Texas A&M’s postseason matchup against a former Big 12 opponent began with a slow start for the Aggies.
The Aggies opened the Texas Bowl against No. 25 Oklahoma State with a possession that ended in a fumble by junior quarterback Kellen Mond. However, A&M’s defensive effort prevented a score by the Cowboys, leaving the game scoreless for eight minutes.
Oklahoma State sophomore wide receiver Braydon Johnson opened scoring with a 42-yard rushing touchdown. Six minutes later, sophomore quarterback Dru Brown rushed for a nine-yard touchdown to widen the lead to 14-0.
“We had some good schemes, gave ourselves a chance, and we played good defense until we got beat up a little bit at the end of the game on the option play, on the red-zone option play,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said.
The saga of fumbles continued into the second quarter with another fumble by Mond on the five-yard line.
With just over five minutes remaining in the second quarter, freshman running back Isaiah Spiller temporarily soothed the Aggies’ woes with a one-yard rushing touchdown.
The defense struggled at the start of the game, allowing 163 yards in the first quarter, but improved to allow only 50 yards over the second and third quarters. The defense also had four total sacks in the game, with sophomore defensive lineman Tyree Johnson notching two.
Johnson said his success was a result of him shifting his focus mid-season from achieving personal goals to playing for the team.
“Things are always good when you plan, but this is not about me, it is about the team — doing my job for the team,” Johnson said. “I just shifted my focus in the middle of the season. I just started focusing more on what I gotta do to make the team win and be the best I can be for that.”
Despite the slow start, the Aggies came back to win 24-21, their first win under A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher when trailing at halftime.
Fisher’s focus in practice is establishing mental toughness in his team, which he said helped them to win over the Cowboys.
“I think we teach conceptually, but we think we have intelligent kids who listen and want to play hard,” Fisher said. “I think it also goes back to that we practice hard and we are a 60-minute team. I don’t think we back off, we get stronger in the second half, and we are able to make those adjustments with the mental execution and mental toughness that we have to have.”
In the first possession of the second half for the Aggies, Mond completed a 10-yard pass to junior wide receiver Jhamon Ausbon, tying the game.
Mond overcame his early struggles with a 67-yard rushing touchdown that earned him MVP of the game and gave the Aggies their first lead of the night.
With the win, A&M ends its season with an 8-5 record. Fisher said the win puts the team in a good spot heading into the offseason.
“You’ve got to want to be there,” Fisher said. “You’ve got to be so hungry you’re willing to work, run over them and kick anybody out of there you’ve got to. It takes a special mindset. It takes a special ingredient. At the end of the day, the talent’s out, and it gets down to one thing: grit. Hopefully, they see the level at which you’ve got to be at and we need to be at. We’re going to get there.”