In the weeks leading up to Texas A&M’s Music City Bowl appearance against Louisville, nearly all the talk was focused on the quarterback position.
Oh, the irony.
In the end, it wasn’t A&M quarterback Jake Hubenak’s performance that cost the Aggies a chance to win their ninth game of the season. Instead, it was the play of Louisville true freshman quarterback Lamar Jackson as the Cardinals (8-5) won 27-21 Wednesday night.
Jackson wheeled and dealed his way to 453 total yards and four touchdowns. That Jackson picked up the clinching first down in the game’s final minute is only appropriate: The Aggies (8-5) knew what was coming, yet were helpless to stop it.
It was that way for much of the game, too. Still, there the Aggies were with under two minutes left, 24 yards away from pulling off the comeback. That draws attention to another aspect that led to A&M’s loss: Its failure to capitalize in key moments.
If this game is remembered for anything at all by the general populace, it will be Jackson’s performance; he became just the third quarterback in FBS history with 200 yards passing and 200 yards rushing in the same bowl (the others: Vince Young and Johnny Manziel). But A&M’s offensive players likely will remember the squandered opportunities.
A&M marched to Louisville’s 39 midway through the second quarter before attempting a failed deep shot on fourth down.
Then, with a chance to take the lead early in the third quarter, the Aggies shot themselves in the foot. This time, a 25-yard pass from Hubenak to Ricky Seals-Jones that put the Aggies at Louisville’s 15 was negated by a personal foul on offensive tackle Avery Gennesy. A few plays later, Hubenak fumbled on a sack.
Lastly, there was the final drive that stalled just outside the red zone. If there were any time during the game that you felt like A&M may have had Adidas whip up a swagged-out rabbit’s foot, this was the drive.
On two occasions, the Aggies failed to convert either a third or fourth down; both times, the drive was saved by a Louisville penalty. There will be those that say a third — pass interference — should have been called on A&M’s final offensive play, but the point remains: A&M had its chances but could not get it done.
Hubenak threw for 307 yards and two touchdowns, seeming to grow in confidence as the game wore on. Tra Carson eclipsed the 100-yard mark for the seventh time this season, including a touchdown run and a 55-yard sprint, his longest jaunt of the season. Josh Reynolds had 11 catches for 177 yards. And despite obvious pain from a leg injury, Christian Kirk had 10 receptions for 84 yards and a touchdown. His TD cut Louisville’s lead to 27-21 and gave the Aggies renewed hope.
Still, few Aggies fans will be talking about the play of Kirk, Hubenak, Reynolds or Carson. They may even stop talking about Kyler Murray and Kyle Allen. But they’ll all be talking about Lamar Jackson.
Jackson threw for 227 yards and ran for another 226. He accounted for 79 yards and a touchdown on Louisville’s first drive alone, setting the tone for the night. Presumably, the Aggies’ defense worked on stopping the dual-threat quarterback in the weeks leading up to the game. Instead, they made him look like a Manziel prototype.
Oh, the irony.
(You can follow Cavender Neutze on Twitter @neutz9)
(Feature photo by JIM BROWN/USA TODAY SPORTS)
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