Texas A&M rallies to beat Louisiana-Lafayette 45-21

By  | 

COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) - Texas A&M needed a second-half comeback to defeat Louisiana-Lafayette 45-21 on Saturday at Kyle Field.

The Ragin' Cajuns (1-2) led 21-14 at halftime before the Aggies scored 31 consecutive points en route to the victory, one preserving embattled coach Kevin Sumlin's job for at least another week.

After much of the first half went wrong for A&M, the third quarter went entirely right, as the Aggies (2-1) scored 17 points in that span to grab the lead for good. Freshman quarterback Kellen Mond, in beginning to live up to his preseason hype as a five-star prospect, collected a five-yard touchdown run and threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to fellow freshman Camron Buckley in the decisive third quarter.

Sumlin is on the hot seat after the Aggies have lost six consecutive games to Power Five opponents, dating to last season and including A&M blowing a 34-point lead against UCLA in this year's season opener. The Aggies have responded with two consecutive victories, but also needed to break open a 14-14 tie against Nicholls State last week before prevailing 24-14.

THE TAKEAWAY

Texas A&M: Despite their comeback the Aggies appear far from ready for Southeastern Conference play, after trailing the Cajuns by a touchdown at halftime. Keep in mind this is a Louisiana team that gave up 66 points in a loss at Tulsa a week prior. It's been trial by fire for freshman quarterback Kellen Mond, but the experience of playing all four quarters on Saturday should help him greatly with the start of SEC play.

Louisiana-Lafayette: Despite blowing the second-half lead the Cajuns should be buoyed by their overall showing on the road against an SEC foe, even if the Aggies don't appear to be much of a power this season. Junior quarterback Jordan Davis is a warrior - he twisted his knee in the first half, limped for some time but kept playing. The Cajuns need him for Sun Belt play.

UP NEXT

TEXAS A&M: The Aggies open SEC play against Arkansas in AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, on Sept. 23, and will try and make it six in a row against the Razorbacks. Arkansas still leads the overall series 41-29-3.

LOUISIANA-LAFAYETTE: The Cajuns return home to open Sun Belt play against Louisiana-Monroe on Sept. 23, following consecutive road losses to Tulsa and A&M. Louisiana-Lafayette opened its season with a 51-48 home win over Southeastern Louisiana.

Louisiana at Texas A&M

Texas A&M 45, Louisiana 21

11:01 a.m. | Sept. 16, 2017

Kyle Field, College Station, Texas

ABOUT THE WIN ...

Texas A&M rallied from a seven-point halftime deficit (21-14) to defeat the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns, 45-21. The Aggies shut out Louisiana in the second half, while scoring the final 31 points of the game.

• The Aggies out-gained the Cajuns, 353-82, in the second half. A&M had 201 rushing yards in the second, while limiting the Cajuns to just 22 ground yards in the final two quarters. The Aggie defense limited UL Lafayette to 0-6 of third-down tries and just four first downs in the second half.

• The win was the Aggies’ 27th straight home victory over non-conference opponents.

• Head coach Kevin Sumlin’s record vs. non-conference teams at Kyle Field improved to 18-0.

• The Aggies improved to 6-1 all-time against the Ragin’ Cajuns.

NEXT WEEK ...

Texas A&M will open its 2017 SEC slate with an 11 a.m. matchup with Arkansas at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

• The Razorbacks were off on Saturday.

• Texas A&M has beaten the Razorbacks five straight times since joining the SEC in 2012.

notables ...

• Senior DB Armani Watts posted the first two-pickoff game of his career with a pair of thefts against the Ragin’ Cajuns. He is the first Aggie with two pickoffs in a single game since Justin Evans had a pair in the season-opener vs. UCLA in 2016.

• Watts’ pickoffs were the seventh and eighth of his career and he ranks as the active career leader on the team.

• Watts filled the stat line with eight tackles, including two behind the Cajun line of scrimmage, along with his two pickoffs.

