn’t have messed up on. But that happens every game. We just going to get better at those and just redo it in practice and get ready for the next game.
    Q. You mentioned one of the things you talk about is you don’t want to be the one to break. Did you guys kind of get a sense that they were about to break at any point?
    LAYDEN ROBINSON: We just kept playing the game. When you play the game and our defense was creating a lot of momentum, that tends to put a lot of pressure on the other defense because their offense is not getting anything going.
    So we just felt that down the stretch and we were like, we have to put our foots on the neck and we got to finish them. We have problems finishing in the last couple of games. So that was a big deal for our offense, that we have to finish. We have to put our foots on people’s throats and finish the drive, score in the red zone. Sometimes we didn’t score in the red zone in this game. But we have to get that habit going for our offense that we can be resilient no matter what we face.
    Q. It’s not only that he started last year a couple games but also when he was at LSU, do you think that Conner [Weigman] — I mean Max’s [Johnson] experience playing against SEC competition has given him that confidence to carry it over when he gets a chance to play in games?
    LAYDEN ROBINSON: Of course he has. Max always had that confidence even when he transferred in. You feel it. He’s no pushover at all. If you see him in practice, especially when he talks to our defense. Our defense loves it, loves his energy. That’s what he came in with. He came in with that fire, that no matter what position that he’s in, he’s going to ball out and he’s going to do what he has to do. And he showed that today.
    Y’all have a blessed day.

    Postgame Press Conference: Max Johnson

    Q. Max, you got to talk to your mom and dad yet about the touchdown?
    MAX JOHNSON: I did, I saw them right after the game. It was a pretty special moment, throwing that touchdown to Jake [Johnson]. Me and him, we have been waiting on that one for a long time. We haven’t thrown a touchdown since my senior year in high school, so that was pretty special.
    Q. What was the touchdown in your senior year of high school to him? Was it comparable to this one in the same routes and concepts?
    MAX JOHNSON: I honestly can’t remember what it was honestly. I think it was actually a whip route in the state championship game.
    Q. As a backup, you have to always be ready to go in. When you are thrown into the game like that, does it help having your brother (Jake Johnson) out there to kind of make your more comfortable and kind of ease things out?
    MAX JOHNSON: Honestly, I wasn’t really nervous at all. I have been in these situations before. And I feel like myself, like I’ve always been — I was excited to be out there with those guys. I feel like we did a great job of going out there and executing. And, of course, it was really fun to be out there with Jake.
    Q. I’m sure it had to hurt to some level when they decided to go with Conner [Weigman]. How did you get over that kind of disappointment and be able to stay focused and be able to come out and fought like you did today?
    MAX JOHNSON: I feel like I just did my best of getting mental reps when he was going and then when I was going, getting those reps.
    I think I just did a good job of listening to our coaches and letting them call the plays and then they taught me the reads. I feel like I just went out there and executed.
    Q. What did you say to Jake [Johnson] right after the touchdown? And what did he say in return?
    MAX JOHNSON: I think the first thing I said was “I love you, man.” It’s been a long time coming and that was pretty special.
    Q. It’s like a beer commercial.
    MAX JOHNSON: It was. (laughter)
    Q. Have you visited with Conner [Weigman]? How’s he doing on that front?
    MAX JOHNSON: I think he’s doing good. I think he met with the doctors. I haven’t really talked to him that much. I talked to him a little bit after the game. I think he’s doing well, though.
    Q. As a backup quarterback and then especially today, what does that look like in the mechanics of seeing a guy get hurt to the point where you’re now in the huddle and taking things over?
    MAX JOHNSON: I was in these situations last year; the year before that LSU. I’ve been in a lot of situations. I feel like I have learned from everything that I’ve been and gone through. I was ready for the moment.
    Q. What does that — do you see it? Do you go over it with Coach? Mechanically, what does that look like on the sidelines when you know you’re going from watching to going in?
    MAX JOHNSON: It definitely does change, such as talking to Coach [Bobby] Petrino and Coach [Jimbo] Fisher and making sure we’re all on the same page.
    Q. In the situation where there’s injury, a lot of times you will come in the middle of the drive. How much did it help that you actually had halftime to get a little bit of a plan together before you went out there?
    MAX JOHNSON: That was kind of big-time. Being able to go in and warm up and make sure we’re all on the same page with Coach  [Bobby] Petrino. He came in there during halftime and talked to us and made sure we all had the same read, same execution — sorry, not execution, but the same ideas.
