5 things we learned from Texas A&M’s 31-28 loss to Ole Miss

If you had the pleasure of watching last night’s game, you already know that Texas A&M fell to Ole Miss 31-28, and has now lost four straight games for the first time since the 2005 season and is on the brink of not achieving bowl eligibility since 2008. So here we are, waiting yet another week to see if the now 3-5 Aggies will break through their dreadful losing streak with four games remaining in the 2022 season.

Here’s a quick recap of Saturday night’s matchup: In freshman quarterback, Conner Weigman’s first career start with the program, the former Texas high school standout completed 28 of 44 passes for 338 yards and 4 touchdowns on the night, virtually cementing himself as the starter from here on out, while head coach Jimbo Fisher confirmed just that after the game. Star running back Devon Achane continued his consistent offensive streak, racking up 179 yards from scrimmage, with 138 on the ground.

Wide receivers Moose Muhammad (8 receptions, 138 yards, 1 touchdown), and Evan Stewart (6 receptions, 88 yards, 1 touchdown) have continued to increase their level of play every week while providing a glimpse into the future in what could be an elite wide receiver group with a more experiences Conner Weigman throwing the ball.

Now, the ugly truth; Texas A&M had every opportunity to win this game, even when they struggled to move the ball in the second half, yet the Aggie defense, who has notably been the weekly bright spot for the team in the last few weeks, completely fell apart against the Rebels after surrendering over 400 yards on the ground, and 205 to freshman running back Quinshon Judkins. All in all, strides were made offensively, while the defense took a big step back.

As head coach, Jimbo Fisher’s future with the program is still intact as we currently stand, staff changes may be coming by the season’s end, and with four games remaining, the Aggies have until the end of November to prove that they still have their winning mentality intact, because there are definitely wins to be had. With that, here are 5 things we learned from Texas A&M’s 31-28 loss vs. Ole Miss.

Meet your new QB1: Conner Weigman

COLLEGE STATION, TEXAS – OCTOBER 29: Conner Weigman #15 of the Texas A&M Aggies signals at the line of scrimmage in the first quarter of the game against the Mississippi Rebels at Kyle Field on October 29, 2022 in College Station, Texas. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)

What is the most important fact we learned after the Aggies’ loss on Saturday night? The offense has come back to life, and it only took freshman quarterback Conner Weigman to have fans believe that the future, as bleak as it looked, may be much brighter than expected with Conner leading the offense every fall Saturday for the next two seasons.

To avoid repeating myself, Weigman threw for 338 yards and 4, yes 4 touchdowns against Ole Miss, looking confident in the pocket, while showing great velocity on his throws, and performed his best when the offense went up-tempo in the first half. Not to say he didn’t make a number of freshman mistakes, but for the majority of the game, he gave the Aggies a chance to win and has solidified the quarterback spot from here on out, which is surely something Aggie fans can be happy about amid the struggles.

Texas A&M's run defense is a problem

Oct 29, 2022; College Station, Texas, USA; Mississippi Rebels running back Quinshon Judkins (4) runs the ball against Texas A&M Aggies defensive back Jaylon Jones (17) in the second half at Kyle Field. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

Aggie fans remember the 2016 LSU game in which running back Derrius Guice ran for 285 yards and 4 touchdowns at Kyle Field, so why not wait six seasons to run it back?

Entering the matchup against the Rebels, the Aggie defense, as beat up as they were, knew that Ole Miss was the third-best running team in the nation, doing it all behind their three-headed monster of running backs Quinshon Judkins, Zach Evans, and Ulysses Bentley, who obliterated the defense for over 400 yards on the ground, and 205 yards to Judkins. the culprit? Missed tackles, poor gap maintenance, and an overall lack of intensity throughout the night.

Texas A&M’s run defense has not been spectacular by any means this season, but that performance was completely unacceptable and downright disturbing if we’re being honest. Youth and injuries up front due play a role, and adjustments from defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin will be made, but man oh man, that was a terrible showing.

Moose Muhammad and Evan Stewart's development are just a glimpse into the future of the Aggies passing game

COLLEGE STATION, TEXAS – OCTOBER 29: Evan Stewart #1 of the Texas A&M Aggies catches a pass for a touchdown in the first quarter defended by Deantre Prince #7 of the Mississippi Rebels during the game at Kyle Field on October 29, 2022 in College Station, Texas. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)

I’m not going to sprinkle you with moral victories throughout this article, but with the Aggies sitting at 3-5, you have to look for the silver linings. Going into the game against Ole Miss, the change at quarterback as freshman Conner Weigman made his first career start, the wide receivers had to step up and make plays to get the young signal caller in a rhythm, and boy did they early and often.

As I noted above, sophomore Moose Muhammad made 8 receptions for 138 yards and a touchdown, while freshman phenom Evan Stewart accumulated 6 receptions for 88 yards and a beautifully executed 1 handed touchdown grab in the first quarter, adding to his already stellar freshman season highlight reel. What do we take from these performances? Throw out the overused term “the future is bright” because we have no idea how things will unfold for the program in its present state, but if Moose and Evan continue to play like one of the better-receiving tandems in the country, Conner Weigman will have plenty to work with down the line.

Antonio Johnson's defensive presence was sorely missed against the Rebels

Oct 29, 2022; College Station, Texas, USA; Texas A&M Aggies defensive back Jaylon Jones (17) tackles Mississippi Rebels quarterback Jaxson Dart (2) in the first half at Kyle Field. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

Defensive back Antonio Johnson, widely noted as the most complete player on defense for the Aggies missed Saturday’s game against Ole Miss due to lingering injuries against Alabama a couple of weeks ago, which left a gaping hole in the middle of the defense. Due to Johnson’s size and versatility at the nickel corner position, he also serves as a hybrid linebacker in different packages and is used as a defensive spy against running quarterbacks depending on the matchup.

Well, it seemed like the Aggie defense did not prepare at all for Ole Miss quarterback Jaxson Dart, who came into the game with over 300 plus yards on the ground and continued that trend with 95 yards rushing against the maroon and white, exposing the middle of the defense, while a multitude of freshman defenders seemed out of place on multiple occasions. Would Antonio Johnson have shut down Dart throughout the night? I doubt it, but I can safely say that his speed and shear instincts against the run would have limited quarterback runs, and possibly given the Aggie offense more opportunities in key moments in the second half, where most of Dart’s damage was done.

With four games left, It's time go full steam ahead

COLLEGE STATION, TEXAS – OCTOBER 29: Evan Stewart #1 of the Texas A&M Aggies is congratulated by teammates after a first quarter touchdown reception during the game against the Mississippi Rebels at Kyle Field on October 29, 2022 in College Station, Texas. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)

Let me remind you for context: Texas A&M is 3-5 and 1-4 in the SEC, so in essence, not good. But, with four games remaining in the 2022 regular season, it’s time to let loose and just play football. As quarterback Conner Weigman continues to ascend paired with a young defense that will continue to get better, there are games to be won in the next four weeks, and with three of those games being played at Kyle Field, the opportunities are there for the taking.

We can call this a lost season, a failure, etc., but at the end of the day, Aggie fans just want to see progress, and we saw that in a big way on offense on Saturday night even in a loss. Wipe the slate clean, and go full steam ahead.

Story originally appeared on Aggies Wire