COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Following last week’s second-half collapse against UCLA, many would’ve thought things couldn’t get any worse for Kevin Sumlin and Texas A&M.
But it nearly did Saturday night in A&M’s slim 24-14 win over FCS foe Nicholls State.
Going into the fourth quarter, the Aggies found themselves in a 14-14 tie with a team that gave up 35 points to McNeese State a week earlier.
Texas A&M’s offense went stagnant once again with true freshman Kellen Mond at the helm. After jumping out to a 14-point lead in the first quarter, it wasn’t until midway through the fourth quarter that the Aggies found the end zone again, on third-string running back Kendall Bussey’s 2-yard touchdown run.
Just how bad did it get in the middle quarters? In the second quarter, the Aggies gained a total of 13 yards.
The offense did get a spark midway through the third when senior quarterback Jake Hubenak entered the game. Hubenak moved the ball effectively int he air, going 12-of-15 for 95 yards. It wasn’t throwing the football, though, where Hubenak made the biggest difference; rather, it was the calming veteran presence in the huddle.
A big problem with Texas A&M’s blown lead last week was poor clock management in the final quarter, as the Aggies consistently snapped the ball with more than 15 seconds left on the play clock. With Hubenak, the Aggies milked the clock after Bussey’s touchdown, driving the field for a field goal with less than 30 seconds remaining to seal the victory.
“I thought Jake came in and did a nice job,” Sumlin said. “I thought he operated with tempo and was able to manage the clock.”
Defensively, don’t let the relativey paltry total of 14 points fool you; the performance was a head-scratcher as well. There was an inability to put pressure on the passer, and Nicholls State quarterback Chase Fourcade consistently found wide receiver Damion Jeanpierre over the top for big completions. Jeanpierre finished with five catches for 174 yards.
On top of that, the Aggies also decided to roll with inexperience in the secondary, with true freshman Myles Jones and sophomore Charles Oliver getting the starts at cornerback. Those decisions proved to come back to bite them.
“Myles Jones made some good plays,” Sumlin said. “You see the talent with both him and Charles Oliver; the consistency just isn’t there yet.”
A key change on the defense was senior Priest Willis moving inside and playing nickel. With Donovan Wilson presumably out for the season, the Aggies will have to find other defensive playmakers, which most likely warranted Willis’ move.
Sumlin took a positive outlook after the game: “There is no such thing as a bad win. I feel like we learned more about our team this week than if we would’ve won by four touchdowns.”
The problem is that Texas A&M should never be tied with an FCS opponent in the fourth quarter, let alone in Sumlin’s sixth season as coach.
(You can follow Dalton Hughes on Twitter @_DaltonHughes)
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