• Sophomore LB Tyrel Dodson tallied an interception for a second straight week. He tallied a 40-yard pick-six interception early in the fourth quarter. He also tallied seven tackles, including one for a loss of eight yards.

• Freshman RB Jacob Kibodi registered a career-long 67-yard run in the fourth quarter to go over the 100-yard mark for his first time as an Aggie with 101 yards on four carries. He entered the game with three rushing yards on one carry.

• Freshman QB Kellen Mond became the first true freshman to surpass the 300-yard plateau in passing yards at Texas A&M by completing 24-of-31 passes for 301 yards and 3 TDs. It marked just the fifth 300-yard passing game by an Aggie freshman (redshirt or true). All four previous 300-yard passing efforts were by Johnny Manziel in 2012.

• The Aggies, who came into the game with a +2.5 turnover margin (tied for 3rd in FBS), generated five takeaways against the Ragin’ Cajuns, which was the team’s most since posting seven takeaways in last year’s win over No. 9 Tennessee at Kyle Field.

• Texas A&M has generated 10 takeaways in the first three games of 2017. After three games last year, the Aggies had gained five turnovers.

O-LINE SHUFFLE ...

• The Aggies shuffled their starting offensive front for a third straight game, moving longtime starting center Erik McCoy to RG, inserted redshirt junior Koda Martin at LT, started true freshman Jared Hocker at LG and moved sophomore Colton Prater to center. Junior Keaton Sutherland, who started at LT last week, moved back to RT, where he started vs. UCLA.

• It was Hocker’s first career start at RG, it was Prater’s first career start at C (15th overall at various positions) and it was McCoy’s first career start at OG (16th overall, previous 15 were all at C).

• Early in the fourth quarter, the Aggies’ front five were sophomore Erik McCoy at center, flanked by four freshmen -- redshirt freshman Ryan McCollum and true freshmen Hocker, Dan Moore Jr. and Carson Green.

FRESHMEN SCORING ...
For the first time in school history, four TRUE freshmen scored touchdowns in a single game.
• The Aggies received touchdown plays from four members of the 2017 signing class -- QB Kellen Mond, WR Jhamon Ausbon, RB Jacob Kibodi and WR Camron Buckley.
• Mond also tossed three touchdowns, which was just one off the freshman school record of four by several true and redshirt freshman QBs.

GAME CAPTAINS, 12TH MAN

• Game captains for the Aggies were Cullen Gillaspia, Christian Kirk, Trayveon Williams and Armani Watts. Louisiana won the toss and deferred their choice to the second half. Texas A&M received the opening kickoff.

• The Aggies’ 12th Man representative was junior LB Cullen Gillaspia (Katy, Texas) in his 16th straight start.

Postgame Quotes

Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M Head Coach

On difference between first and second half…

“We’re like two different teams and coming into this week it’s about three things. It’s about effort, which we’ve been getting. I think our guys have been playing very hard all three weeks. It’s about communication, which we are improving as a team on with being able to play as many people as we played and getting guys on and off the field. With communication comes elimination of penalties and things like that. The last thing is execution, which is a work in progress. In the first half we did not execute. We did play hard, we did communicate. As I said before as we started the week, two of those things will win you some games. Three out of three will usually win you every game. Basically the first half we didn’t execute, the second half we did. We couldn’t run the ball in the first half. I think the move back to Erik McCoy at center helped us. Some of the things we did on defense, on third down specifically, helped us too. It comes down to execution. Trust each other, trust each other’s ability and do your job because we have enough guys that can play. Don’t try to do too much; just do your job and we’ll be fine. Our defense has consistently created turnovers. We’re in the plus margin every week. We have to get better at a lot of different things. We are a work in progress and one thing we have established is that we’ve created turnovers and we’ve won the turnover battle every week. In the second half, offensively, defensively and special teams, we were pretty solid.”