    Q. How much fun was it out there? I know you have been with this team for more than a year, but you guys got more weapons on offense now. How much fun is it to operate this offense with the talent you have around you?
    MAX JOHNSON: We’ve got some studs, everywhere around the boards. Running back, receiver, O-line blocked their butts off. Had a lot of time. The defense played great. It’s fun playing with guys that make plays after they catch the ball.
    Q. What are you saying to the rest of your offense as you’re about to go out there for the second half? What do you say in the first huddle when you have to go in and be the leader in the first play and not playing in the first half?
    MAX JOHNSON: 100% I said, “This does not slow down. Keep blocking those butts off. And we are going to put it in the end zone. This thing is not slowing down.”
    Q. Did you ever think about leaving when you didn’t get the starting job?
    MAX JOHNSON: Never.
    Q. How come?
    MAX JOHNSON: This is where I want to be. I am getting an awesome degree here. This is where I want to be. I love the coaches, the players, I love this university. This is where I want to be.
    Q. For the guys who have been with the program for a while, obviously quarterback luck in terms of injuries has just been a bugaboo lately. What did you talk about as a team. like, “We’re going to be okay, let’s not feel sorry for ourselves, let’s go and finish that job” and not let that “Here we go again” creep in?
    MAX JOHNSON: That was our motto. Not next play, not the play behind this, this play that we’re in. That was just kind of like be in the moment. I think just the way we came out and executed and Coach [Bobby] Petrino dialed up some plays and the receivers  made some plays. I think that was fun. Just glad we came out with a win.
    Q. What was it like to be on the sideline when at times the offense was sputtering but you didn’t see the defense sputter much at all today. And they had majorly turned the page since that Miami game two weeks ago.
    MAX JOHNSON: The defense played awesome. They shut them out. We had the fumble for a touchdown. The defense played great. I’m not sure how many sacks they had. They shut them down. The way the defense encourages the offense and the offense encouraged each other, we all had each other’s back. That’s how it was.
    Q. With your whole mentality about “this thing isn’t slowing down,” your first two drives resulted in a touchdown and then y’all kind of had punt, fumble punt. What did you tell yourself to get right back in there?
    MAX JOHNSON: Just do what we do. We do it every damn practice. Coach [Bobby] Petrino had confidence in us to keep making plays. He never slowed down his play calling. Our O-line did a great job of coming through at the end with a great run blocking. So turned out well.
    Q. I was going to ask you about your other touchdown pass. Put it right through double coverage, put it right on his hands. What were you seeing that made you feel confident on that read?
    MAX JOHNSON: So I don’t know if you are talking about going to Evan [Stewart]? That was not double coverage. It was pretty much quarters coverage and that safety was covering a corner route and he ended up doing a 360 and ended up coming back on that post. Evan did a really good job of slipping inside of him and making that catch.
    Q. I’ve seen a lot of things over the years, but I’m not sure I have seen a guy go backward in eligibility. That was kind of cool. So what went into that, saying “I’m going to claim the COVID year and be a sophomore”?
    MAX JOHNSON: I think that just is where I am. Whether that’s — however many more years it is or I don’t know what it is. I’m just taking one day at a time, taking one play at a time. That’s where I am.
    Q. You were a sophomore when you beat A&M two years ago.
    MAX JOHNSON: I was a sophomore. That’s crazy how the whole COVID thing and the redshirt last year since my broken thumb. It’s crazy how many guys are getting years back.
    Q. What have you thought of the run game so far and how those guys are coming along?
    MAX JOHNSON: I think we have picked it up over the past couple games. O-line did a really good job. Bryce Foster has done a good job of IDing the mics, the whole line is on the same page and the running backs are making some great cuts.

    Q. Edgerrin, you guys had 14 tackles for losses and seven sacks today. What do you think was going right for you guys especially working up against that offensive line?
    EDGERRIN COOPER: Just simple, doing our jobs. That’s what Coach [Fisher] always said, don’t try to do anything extra, just do your job and as long as you are doing that, your plays will come to you.
    Q. Jimbo [Fisher] was talking about how games like this show you kind of a pathway of what the SEC could be like, with the back and forth turnover style. Do you believe that, knowing what you saw last year and in your time here at Texas A&M?
    EDGERRIN COOPER: It’s a battle. As far as limited mistakes, more or less than the other team and a team that comes out with the less mistakes is usually the one that comes out with the win.
