No. 16 Texas A&M will look to bounce back on offense against Lamar on Saturday night at Kyle Field, after scoring just 10 points in their loss to No. 1 Clemson last weekend.
Lamar plays in the Southland Conference and enters this game 2-0, its best start since 1985. The team ranked near the top of the conference in interceptions last season, and despite graduating all five starters in the secondary, junior Michael Dawson already has two interceptions in as many games.
The Cardinals also have some playmakers in the front seven, as senior defensive lineman Darien Wilson recorded 11 tackles and junior linebacker Dallas Martin had 14 tackles in a win over Mississippi Valley State last week.
“We’ll get ready this week against Lamar, play a very good team and then get into our conference schedule,” Fisher said.
A&M and Lamar last faced off in 2014, and the game resulted in a lopsided 73-3 win for the Aggies. Those are the kind of points head coach Jimbo Fisher will want to see this weekend, as this game marks their last tune-up before SEC play begins.
The Aggies will be getting ready without starting running back Jashaun Corbin, who Fisher announced would be out for the year with a hamstring injury. The sophomore sustained the injury early in the second half against Clemson after landing awkwardly while being tackled. It’s a significant setback to the offense, as Corbin was meant to replace last year’s SEC-leading rusher Trayveon Williams in the A&M backfield.
“It’s a huge blow,” A&M junior quarterback Kellen Mond said. “Just seeing how hard he’s worked, to see him go out like that with a hamstring injury is kind of devastating. But the next man has to step up, and I know Isaiah [Spiller] and some of those guys behind him are ready.”
Despite the loss, Fisher said he is confident in the players behind Corbin on the depth chart. The Aggies will stick with a two or three-man rotation, focusing around freshman Isaiah Spiller and junior Jacob Kibodi. Fisher said Spiller will be the starter right now.
“[Spiller] has played pretty well,” Fisher said of the freshman’s ability to run, catch passes and pass block. “He has all those skill sets. So does Kibodi. All of our backs all have really good hands. Obviously, Jashaun was doing it at a higher level and more consistently because he was the starter and he’d been there, but those guys are very capable and can do that very well.”
With the loss of Corbin, more responsibility will fall on the shoulders of Mond, who is one win away from moving into the top 10 on the Aggies’ winningest starting quarterback list. The junior struggled in the first half against Clemson in week two, completing just five of his 14 passes for 51 yards. Mond’s production picked up in the second half, and he finished the game with 236 yards, one touchdown and one interception. But it was already too late, he said.
“Just kind of the way that I started, I knew it wasn’t good enough,” Mond said. “Obviously, you don’t get things back, but that’s one of the things. I need to get off to a better start.”
Mond overthrew receivers all afternoon and had an interception at the one-yard line early in the fourth quarter that ended one of the Aggies’ best chances at finding the end zone. He took responsibility for most of the offense’s struggles.
“There were just some passes that I wish I could have had back,” Mond said. “As a whole, I feel like that led to receivers dropping stuff and some miscommunication between the backs. It just kind of went all downhill.”
Even so, Fisher said he is confident in his quarterback’s ability to bounce back and play well going forward.
“He takes accountability for everything,” Fisher said. “That guy is the hardest worker — the first guy on the field, the last guy off. He’ll have success because he’ll work until he does it.”
Along with Mond’s missed throws, A&M’s receivers dropped several on-target passes against Clemson. Junior Jhamon Ausbon, who has 144 yards and one touchdown this season, said his position group will try to correct that this week against Lamar.
“[We need to] go back to fundamentals,” he said. “Whenever you catch a ball, you catch it with yours eyes, not your hands. Don’t make the moment bigger than what it is, it’s a normal catch, and working on it at practice.”
A&M players and coaches see the upcoming game as an opportunity to improve from last week’s mistakes against Clemson.
“It’s very important,” Ausbon said. “It’s how we are going to take these mistakes we made in Clemson, and are we going to make the same mistakes or are we going to build from those things and be the best we can be? We have to dominate this game.”
Kickoff between Texas A&M and Lamar is set for 6 p.m. on Saturday at Kyle Field. The game will be broadcast on ESPNU.