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A&M closes season with Chick-fil-A Bowl bout

Published: Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Updated: Tuesday, December 31, 2013 18:12

The No. 21 Texas A&M Aggies will close out their 2013 season when they take on the No. 24 Duke Blue Devils on New Year’s Eve in the Chick-fil-A Bowl in Atlanta, Ga. The Aggies (8-4, 4-4 SEC) closed out their regular season with a 28-21 loss to No. 9 Missouri while the Blue Devils ended their season with a loss to top-ranked Florida State in the ACC Championship Game.

The Aggies will be participating in the college football postseason for the fifth straight year and are seeking their third straight bowl win. Texas A&M defeated Oklahoma 41-13 in the Cotton Bowl last season and triumphed over Northwestern, 33-22, in the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas in 2011.

“I am excited about the chance to play Duke in the Chick-fil-A Bowl,” senior defensive back Toney Hurd said. “They will present a great challenge and we will have to prepare well and execute. I’m looking forward to going to battle with these guys.”

The final game of the 2013 season for the Aggies will feature a major change in the coaching staff. Over the winter break, head coach Kevin Sumlin announced that co-offensive coordinator Jake Spavital will take over the play calling from fellow co-offensive coordinator Clarence McKinney.

Spavital takes command of a high powered offense that features three All-Americans in Johnny Manziel, Mike Evans, and Jake Matthews. The Aggie offense finished the regular season as the SEC leader in points per game with 43.6 and total offense with 538 yards per game.

The key component in the Aggie offense has been redshirt sophomore Johnny Manziel, who finished fifth in the 2013 Heisman Trophy voting. Manziel finished the year as the SEC leader with 311 yards passing per game, total offense with 368.2 yards per game and 41 total touchdowns.

“[Johnny’s] numbers speak for themselves,” Sumlin said. “He is without a doubt the most exciting player in America.”

Texas A&M’s defense, who has struggled at key points throughout the year, will have to play their bowl game without their true freshman linebacker and leading tackler, Darian Claiborne. Claiborne, who tied fellow linebacker Steven Jenkins for the team lead in total tackles with 89, is suspended for the game for being arrested on a drug charge over the break.

The Aggie defense will have their load lightened for the bowl game however, due in part to Duke’s leading rusher, running back Jela Duncan, being suspended for the game for violating the school’s academic policy. The Blue Devil’s sophomore back led the team with 562 yards on the season and was third on the team with three rushing touchdowns.

The Chick-fil-A Bowl on Dec. 31 will mark the end of the career for 12 seniors on the Texas A&M roster. In the past for years, the Aggie seniors have led their team to a record of 35-16 and are seeking their third bowl win in four appearances.

“As seniors, we have a lot of emotions like our last game at Kyle Field,” senior running back Ben Malena said. “Now this game will be the last time this group of Aggies will play together. I know our guys will be excited.”

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