Texas A&M had no trouble taking care of business Saturday night in a 52-10 win over outnammed New Mexico State.
Here are five takeaways from Texas A&M’s win.
Christian Kirk breaks out.
After seemingly being bottled up most of the season, he busted out in a big way. First, he showed his raw speed and evasive ability on a 70-yard punt return for a touchdown. Then, he did the same thing later in the game. The 73-yarder in the third quarter gave Kirk the school record for punt-return touchdowns in a game (two) and a career (four). Yes, Kirk is a powerful force at receiver (where he also caught his sixth touchdown of the season Saturday), but it’s the extra things he can do that make him such a prized part of this Texas A&M team.
Texas A&M will look different next year, but it will be fine.
When Trevor Knight was pulled from the game in the second half because of Texas A&M’s substantial lead, backup Jake Hubenak came in at quarterback. And, frankly, what he showed was solid. Hubenak was 7-of-10 for 78 yards and a touchdown and kept the Texas A&M offense humming along while playing behind the first-team offensive line. Then there were players such as defensive lineman Jarrett Johnson, linebacker Tyrel Dodson and running back Kendall Bussey, who saw more time than usual and will benefit from it moving forward. “Knowing how the game is supposed to be played (at this level) will help these guys be ready for next year,” A&M coach Kevin Sumlin said afterward.
The defense showed some improvement in key areas.
In games against overmatched opponents, stats that mean something can be hard to come by. That said, Texas A&M’s third-down defense stood out. After allowing Alabama to convert on 50 percent of its third downs last week, Texas A&M cut that in half against New Mexico State (5-of-20). All in all, it wasn’t Texas A&M’s most dominant or impressive performance on defense. But after suffering its first loss of the season and trending in the wrong direction lately, it was a solid showing that came at a great time.
The passing attack has its most efficient game of the year.
Texas A&M has been better running the ball than passing it this season, but it looked strong through the air against New Mexico State. Between Knight and Hubenak, 11 different receivers caught passes. A&M quarterbacks were 22-of-34 (a season-high 67.7 percent complete rate) and threw three touchdowns. If the season is going to go down as a historic one for Texas A&M, seeing those types of numbers more consistently will play a key role.
Texas A&M should be right in the playoff mix.
Perhaps the most important thing for Texas A&M on Saturday is that others lost. While the Aggies slammed the door on a lesser opponent, plenty of their peers struggled or failed to do the same. Louisville and Ohio State struggled before winning. Previously unbeaten teams Baylor, West Virginia and Nebraska lost. Texas A&M needs to avoid the chaos down the stretch; if the Aggies do so, they could be in the playoff discussion.
(You can follow Cavender Neutze on Twitter @neutz9)
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