One aspect of the Texas A&M offense that isn’t getting near the attention it deserves is the threat they pose in the running game. We’ve all heard about Manziel’s ability to make plays with his feet, but the Aggies also possess two talented running backs, in Ben Malena and Christine Michael.
The Aggies are averaging 235 yards a game on the ground this season.
Malena has seen the bulk of the carries this season, rushing for 752 yards on 130 carries (5.8 yard average). Michael has returned from an ACL tear a year ago, by rushing for 417 yards on 88 carries (4.7 yard average) in a back-up role. But what makes this group so dangerous, is the fact that they’re both “complete” backs.
“They’re very effective players, and they’re effective receivers too,” said Oklahoma defensive coordinator, Mike Stoops. “The area that I really like is their screens and how they get the ball to them in different areas of the field. They’re both big-time runners and a big part of their offense. People don’t realize how well they run the football. Manziel can distract you in a number of different ways, but those two guys are very consistent players. They’ve been around and they understand what their run game is all about.”
Combined, Malena and Michael are averaging just over 100 yards per game. When the Aggies have been at their best offensively, both have made significant impacts on the game. The task of slowing down the Aggies offense will be tough enough for the Sooners, but if they also allow them to consistently run the ball, it will open up things even more for Manziel, which is something the Sooners cannot allow to happen.
Malena realizes there’s not a lot of attention on the running backs coming into this game. But he also says the group is using that as motivation.
“As a running back group, we hear that,” said Malena. “We just come out to practice every day and work as hard as we can. We watch as much film as possible, and when we do team and individual drills, we go as hard as we can. We probably have one of the best offensive lines in the country. So if we stick behind our lineman and carry through with all of our assignments, we should be very effective running the ball.”
When the Aggies running backs have combined for over 100 yards rushing, they’re 7-1 on the season. Counting Manziel’s yards on the ground, when the Aggies have rushed for over 135 yards, they’re 10-0 on the season. Stopping the run is a huge key to any game, but possibly even more so with this game considering the threat the Aggies pose offensively.
The bad news for the Sooners, is that they’ve struggled to stop the run the season. Opponents are averaging 181 yards per game on the ground, which ranks 80th in the country. If the Aggies come out victorious, it’s very likely we will look back and say they were able to successfully run the ball throughout the entire game.