    Q. Before halftime, Conner [Weigman] goes down hurt and that next drive, y’all get two sacks to hold them to a field goal. Do you feel like that was big momentum plays in the game?
    EDGERRIN COOPER: All those big plays, keeping the energy throughout the whole team, that allows us — sometimes we be exhausted out there. Bringing energy with each other, having each other’s backs, it lets us keep going. Go 100% every play.
    Q. Were you disappointed that the fumble recovery didn’t stand as it was?
    EDGERRIN COOPER: Yeah, I feel disappointed, but I’m always “next play, let’s go get another one.” Move forward from there.
    Q. As odd some of the things that happened in the first half was, how were you guys able to find some resolve through that and just kind of stumbling through a little bit there?
    EDGERRIN COOPER: Just a matter of fact, just keep going. Whatever happens with us, just next play, next play, next play. I like how our team has each other’s back. We keep communicating with each other. Just don’t let anything break us down.
    Q. How encouraging was it to see it wasn’t just — a lot of guys have phenomenal games. It just seemed like there were so many guys, whether Bryce [Anderson], yourself, Taurean [York], Chris [Russell]? Seemed like y’all were able to elevate your play.
    EDGERRIN COOPER: It feels good. Feeding off each other’s energy, lets us keeps going. Just play 110%. It’s as simple as that. That’s all we have our mindset on and just go from there.
    Q. At the end of the game when Jimbo [Fisher] decides to accept the penalty and replay third down, I know it’s third and 25, but still, does that give you a little bit of confidence to see they know that we’re potentially going to make a better play? We’re not going to give up a big play?
    EDGERRIN COOPER: A sudden change, we like situations like that, it’s a challenge for us. And we just want to accept the challenge.
    Q. Can you maybe expand upon how this helps you guys going into the Arkansas game and beyond? Because there were some people that saw the way you guys performed against ULM and said, “Well, that’s ULM.” I think this opens up a few more eyes and just how that gives you confidence.
    EDGERRIN COOPER: It does. Momentum is a big thing in football. And as far as moving forward, next week, take it week by week and just do our jobs.

    Postgame Press Conference: Ainias Smith

    Q. Unfortunately, you have been through more than one quarterback change due to injury. What did you think of how Max [Johnson] came off the bench and his performance in the second half?
    AINIAS SMITH: Man, I mean, I always knew that he was ready for the situation, you know what I’m saying? Ready for anything that was going to come his way.
    I was very proud of the way that he just always stayed level-headed, stayed composed. There was a lot of people that can turn their backs on a team or shy away from their responsibility to the team when they don’t get the things that they always want at the beginning.
    But, shoot, he came in and it was like he — like we never missed a beat. So I was very proud of the way he came in and played and even, like, during the practice, you know what I’m saying? During the practice he’s always leading. I already knew he was ready.
    Q. In the first quarter there was kind of a weird series of plays and one of those was on the snap, went over the punter’s head. You are back there trying to return the punt. What’s going through your mind when that happened and then he ultimately kicked it and you had a chance to turn it. 
    AINIAS SMITH: My whole thing was I was hoping that the guys that was blocking, they saw it. You know what I’m saying? Hopefully they go get a rush, go get the ball so we can have real good field position.
    But then once I saw that he had enough space to kick it, I was like, okay, he is either going to kick it or he is going to run it. You know what I’m saying? I was just ready for any situation. But then once he kicked, I was like, he had room. So it was happening. You know what I’m saying?
    Q. You have been on both sides of games that have some crazy ebbs and flows. What have you found that is the key to finding some resolve through all that?
    AINIAS SMITH: Yeah, man, like you say, I have been through a lot. My biggest thing is whether you are on offense or on defense, special teams, it doesn’t matter. You go to get a play started. That first play is very important. Making sure that you have positive yards on that first down or, in the defense’s case, make sure they don’t get positive yards. You know what I’m saying? Just really starting fast.
    Whatever the situation is, make sure you are starting fast and really just finishing. You know what I’m saying? I wish we could have finished a little bit better at the beginning of the game. Even towards the end, we still need to finish a little bit better.
    That first play, I feel like, is a real big momentum starter. You know what I’m saying? Or it could take a lot of momentum away. That first play, just starting fast.
    Q. Conner’s [Weigman] injury may complicate things a little bit. But do you feel like you put Miami behind you? You have a couple of wins. Where do you think your team is and what it’s still capable of?
