No. 5 Texas A&M defeated No. 13 North Carolina 41-27 in the Orange Bowl at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, Fla. Here’s what we learned.
In the fourth quarter, running back Devon Achane capped off his freshman season with the longest run of the game with a 76-yard touchdown. Not only was this due to his track speed, but it was also thanks to blocks from sophomore running back Ainias Smith and sophomore tight end Jalen Wydermeyer. Replacing Spiller who had an injury, Achane put up 140 rushing yards, two rushing touchdowns and was named the MVP of the Orange Bowl.
Achane said his performance has him looking to the future.
“[My performance in the bowl game] means a lot to me,” Achane said. “I was a little nervous, I had to get up on the stage and I’m a freshman; it was a lot to process. For next year, [I’m] just hoping to get better and many more games like this.”
Setting a standard
A&M is now the only SEC team in history with one loss to not make the College Football Playoffs. While this can be viewed as a frustration, the Aggies turned this into motivation in their defeat of the Tar Heels.
Fisher said this game serves as a preview of what’s ahead for the program.
“It is [a building block],” Fisher said. “There [were] moments in that game that I’m sure guys didn’t know if we could do this. And that's what happens, there's [that moment]. And you know what you say? Yes, let’s make it happen. There’s a learning curve to that; life is like that everyday. They achieved, they persevered, they played to the next play, they put everything behind them.”
Senior quarterback Kellen Mond likely just played his last game as a member of Texas A&M football. During the fourth quarter with a little over 10 minutes, the quarterback tied 2012 Heisman winner Johnny Manziel’s record for career touchdowns in program history with 93.
Mond said he has not yet made a decision about using his extra year of eligibility.
“No decisions have been made,” Mond said. “I just wanted to come out here and focus on what I need to focus on, and that was to execute and lead my team to another victory. That was my main focus, the past two weeks.”
Early in the first quarter, sophomore running back Isaiah Spiller hit the 1,000-yard rushing mark. Going into the matchup against the Tar Heels, the Spring native only needed to rush 14 yards to hit the mark. Spiller was also responsible for the Aggies’ first touchdown of the bowl game in the first quarter with a nine yard rush. By the end of the matchup, Spiller posted 50 rushing yards and two touchdowns. To conclude his sophomore season, the 6-foot-1 running back put up a total of 1,036 rushing yards and nine rushing touchdowns.
Achane said not only is Spiller skilled, but he is also a team player.
“Isaiah teaches me a lot,” Achane said. “He’s been here a year, as a freshman I needed to come in and he treated me like I was a little brother to him. He was happier [for me] than me. I was the one supposed to be happy, he came up to me. He was the first one [to come up to me], everytime I scored.”
Although they do not want to be called the “New Wrecking Crew,” the defense certainly put up a performance. The Aggies posted a total of nine tackles for loss and four sacks. Adding on to that, A&M put up 57 tackles, 41 of which were solo. Senior linebacker Buddy Johnson, who said he is still deciding about his extra year of eligibility, led the way with 10 total tackles, one sack and 2.5 tackles for loss.
“[Leading this defense] has been huge,” Johnson said. “Just being a leader and being one of the chosen ones by the coaches. But I have to say it wasn’t only me that was a leader on the team. We had a lot of guys who stepped up and helped the team and [were] leaders for our team. Like me, Micheal Clemons, Kellen Mond, Jayden Peevy, guys stepped up huge for us and we rose to the challenge.”