HOUSTON, Texas - Two fumbles early from Kellen Mond could have been the knife in the coffin for Texas A&M. The junior had struggled away from Kyle Field all season, specifically finding little success in neutral sites.
A second-half resurgence from the Aggies offense kept them alive in the third quarter, instrumented by Mond finding his go-to weapons of Jalen Wydermyer and Jhamon Aubson to tie the game at 14. In the end, it would be Mond who would show up as the leader for the Aggies, punching in a 67-yard touchdown run to give the team a 24-21 victory in the 2019 Texas Bowl.
The Cowboys' (8-5, 5-4 Big 12) offense exposed A&M early, scoring early on a 42-yard touchdown pass from Dru Brown to Braydon Johnson. The Pokes responded later in the first quarter with a 9-yard touchdown run from Brown following a 57-yard completion.
Brown, who was named the starter following an injury to freshman Spencer Sanders, continued to impress with his arm. The Hawaii transfer would throw for 184 yards yards along with scoring three total touchdowns. Sanders, who was expected to play according to Mike Gundy, saw little action overall, rushing for only three yards on one play.
With the loss of Cordarrian Richardson, the Aggies (8-5, 4-4 SEC) wouldn’t expose freshman Isaiah Spiller to an immense workload. Instead, wide receiver Ainias Smith would become a multi-purpose weapon for the offense, finding success with his hands and his legs.
Early in the third quarter, Smith would keep the ball on an option for a 19-yard gain, placing the Aggies inside the Cowboys’ red zone. Mond and Aubson would connect three plays later on a 10-yard touchdown.
Smith would finish with 67 yards of offense. Spiller, the team’s only scholarship running back active, would rush for 77 yards on 19 carries and scored a 1-yard touchdown.
Despite losing the game, the Cowboys won in the record books thanks to Chuba Hubbard. The Alberta native led the nation with 1,936 yards and 21 touchdowns, needing only 64 to surpass 2,000. In the second quarter, Hubbard would break free for a 16-yard gain, becoming the 32nd player in NCAA history to reach the 2K mark.
Hubbard would finish with 158 yards on 19 carries
The Jeykll/Hyde effect from Mond has been prevalent all season. Perhaps Friday was a replay of all the moments from the quarterback’s lackluster season. During the first half, Mond would connect for only 35 yards and seven completions. Two superb passes in the second half showed the danger of A&M’s offense before back to back sacks weakened the statement.
The Cowboys could have taken a one-score lead behind the leg of Matt Amendola. The Big 12 honorary mention was 21 of 24 on field goal attempts during the regular season but struggled in the home of the Texans. The senior would miss from 53 and 46 in the first half.
A late surge from Hubbard gave A&M fans a scare. The sophomore would break free for a 43-yard gain, setting the Cowboys up in Aggie territory. Two stops from DeMarvin Leal, including a fourth-down turnover sealed the drive in favor of A&M.
The Aggies would close the season off with a win in the Lone Star state. In front of a crowd of over 68,00, predominately Aggies, the team showed the potential future success of the program. With young talent finding success and big-time plays, the team has its identity to build off heading into the new decade.
Best of all, the Aggies finally have a top 25 win under their demanding schedule to mark progress. It only took all season to cross the finish line.