The Texas A&M football team shut down the No. 25 University of Alabama-Birmingham at Kyle Field Saturday night, earning a 41-20 win on Senior Night.
“It was a solid game, but we need to play better,” A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher said. “We don’t need to give up that many yards and that many third down conversions.”
On A&M’s first true drive of the night, junior punter Braden Mann broke the NCAA’s single-season record for 60-plus yard punts, making his season total 14.
“I love seeing the success that he has because you talk about a guy that works so hard,” junior running back, and Mann’s roommate, Trayveon Williams said. “He has a strong leg. I'm glad he's finally getting this opportunity to do what he does. He's amazing.”
The A&M defense was not as dominant in the game as it was against Ole Miss, but it still held UAB to 111 rushing yards and forced the Blazers to resort to three unsuccessful field goal attempts. The defense had two interceptions in the game, both coming at critical times.
The first by senior defensive back Donovan Wilson gave the Aggies possession at midfield, which they turned into a score. Senior defensive back Deshawn Capers-Smith recorded the second, which stopped what could have been a UAB touchdown.
“That was a big interception for [Wilson],” Fisher said. “We needed it big time.”
A&M's receiving corps had a less spectacular night, netting 192 passing yards on 11 completions compared to UAB’s 306 passing yards. Sophomore signal caller Kellen Mond went 11-of-20, notching two touchdowns and no interceptions.
“I felt really confident this whole game,” Mond said. “I felt really good in the pocket. It definitely helps with my confidence.”
The Aggies drew first blood after UAB fumbled the kickoff. Junior defensive back Larry Pryor scooped up the fumble and returned it 17 yards for the touchdown, which was the first of his career.
“That was crazy,” Pryor said. “I shed a block and I look up and the ball is in my hands. My thinking from that point was, ‘I’m going to score.’ I shed a few more blocks and before I knew it, I was in the end zone. It was a great feeling.”
UAB responded less than four minutes later to tie the game 7-7 with a nine yard pass from freshman quarterback Tyler Johnston III to senior wide receiver Andre Wilson.
The Aggies stepped back into the lead with a nine yard touchdown of their own after Williams ran it in to cap off a six play, 66-yard drive.
The Blazers attempted to answer on the next drive, but a missed 43-yard field goal squashed their chances. The Aggies took the resulting drive 56 yards to set up a 34-yard field goal by freshman Seth Small.
Wilson made an interception with less than two minutes left in the first half to give the Aggies possession at midfield. A&M marched into the end zone six plays later, with Williams capping off the drive with a one-yard run to give the Aggies a 24-7 lead.
Small opened scoring in the second half with a 25-yard field goal to widen A&M’s lead to 27-7.
One of the two passing touchdowns of the night came at the end of the third quarter when Mond connected with junior tight end Jace Sternberger on a 25-yard pass to widen the scoring margin to 34-7.
Capers-Smith notched his first career interception on A&M’s four yard line to halt a fiery UAB drive. Senior running back Kwame Etwi fumbled the ball on the next play giving the Blazers possession at the 11-yard line that they soon converted with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Wilson.
Sophomore defensive lineman Jayden Peevy blocked the extra point attempt — his second blocked kick of the night — to settle the score at 34-13.
A&M’s second touchdown pass went to Sternberger again and put the Aggies up 41-13 with 9:21 left in the game.
UAB earned the final points of the night on a 10-yard touchdown run by sophomore Spencer Brown.
The Aggies will host SEC opponent No. 10 LSU next Saturday at 6:30 p.m. to end the regular season.