Texas A&M has struggled to get the running game going all season, and heading into Friday’s bowl game against Oklahoma State, the challenge will be as steep as it has been.
The Aggies are down to just one scholarship running back after a slew of transfers and injuries.
Sophomore Jashaun Corbin went down against Clemson with a hamstring injury and entered the transfer portal on Dec. 16, joining Deneric Prince and Jacob Kibodi.
Sophomore Cordarrian Richardson, who emerged as a threat against South Carolina with 130 yards on six carries, will not participate in the bowl game, A&M coach Jimbo Fisher announced on Sunday.
Freshman Isaiah Spiller remains as the lone scholarship rusher for A&M, causing backup quarterback Connor Blumrick to take reps as second-team running back. Spiller has averaged 72.42 yards per game this season to help A&M to an average of 145.6.
The Cowboys, on the other hand, have a successful rushing offense that averages 242.5 yards on the ground per game, led by sophomore running back Chuba Hubbard, who averages 161.3 yards.
“That guy can run it; he’s got power, he’s got speed,” Fisher said. “He’s a complete back.”
While the A&M offense will be facing the challenge of matching Hubbard’s output, the defense will try to stop him without the presence of junior tackle Justin Madubuike, who declared early for the NFL Draft and elected not to participate in the game.
Junior Jayden Peevy will be stepping into the vacated role. Peevy has 32 tackles on the season, just shy of Madubuike’s 45.
“Peevy is really coming along,” Fisher said. “Peevy started playing really good football this year and I see him different in how he’s talking to guys. He sees the leadership role he has to take and hopefully he’ll play very well because we’re going to have our hands full because they’re going to run that football.”
A&M’s defense has allowed opponents an average of 130.0 rushing yards this season, compared to Oklahoma State’s 150.1.
Fisher said this game will be special as the two teams will match up for the 28th time in their histories, with A&M holding a 17-10 advantage.
“For both teams, it’s an old Big 12 matchup that people are familiar with,” Fisher said. “That’s the unique thing about bowl games — you get to play people you don’t know or catch some old rivalries.”
The bowl game will follow up a 7-5 season in Fisher’s second year at the helm of the program, which ended in a 50-7 loss to No. 1 LSU on the road.
Despite the blowout loss the Aggies suffered just three weeks ago, junior quarterback Kellen Mond said the Aggies are only looking ahead.
“We don’t really try to focus on the future or any games in the past,” Mond said. “We try to correct our mistakes from the past, bt we’d like to move on. We’re focused on Oklahoma State and what we can do and how we can execute.”
Fisher said the key to finding success in the upcoming game is to balance the memories of past games.
“You just have to go back and play well,” Fisher said. “We played well all year for the most part and [LSU] played well and kicked our tails. You have to come back and you have to have a long memory as far as not letting those things happen, but a short memory in that you’re still those players that played the whole season very well and you’ve got to have the confidence to play in this bowl game.”
Senior center Colton Prater said a win in his final game as an Aggie will not only end his collegiate career on a positive not, but it will also affect the team’s mindset heading into the offseason.
“You look at the way we finished last year with the big win in the bowl game, it really puts a good taste in your mouth going into the offseason,” Prater said. “With me finishing my career, this is a big one.”
The Aggies will take on their former Big 12 opponent Oklahoma State at 5:45 p.m. on Friday in the Academy Sports & Outdoors Texas Bowl at NRG Stadium in Houston.