In the absence of last season’s SEC-leading rusher Trayveon Williams, an unlikely candidate has stepped forward to fill that vacant spot for the Aggies — junior quarterback Kellen Mond.
Mond isn’t putting up the numbers Williams did last season, but in addition to his duties as the signal caller, Mond has led the Aggies on the ground in losses to then-No. 8 Auburn and No. 1 Alabama.
Against Auburn, he had 26 rushing yards on nine attempts, though that was just a third of what he produced on Saturday.
Mond’s 90 total rushing yards against Alabama were more than the entire A&M offense managed to garner against Arkansas (89), Auburn (56) and Clemson (53).
Alabama’s defense made it difficult for Mond to complete passes, forcing him to rely on his legs to make plays. Mond was 24-of-42 passing for 264 yards against the Crimson Tide. In conjunction with his 90 rushing yards, Mond accounted for 354 of A&M’s 389 total offensive yards.
“He made a lot of really good plays with his legs, with his feet, with his arm,” A&M coach Jimbo Fisher said. “We made some nice catches and throws. But there's some we still left out there. He'll be the first one to tell you that. But his heart and his toughness — he's a competitor.”
Another reason for Mond’s performance on the ground is a lack of production from the running backs.
Though they started out the season strong, A&M’s ground game has faltered after losing sophomore Jashaun Corbin to a season-ending hamstring injury against Clemson.
Alabama’s defense also managed to sack Mond five times; this season he has been sacked 15 times.
When the rushing attack is unable to find a rhythm, the pass struggles as well, junior wide receiver Quartney Davis said.
“We try to feed off each other,” Davis said. “Unfortunately, we couldn't get the running game going, but we just try to feed off the running game or feed off the passing game. And whichever one pops, it's what we go with.”
Against the Crimson Tide on Saturday, Mond led the offense on a 10-play, 75-yard drive to open the game, during which he had five complete passes, and capped it off with a one-yard dive into the end zone. This was the first opening drive A&M has scored on this season and its first score in the first quarter against a ranked opponent.
Mond said the fast start was part of A&M’s game plan heading into the matchup, though the Aggies couldn’t keep it going after Alabama scored to answer.
“That was one of our big things, just getting off to a good start,” Mond said. “Even though we didn't score [much after that], I feel like we were still moving the ball, just couldn't do enough to keep up with their offense. But it doesn't matter how much they score. We've got to score more.”
Despite the end result, Mond said Saturday’s game against the Crimson Tide gives him hope moving forward.
“Obviously, I didn't play perfect tonight, [and] we have a long way to go,” Mond said. “But I like where we're at. Pretty much, we're at this hump right now where once we get over it, I feel like we can beat the best teams in the country.”