Texas A&M football kicked off the 2019 season on Thursday, beating the Texas State Bobcats 41-7. The game featured a balanced offensive attack and an opportunistic defense from the Aggies.
Junior quarterback Kellen Mond had a strong performance both in the air and on the ground. Mond passed for 194 yards and 3 touchdowns, along with 25 yards and a touchdown on the ground. The most notable takeaway from Mond’s performance was his incredibly accurate deep ball. Mond had 19 completions on 27 attempts in the game, and five of them were for 15 yards or more.
A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher said Mond has improved immensely since the beginning of last season.
"It’s not even close, there’s so many things — how you call a game, what he sees, what he does, where he was getting on his progressions, to the accuracy of the deep ball,” Fisher said. “He is really in a good place right now. The command of things is really good, he really understands what’s going on.”
In his debut as starting running back, sophomore Jashaun Corbin made his presence known with a rushing and receiving touchdown in the first half. Corbin finished with 103 rushing yards.
In the second half, freshman running back Isaiah Spiller took full advantage of his first collegiate opportunity. At the end of the third quarter, Spiller busted out an 85-yard run that set up an A&M touchdown. He also led the team in rushing yards with 106.
Spiller’s time in the game was an effort to make him more familiar with the team’s backfield-by-committee approach, Fisher said.
“Jashaun, as he got going, he got better and better; Isaiah got his feet wet and did a couple of good things,” said Fisher. “We had to get his feet wet in the game along with [Jacob] Kibodi and [Cagan] Baldree blocking up front.”
On the defensive side, the A&M defense has already made some major strides compared to last year. During the 2018 season, the defense tallied seven total interceptions. The Aggies notched more than half of last season’s total on Thursday with four interceptions against Texas State.
Leon O’Neal, Jr. kicked off the turnover with an acrobatic interception in the first quarter. Junior Myles Jones added two interceptions. Senior cornerback Roney Elam continued that momentum, tallying a sack and an interception.
The Aggie defensive front limited the Texas State offense to only eight total rushing yards. Junior defensive tackle Justin Madubuike had a key tackle for loss and junior defensive tackle Jayden Peevy tallied his third sack of his career.
Junior linebacker Buddy Johnson led the defensive front with seven tackles, and Anthony Hines III was right behind him with four of his own. Johnson said he feels much more comfortable with the return of Hines as the sophomore returns after a year spent redshirting due to injury.
“We both know our assignments; we’re both playing fast,” Johnson said. “I think that having him back is huge for us. He came back from injury and I think he’s playing fast and looking pretty good.”
Texas A&M continues action against Clemson on Sept. 7 at Memorial Stadium. Kickoff is set for 2:30 p.m., and the game will be aired on ABC.