Texas A&M improved to 2-1 on the season and jumped 10 spots to No. 11 in the country after taking down the then-No. 4 Florida Gators at Kyle Field this past Saturday, Oct. 10.
The offense ran at a near-flawless level all game long, save for one turnover. Senior quarterback Kellen Mond, who was given the game ball for his performance, threw three touchdowns on 25 passes and racked up 338 yards through the air. Sophomore Caleb Chapman was Mond’s go-to receiver as he caught nine balls for 151 yards and a pair of scores. Meanwhile on the ground, sophomore running back Isaiah Spiller continued to show his All-SEC talent as he ran for 174 yards and scored twice.
Saturday was the first time in school history an A&M receiver and running back both had over 150 yards to their name in the same game.
Spiller appeared to run with a bit more speed and grit against the Gators’ defense as he broke several tackles simply by running over defenders with his stout 6-foot-1, 225-pound frame. He currently leads the SEC among running backs in yards per carry with 6.9, yards after contact with 256, and forced missed tackles with 17.
A&M coach Jimbo Fisher said the sophomore has worked really hard to get to where he is now after being forced to take on the starting role in his freshman year.
“He's running through guys, he's big, he's physical, he's strong and he's playing really good football,” Fisher said. “He's worked really hard at the game and we're playing well around him.”
The experience of the A&M offensive line has also shown its importance as Mond was not sacked once all game long. This is a big sign that the group has found some consistency as they didn’t allow any of Florida’s extremely talented defensive linemen such as Brenton Cox, or Tedarrell Slaton to get much pressure on Mond.
Senior center Ryan McCollum said the offensive line’s success is a result of the entire offense’s performance.
“I think it’s just our whole offense clicking together,” McCollum said. “If one of us messes up, the other picks up the slack. I don't think it's just us up front, I think it’s a whole offensive effort focusing on the little things.”
Mond having more time in the pocket likely made him feel more comfortable with launching deep balls as well, as Chapman made a brilliant 51-yard touchdown catch late in the game that gave the Aggies a ton of momentum. Mond’s total quarterback rating of 94.7 is by far his best this season, and shows that he was extremely efficient.
Sophomore tight end Jalen Wydermyer said he’s proud of the way Mond played, as the senior quarterback earned co-SEC Offensive Player of the Week honors.
“I knew he had it in him to have that performance and I'm glad he did it, we really needed it,” Wydermyer said.
Mississippi State (1-2) is coming off a major offensive struggle against Kentucky, losing 24-2 in Mike Leach’s third game as head coach of the Bulldogs. But for the most part the defense did its job, limiting Kentucky to just 157 total yards.
The issue was that Mississippi State’s offense was just so poor all game long as it turned the ball over six times, all on interceptions. So all things considered the Bulldog defense did the best they could given the circumstances.
In fact, Mississippi State currently has the fifth best defense in the SEC in terms of points allowed, and allows the second fewest total yards per game in the conference. They are near the top in a few other categories as well, so they certainly have talent on the defensive side of the ball.
The Bulldogs’ first two games of the year were against LSU and Arkansas. The Razorbacks have averaged just 17 points a game. LSU on the other hand has scored a lot of points in its three games, but in its season-opening loss to Mississippi State, quarterback Myles Brennan threw a pair of interceptions in the team’s first game since Heisman-winner Joe Burrow went on to the NFL.
“This is a very good football team and we’re going to have to go on the road and play a complete football game,” Fisher said. “They’ll be ready to play at home and we have to get prepared to go play on the road.”