Football vs. Tennessee

Defensive lineman Tyree Johnson celebrates after a stop.

No. 5 Texas A&M defeated Tennessee 34-13 during its last regular game of the season in its first visit to Neyland Stadium, making its final case to the College Football Playoff selection committee. Here’s what we learned.

Time of possession

One aspect of Texas A&M football that cannot be argued is that the Aggies have dominated many games in regard to time of possession. During a Nov. 28 game against the prior national champions, the maroon and white had the ball for 33:32 while LSU had it for 26:28. This was no different against the Volunteers; the Aggies had the ball for 44:09 minutes to Tennessee’s 15:51. In A&M’s prior game against Auburn, the Aggies had 38 minutes of possession while the Tigers had 22.

Fisher said while time of possession is important, it is even more important what the team does in that time.

“Time of possession is very important,” Fisher said. “But it is also important if you are scoring points with time of possession…. when you’re getting possession and you’re scoring points, then you really make a difference. And that’s how we’re playing.”

Kellen Mond

Mond has finished his last regular season game as an Aggie, capturing the program records for all-time offensive yards, all-time passing yards and all-time passing touchdowns thrown this season. While at Neyland Stadium, the quarterback ran five yards for the Aggies’ opening touchdown. Mond also threw for 281 passing yards and rushed a total of 59 yards. The signal caller also threw for one touchdown to sophomore running back Ainais Smith as well.

In sight of Mond’s accomplishments and play, A&M coach Jimbo Fisher said Mond is a winner not only in his play, but also in his leadership.

“[Kellen Mond] has outstanding leadership in the way he’s responded back,” Fisher said. “This guy is a winner. [He] is a class guy and a heck of a football player.”

Isaiah Spiller

Sophomore running back Isaiah Spiller is now only 14 yards away from a career total of 1,000 rushing yards. The 6-foot-1 Spring, Texas native went into the matchup at Tennessee with 897 rushing yards and put up 89 against the Volunteers. He also recorded six receptions for 60 receiving yards. Spiller also put up one touchdown, on a three-yard run on the first drive of the second quarter.

Mond said Spiller deserves that benchmark of 1,000 rushing yards because of his character.

“[1,000 rushing yards] is going to be huge for him,” Mond said. “He’s not necessarily a huge stats guy. That’ll be a big mark for him to hit. He’s been super selfless even after he goes down today, we put him in at fullback and he had some great blocks for Ainias [Smith]. He’s been super selfless, he’s ready to finish off his season super strong.”

The defense

After giving up a score on the opening drive, the A&M defense regained its momentum, holding the Volunteers to just 24 rushing yards. The passing game was where the defense faltered, as it allowed Tennessee to put up 189 passing yards in addition to two touchdowns.

Senior linebacker Buddy said the defensive leaders helped the defense regain its composure following Tennessee’s opening drive.

“We just came out, we were a little too relaxed,” Johnson said. “It was up to the leaders to get to the team back together and to get [the] guys going. I think the guys did a great job of putting that behind us and moving on.”

Playoff potential

After the maroon and white’s performance against Tennessee, and with Ohio State having a less-than-dominant 12-point win over Northwestern, A&M could be considered for the fourth spot in the 2021 College Football Playoffs. The four teams who will face off in the playoffs will be revealed on Sunday, Dec. 20, at 11 a.m. central standard time.

Fisher said A&M is past playoff potential and deserves to be in the playoffs.

“I haven’t lobbied, I haven’t said a word,” Fisher said. “But know this, we’re 8-1 in the SEC. We lost to the No. 1 team in the country. I want to see someone else go 8-1 in this league, and stand up and do it. We can play with anybody, we can. We do deserve to be in [the playoffs].”

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