During last week’s press conference, A&M players had one goal in mind: getting over the hump.
After a rout of Mississippi State on Saturday, it looks like the Aggies did just that.
Through the first half of the season, the Aggies struggled to put together an effective run game, blocking up front and creating momentum. Now they have flipped the script.
A&M is making those key plays in critical moments that coach Jimbo Fisher has been talking about all season. The run game is developing through tailback Isaiah Spiller with the help of quarterback Kellen Mond, and the defense is more dynamic than it has been all season.
Mond’s bounce-back performance
The question of whether Mond would improve lingered well into the regular season. His confidence was also in question, and against Mississippi State, those questions were erased.
“[It] starts with practice,” Mond said. “In the past three, four weeks, I would say, we’ve taken a leap in practice in being more demanding and wanting to be great in practice. So just being able to start from that and go on to the games, it’s really good for us. And we’re looking forward to continuing that.”
After his worst performance of the season at Ole Miss, the junior signal-caller bounced back against Mississippi State. Mond threw for three touchdowns and ran for another two, completing 74 percent of his passes.
More notable was his ability to see the field, and the confidence Mond displayed in running the ball. The offensive line gave Mond the time to make decisions, and his execution looked smoother than it has all season.
Mond also led the offense to its best third-down conversion percentage this season, as well as the most points A&M has scored during regulation of an SEC contest since playing South Carolina in 2012.
“We had makeable third-down situations,” Fisher said. “And a lot of our third-down success came because we were successful on first down.”
Other than the seven-overtime thriller against LSU last season, this was Mond’s best game statistically, as he posted a career-high 202.4 rating on Saturday.
After the loss of many key producers on offense and defense from a year ago, the impact of Fisher’s first recruiting class on the field in 2019 is critical to how A&M performs this year.
Not only have the freshmen made an impact, they’ve become the backbone for the Aggies.
Freshmen this season have accounted for 13 of A&M’s 33 touchdowns this season, with tight end Jalen Wydermyer and Spiller leading the Aggies in scoring with five touchdowns each.
Wydermyer’s touchdown on Saturday made him second of all time on the tight-end scoring list at A&M.
“This guy can get vertical and catch the ball down the field,” Fisher said. “He’s athletic. He’s learning to become a better blocker. … And when you have that body type, man, it makes a big difference.”
Spiller’s 103 scrimmage yards were the most he’s posted against a Power 5 opponent all season and contributed greatly to the balance of A&M’s offense.
Defensively, defensive back Demani Richardson led the Aggies in tackles and forced a turnover that resulted in a touchdown. Defensive end DeMarvin Leal also made his presence known with six tackles, 0.5 tackles for loss and a quarterback hit.
Capitalizing on turnovers
Starting last week, A&M’s defense has been providing momentum for the Aggies with its ability to create turnovers, and it only got better against Mississippi State.
Defensive back Devin Morris’ physical interception in the first quarter got things rolling, but two other fumbles created by the secondary were huge in creating scoring drives for the offense.
A&M’s offense capitalized on all three of the giveaways, reaching the end zone on each drive.
The Aggies have forced multiple turnovers in three games this season and forced five of them over the last two contests. A&M’s nine interceptions this season have already beat out the total of seven from a year ago.
The Aggies will face UTSA Saturday, Nov. 2 at Kyle Field. Kickoff is set for 11 a.m. and will be televised on SEC Network.