From the first few seconds of the game, Texas A&M special teams made their presence known with a fumble recovery that jump started the game, earning the Aggies an early touchdown and the lead. Their performance didn’t waver throughout the four quarters — changing possessions, affecting field position and forcing missed field goals.
Junior defensive back Larry Pryor began the special teams' reign with an 17-yard touchdown run after recovering the fumble by University of Alabama-Birmingham redshirt senior wide receiver Andre Wilson. The touchdown took place nine seconds into the first quarter and was Pryor’s first touchdown of his A&M career.
"That was crazy," Pryor said. "First kickoff of the game I’m sprinting down there full speed and I shared a block and I look up and the ball's in my hands. My thinking from that point was 'I’m going to score,'" Pryor said.
Special teams resurfaced again at the end of the first after UAB redshirt junior kicker Nick Vogel hit the left upright, missing his 43-yard field goal attempt and turning possession back to A&M to start the second quarter.
The Blazers came across another opportunity to put points on the board in their first drive of the second quarter. However, Vogel’s field goal attempt was blocked by A&M’s sophomore defensive lineman Jayden Peevy. Peevy would block another kick by Vogel in the fourth quarter, stopping UAB’s extra point after its touchdown and creating a chance for A&M defensive back Myles Jones to return the ball.
“That push inside, that’s three or four blocks we’ve had all year,” head coach Jimbo Fisher said about the field goal blocks. “Those guys are doing a good job...that was big by Peevy. That was huge.”
As for kickoff and punt returns, A&M sophomore wide receiver Roshauud Paul and freshman running back Jashaun Corbin took away any fear of bad field position for Kellen Mond and his offense. Paul led punt returns with 41 yards on two attempts and went 38 yards one of them. Corbin led kickoff returns with a single 44 yard return in the fourth.
On the punting side of things, junior punter and kickoff specialist Braden Mann put up numbers consistent with his past week’s performances, allowing the team to put UAB in less-than-perfect field position. Mann finished out the game with 513 yards on eight kickoffs and 100 yards on two punts. Mann broke the NCAA record for 60-yard punts with his 14th against the Blazers.
“I love seeing the success that he has because you talk about a guy that works so hard,” A&M running back Trayveon Williams said. “I remember throughout the whole off season, we would go out there and he’d be kicking the balls and I would go out there and catch ... he has a strong leg. I’m just glad he’s finally getting his opportunity to do what he does.”