    AINIAS SMITH: I feel like this team is the limit on the things that we can do is all the way to the sky. I feel like we have so much potential and want to do things that we say we want to do. You know what I’m saying? Whether that’s on the offensive side or on the defensive side.
    Them boys on the defensive side definitely stepped up today. They flushed that Miami game down the drain. I know we not even worried about that. Last week we played pretty well and looked at the film. We just wanted to carry those same things that we did well over to this week.
    And we have to do the exact same thing going into next week. You know what I’m saying? We are just taking it day by day and week by week, just keep pushing.
    Q. Jimbo [Fisher] said in games like this it shows kind of the strengths about a team because of the back-and-forth miss. Do you believe that because of the way the SEC is, that this is a game to really kind of set the mind going into the other games moving forward?
    AINIAS SMITH: Most definitely. With the SEC, you never know what can happen. You know what I’m saying? Even in a game that we played today, them boys, seemed like they started getting a little momentum. It was 20-10. 20-3 at first. Them boys scored. And then we wasn’t able to move the ball, for real. Wasn’t able to get past the 50.
    They had a few opportunities where they had some real good field position. Fortunately for us, penalties helped them move — helped us move them back or whatnot.
    But at the same time, like, that can be momentum. You know what I’m saying? Even when it was 6-0, it was like, all right, we need to go score. When we wasn’t, the momentum can be shifted in one play. You know what I’m saying? They can go up 7-0.
    It’s real important for us to keep our poise and to keep fighting the way we did and just keep doing that all the way through the rest of the season, you know what I’m saying?
    Like I say, any SEC game can go either way. We just really have to make sure that we start fast and finish stronger.
    Q. You have been waiting for the run game to pick it up with Amari [Daniels] and Le’Veon [Moss], especially Le’Veon getting over 100 yards. What did you notice from the offensive line? And how much more productive can this team be offensively when you have the run game going?
    AINIAS SMITH: I feel like when all numbers are clicking, we can be unstoppable. You know what I’m saying? Big toast to the O-line, man. They came out and they wanted to dominate those guys. you know what I’m saying? Even mid drive you know what I mean, we played sure the message to those boys, let’s blow them boys off the ball. Whatever the case was. They did that. They came together. They executed and they played real well.
    Q. How big is it to win your SEC opener and kind of set the stage and maybe the mindset as you guys start conference play?
    AINIAS SMITH: I feel like it’s huge. You know what I’m saying? Giving a lot of people on the outside things to see or whatnot.
    But for us personally, you know, we try not to worry about all the outside noise. But for us to be able to get this win, it just shows to ourselves that we are capable of doing a lot. You know what I’m saying?
    Once we watch film, we’re going to see that we’re capable of doing a whole lot more. So we just got to keep fighting, keep pushing.
    This first game means everything. The first SEC win, I should say, means everything, and we just got to keep stacking.
    Q. You see the potential this offense has and the way you guys were able to kick it up in the second half. How do you guys get to that on a more consistent level?
    AINIAS SMITH: Man, I feel like it all starts in practice, those Tuesdays, those Wednesdays when it’s hot, even on Mondays, those days when we come in fresh out of the stretch and stride on Sunday. A lot of people — but not a lot of people, but teams that I have been on before, we try to just get by on those Mondays. And I feel like that’s not what it’s going to take.
    Every single day is going to have to be a grind. We have been emphasizing, finishing, throughout practice. Really, that’s what we need to keep working on. Those days, those Tuesdays, those Wednesdays when it gets hard, it gets hot and people are tired, especially at the end of practice, that’s when we have to focus in and really go finish. Like I said, it all started in practice and then making sure we do it on a consistent basis.
    Q. Max Johnson said after Conner [Weigman] was named the starter, he never considered the transfer portal. What does it do for an offense to not only have a backup who has that experience, but the commitment to where he’s at?
    AINIAS SMITH: Man, I mean, just hearing that from you, it’s like that gave me a boost of confidence. Not even because Conner is hurt or whatnot. The fact that he loves this team. He wants to be part of this team. He wants to be a winner. He’s going to do whatever it takes.
    And I know that, but just hearing from you — I wasn’t even in here when he said that. It never crossed my mind that he was, like, considering the transfer portal, and then now that you said that, he wasn’t considering that, I mean, that’s all you need. That’s all you need to build that confidence and that chemistry. That’s tough.
    Thank you, God bless and Gig ’em.
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