COLLEGE STATION - If Texas A&M wanted to make a statement in the Southeastern Conference, Saturday was their chance. The Aggies collected 441 yards of total offense and caused three turnovers on their way to a 49-30 victory over Mississippi State.
The Aggies (5-3, 3-2 SEC) finally clicked on all cylinders offensively. The team averaged 5.3 yards per carry on the ground while Kellen Mond continued his success at Kyle Field. For the first time all season, the rushing attack led the charge over the passing game.
"Kellen I thought really managed the game well today. ...he was so accurate with the football," A&M coach Jimbo Fisher said. "He just keeps growing as a football player."
Mond was the x-factor moving the ball downfield. Following his trip to Ole Miss, where he threw two interceptions, the junior knew he needed to step up in front of the home crowd. He delivered on multiple ends.
The San Antonio native started his second drive with a 1-yard touchdown run. His legs would help keep the ball moving forward as he'd finish with 76 yards on the ground. Mond would pile forward for a 12-yard touchdown run just before the end of the first quarter.
The team wasted little time through the air. In the second quarter, Mond would connect with wide receiver Kendrick Rogers, who used his strength to break through for a 16-yard touchdown. The drive before, he'd connect with former roommate Jhamon Ausbon at the back of the end zone for a 19-yard score.
The freshman hype continued on offense as three players made their case for a growing role in the future. Running back Isaiah Spiller followed up his 78-yard game in Oxford with 90 yards at home, including a 4-yard touchdown run. Tight end Jalen Wydermyer continued the Aggies production in the second half with a 52-yard touchdown catch to extend the lead by 25. Kenyon Green continued his production as a blocker on the offensive line.
A&M's defense was bruised, but still found ways to contend without key players. The Bulldogs (3-5), led by freshman quarterback Garrett Shrader, made several mental mistakes before finally finding stability on offense.
The Bulldogs were driving on their second series before Shrader made an ill-advised throw that would be intercepted by Devin Morris. The Aggies would score on the following possession. In the second quarter, Nick Gibson would fumble thanks to freshman safety Demani Richardson, leading to another Aggies score.
"This isn't where we want to be, and this isn't what we're about," Mississippi State coach Joe Moorhead said following the loss.
The run defense had their fair share of struggles in the second half. Bulldog running back Kylin Hill broke out in the open field for a 39-yard pickup and would score on the same drive with a 4-yard run, making it 49-24 in the fourth. Shrader would finish 13 of 30 for 194 yards and three touchdowns.
A late fumble caused by cornerback Myles Jones against Stephen Guidry would lead to a Cordarrian Richardson 2-yard run to seal the game. Although the Bulldogs would score on a 38-yard touchdown from Isaiah Zuber, the clocked played against their favor.
Consistency finally played a role in the Aggies win. For six consecutive drives, A&M scored in some capacity. The run game balanced out the pass while every receiver made at least one catch.
"You learn to feed off each other, that's what sports is about," Fisher said. "We capitalized today."
And Mond impressed once more. Despite being inconsistent on the road, his outings in Kyle Field seem to lead to positive results. That could be a blessing or a curse when they finish the season on the road against top-10 ranked Georgia and LSU.
The Aggies will face the UTSA Roadrunners next Saturday, November 2 at 11 at Kyle Field. Kickoff will take place at 11 A.M. and the game will be televised on SEC Network.