On Kellen Mond…

“He’s gotten better and I think he’s comfortable. He’s more assertive. He was a lot more assertive last night at practice, he was a lot more assertive pregame and that’s normal as a young guy. I think during this time, we as coaches are getting to know him, what his strengths are. I think the first thing a young guy tries to do is impress you with everything and our conversation with him has been about ‘Hey, listen, what on this call sheet do you not feel comfortable with? Let’s eliminate those things. Let’s not find out on Saturday what you don’t like after it’s a catastrophe on the play.’ So young guys have a hard time with that because they want to impress coaches and they want to show people that they know what’s going on, but part of the maturity is being able to say ‘Hey, I’m not comfortable with that.’ We’ve got time to work on it. We’re getting a feel for what he likes. He’s getting more open with us about what he likes so he started the game last week, where he was what 8-10 a week ago? There was a point today where he was 80 percent early again so it was pretty solid performance for him, managing snaps, not making a catastrophe out of a bad play already, just getting on the ball and managing hurry up situations and then managing a slow-down situation at the end. So for him it’s a learning experience but I think he’s obviously becoming more comfortable with playing.”

On Erik McCoy moving back to center…

“I think him moving back to center was a big deal and getting him back in there because targeting becomes a big deal. They’re playing an odd-front with a lot of guys moving random and who’s blocking who changes a bunch. Then, the ability again to communicate who’s blocking who before the snap, it really helps. It’s not just the center, him playing center and blocking. It’s his targeting and getting us going with the right people. So that had a lot to do with it and it’s being able to get on the perimeter. I thought [Tanner] Schorp did a nice job today letting us get the edge and get on the perimeter. We have lots of video of several times where I thought he let us get the edge. It was a good deal to get around a bunch of that stuff inside. They were slanting away, coming in back door behind and running us down on the inside zone so we had to get outside a little bit.”

On Kibodi and Bussey…

“I said yesterday in the production meeting that I really want to see what everybody’s talking about Kendall Bussey and we’ve got another one who showed a lot in practice and I’m really anxious to see what he can do so he did not disappoint. We’ve got guys that we can play like that. We’ve got four guys that can go and four guys that we talk about trust and confidence around here. First, you got to get some trust in yourself and in your teammates and in your coaches. Again, Jacob Kibodi showed that he wants to play and he’s capable of playing and he’s big and he’s fast. I like that combination. It’s always good when it’s on your team.”

On leadership…

“I thought Armani Watts with the turnovers and how he played really played a leadership role. I thought Tyrel Dodson was that way and I thought our defense was part of the drive to start the second half. Our defense playing the second half, it was a team effort and special teams. So coverage and terms and things like that across the board the second half, obviously was a lot better than the first half. The message today was what you showed today was that you trust each other, you believe in each other and it doesn’t really matter what the situation is or what’s being said or what’s out there, you’ve got to believe in the people in this room. With that, I think we grew up a little bit today.”

Erik McCoy, Texas A&M Sophomore Offensive Lineman

On being able to play multiple positions…

“It’s always good to be versatile in case another guy goes down or something happens to him and I can just substitute or another guy can substitute right in for him.”

On the offense getting fired up during the game…

“We had a lot of young guys starting off the game and they were bringing a lot of funky stuff at us. We just had to get adjusted in the second half.”

On what adjustments were made…

“They were doing a lot of twist in the first half and we just had to adjust to what they were doing.”

Kendall Bussey, Texas A&M Sophomore Running Back

On not getting any touches early in the game…

“Watching from the sidelines, I was kind of able to see a few more things that Keith (Ford) wasn’t seeing on the field and I was just trying to help him make that adjustment because he was playing at the time and I knew come half-time we’ll make some adjustments and talk things out so I was just ready to go second half to try to make something happen.”

On confidence going into the Arkansas game…

“Definitely, we came off a little shaky since it was early in the morning, but we came into halftime made some adjustments and listened to our coaches and we were able to pick things up and play Aggie football.”

