As many experts predicted, this one was never in doubt.
On Saturday, Nov. 20, Texas A&M football hosted the Prairie View A&M Panthers for the final game of A&M’s home slate at Kyle Field.
The matchup served as the annual “Maroon Out” and the “Military Appreciation Day” games for the Aggies. After jumping out to a 38-point lead at the half, the Aggies rested the starters for much of the second and eventually defeated the Panthers, 52-3.
The maroon and white started the game aggressively on both sides of the ball. Back-to-back sacks from senior defensive lineman Jayden Peevy and the duo of sophomore defensive lineman Adarious Jones and freshman linebacker Edgerrin Cooper forced a three-and-out. Junior running back Isaiah Spiller rushed for 44 total yards on A&M’s opening drive, capping the possession off with an 11-yard touchdown run to score the game’s first points.
After forcing another stop, the Aggies continued to lean on the ground game. This time, sophomore running back Devon Achane took the touches, finishing A&M’s second possession with a 1-yard touchdown to give the maroon and white a 14-point cushion.
On the Panther’s third possession, senior quarterback Jawon Pass was sacked by sophomore defensive back Antonio Johnson, forcing a fumble. Graduate linebacker Aaron Hansford scooped up the loose ball and returned it to the house for a 17-yard touchdown, making the score 21-0. Pass would not return to the game.
“When you get free hits like that, sometimes you get carried away, get high, get your head in there. It was picture perfect, right through the midsection,” A&M coach Jimbo Fisher said. “Got the shoulder in, head up, all the things you got to do and create that turnover and got the play.”
After the Panthers forced a stop in the red zone, A&M senior place-kicker Seth Small became the school’s all-time leading scorer as a 27-yard field goal placed him ahead of former A&M great Randy Bullock with 368 career points. In doing so, the Aggies extended their lead to 24.
After the game, Small said he is honored to be in the same conversation as Bullock and other revered A&M special teams players, but added he does not want his legacy to be defined by that achievement alone.
“How cool is it to be mentioned with Randy Bullock?” Small asked. “You come to Texas A&M because of the fraternity of specialists that are here. And to be mentioned in that conversation … feels amazing. But at the same time, it's what I trained for. But it's not what I live for. I live for something more.”
On A&M’s next possession, the Aggies leaned on their passing attack. Redshirt sophomore quarterback Zach Calzada found freshman wide receiver Moose Muhammad III for a 33-yard touchdown. The score marked the second touchdown in the storied receiver’s freshman campaign.
Following another punt, Achane tallied his second score of the game, taking in a touchdown from 1 yard out on fourth-and-goal to make the score 38-0 heading into the locker room.
The Aggies wasted no time adding to their lead in the third quarter, as Calzada found Muhammad in the back left corner of the end zone for a 30-yard touchdown pass.
The Panthers’ offense picked up on their next possession, starting with an explosive 40-yard run by freshman running back Jaden Stewart. The drive stalled out in the A&M red zone, and senior place-kicker Luis Reyes sailed a 25-yard field goal through the uprights to put the Panthers on the board, 45-3.
Given the comfortable lead, A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher elected to sit some of the offensive starters near the end of the third quarter.
Freshman walk-on quarterback Blake Bost and freshman running back Amari Daniels led the A&M offense down the field and capped their inaugural drive with an 8-yard touchdown run by Daniels.
After forcing a turnover on downs, Bost led the A&M offense back into the red zone before he was intercepted by senior safety Drake Cheatum. The teams exchanged punts through the next three possessions, and the Aggies ran out the clock to seal the 52-3 victory.
Despite the interception, Fisher said he intended to get the second unit of players some experience after the match was under control, and he was proud of the way the backups performed in the second half.
“I thought the efficiency of that second unit was very good, too,” Fisher said. “I was very proud of those guys and the efficiency they played with and catching the ball. I thought Moose [Muhammad] had an outstanding day.”
The starters still managed to leave imprints on the stat sheet during their limited playing time. Calzada finished the game 10-of-14 for 150 yards and two touchdowns. The star running back duo found the end zone three times, as Spiller finished with 70 yards and a touchdown, and Achane recorded 45 yards and two scores.
Hansford led the team in tackles with eight and recorded his first career touchdown in his final appearance at Kyle Field.
Senior safety Leon O’Neal — who has become a fan favorite for his energetic style of play, active presence on Twitter and “Wake ‘em up” mantra — said he was emotional knowing it would be the final time he played on Kyle Field. However, he added he was extremely thankful for the student body and coaching staff for shaping him as a player and a person.
“I appreciate you turning this young kid who had a lot of aspirations, a lot of ambition, into a man,” O’Neal said. “Even if football does not work, I'm going to be a successful young man because of you guys. Y'all helped me grow. You helped me cope with life. [Mike] Elko and Jimbo [Fisher] and this organization changed my life, and I'm forever grateful.”