Tailbacks Cordarrian Richardson and Isaiah Spiller each finished with over 125 yards rushing as Texas A&M cruised to a 30-6 victory over South Carolina on Saturday.
In the victory, the Aggies (7-3, 4-2 SEC) finished with a season-high 319 yards on the ground, rushing at 6.9 yards per carry and totaling 540 total yards of offense. Meanwhile, the defense was able to hold South Carolina (4-7, 3-5 SEC) to a season-low in both points and total offense (260 yards).
“I thought that was a very physical football game,” A&M coach Jimbo Fisher said. “The game was truly won in the trenches. South Carolina is a very physical and tough football team. I think the key in that game was our defense played outstanding.”
The A&M defensive was able to contain a South Carolina offense that was missing star receiver Bryan Edwards. The Gamecocks were held to 45 yards rushing, with 10 of those coming from a fourth down conversion by their punter, while quarterback Ryan Hilinski completed less than 40 percent of his passes.
Junior linebacker Buddy Johnson said he credits the defensive line with containing South Carolina’s freshman quarterback Ryan Hilinski.
“Before the game started, Coach Fisher asked us to dominate the line of scrimmage, Johnson said. “I think the defense and the guys up front stepped up tonight big.”
A&M junior quarterback Kellen Mond also added to the ground attack, finishing with 10 carries for 47 yards and a touchdown, along with throwing for 221 yards and a passing touchdown. In his career, Mond has passed and rushed for a touchdown in the same game 14 times, which leads all active SEC quarterbacks.
Despite Mond’s contribution to the run game, he said the credit goes to his teammates.
“[Cordarrian Richardson] and Isaiah [Spiller] did a really good job,” Mond said. “A lot of those were check plays, where we were able to get the right look, whether it was a check or not. The offensive line did a good job of blocking those up. I say this every week, it was a full offensive effort that was received with the blocking downfield. It was a big thing for them.”
Since the Auburn game, the Aggies have increased their rushing attack in each of their last six matchups. Senior center Colton Prater said the improvement is due to the Aggies’ familiarity with one another.
“I think we're getting a lot better, and I think that shows,” Prater said. “We struggled a little bit there at the beginning of the year, but I think we've really come together and meshed. Coach has done a great job with us, learning what plays are best for us and what we do well and what we don't do well. I think that's what I've been most proud of this year is that our group has every week gotten better. I'm really proud of those guys.”
With the rushing attack a key focus on offense, the Aggies were able to wear out the South Carolina defense throughout the game. A&M held onto the ball for a time of possession of nearly 42 minutes. The Aggies rushed for 160 yards in the fourth quarter alone, including Richardson’s 75-yard touchdown.
Prater said leading in time of possession has become a great strategy for A&M.
“If you look over the last couple of years, that's one thing that this team has been good about, we always beat people down,” Prater said. “When it comes down to these tough hard fought games, it's always them rolling over, not us. That's fun for offensive linemen, to hold the ball that long and just beat people down and put your alarm. I love that.”
The Aggies close out their season with two road matchups against top- 5 SEC opponents in No. 4 Georgia and No. 1 LSU, with both teams in a position to compete for the College Football Playoff.
“We're going to have some great opponents to go against and some guys were playing defend the run very well,” Fisher said. “We are going to have to have that though, you can't have your quarterback make every play. You've got to be able to respect the run so you can get the plays in the passes and take some pressure off of them, which we were able to do tonight at times. Hopefully we'll keep growing in that area.”
Sophomore linebacker Anthony Hines said the win over South Carolina prepares the Aggies to face the Bulldogs next weekend.
“Georgia is a team that has a lot to play for and doesn't want to be spoiled,” Hines said. “This game, not only the win but just how well we played as a defense and as a team, really gives us confidence going into next week and they're a good team. We're just going to have to get right back to it this upcoming week.”