Armani Watts, Texas A&M Senior Safety

On today’s slow start…

“Part of it is because of the early game, and some of the new guys aren’t used to it. Really that’s how I see it. We woke up at 6:30 this morning, so some of the guys are getting used to that. We just had to refresh and get our minds right, then come back and play how we play.”

On forcing five turnovers…

“I don’t think we did anything different. We had a couple of balls thrown to us, and you’ve got to secure those. We harp on that every week, getting the ball out. As you guys can see, we like to strip the ball out a lot, and that’s the reason we harp on getting turnovers and getting the ball back to our offense because they can put it on the end zone any time.”

On Tyrel Dodson’s pick-6…

“It was amazing. Any time we can get the ball in the end zone, it’s a plus.”

Tyrel Dodson, Texas A&M Sophomore Linebacker

On the momentum change after halftime…

“I think what changed was that the first half we weren’t playing with emotion. You know, no one can play defense without any emotion. Second half we came out with emotion and created turnovers.”

On his pick-six…

“I was man-to-man with the running back, and I kind of baited the quarterback and looked like I was going to the right. I saw that he was getting ready to throw it so I jumped the route, and then, touchdown.”

On his first collegiate touchdown…

“I think it’s pretty amazing, my first college touchdown. I was just thinking about how happy my family was back home in Tennessee. That’s what I was really thinking about, my grandma smiling.”

Louisiana Head Coach Mark Hudspeth…

Opening Statement…

“Wow, what a football game. I thought our guys were ready and really excited to compete. Nevertheless, they played their hearts outs. Especially in the first half, in the first three quarters and against a very good football team on the road. I thought we improved tremendously especially against the run. That was one of the main emphasis. I think some of the moves we made last week payed off. We keep improving defensively. If you take away the pick six, the defense even did a little better. They had a bunch of short fields and came away with the big stops. They forced a few big stops. We had one of the best first halves of offense but they made some adjustments. Give them credit, they put a lot of people in the box to stop the run. They were determined to make us throw the football to win the game. We have to be able to run the quarter back to even things up. We were having a hard time pushing off with the throws. We just didn’t have the offensive rhythm in the second half. We pulled out some of the trick plays and going for it there on the goal line. We just couldn’t keep pace. They got the momentum and once we gave it away it was hard to get it back. Our team really believed at halftime that we had a chance to win this game and we did. We just didn’t get it done in the second half.”

On the atmosphere at Kyle Field…

“It’s a great venue. It’s got to be one of the top three venues in the nation. I know our fans and players were excited about coming here. We have a lot of Texas players who were ready to play in this game and they came out and played their hearts off. It was impressive and a great home field advantage to say the least.”

Tracy Walker, Louisiana Senior Linebacker

On making big plays…

“Watching film, knowing who my opponent is, and knowing where the ball is trying to go—I definitely studied the game. I studied their offense well this week. That’s what helped me make plays early in the game.”

On defensive changes…

“We made a lot of changes defensively. It helped us out in the first half. Like Coach Hudspeth said, we just got fatigued. We have a great group now. We have everybody in the right place. I think we will have a great defense for the rest of this year.”

Jordan Davis, Louisiana Junior Quarterback

On the good start…

“People just wanted it. Our guys were fighting. We had it in our mind and we were ready to go. In the second half, when we dealt with adversity we didn’t handle it the same way that we did in the first half. We weren’t able to execute as effectively as we did in the first half. Our execution wasn’t as crisp in the second half as it was in the first.”

On playing through pain…

“We just wrapped my knee up and braced it up. Coach said ‘You’re going to fight through this game.’ We were on the same page. Coach and I both knew. We weren’t able to queue quarterback run as much as we would like to. That took away an element from our offense and maybe made us a little more stagnant in the second half. We are going to keep fighting. We are going to keep pushing forward and get better this week going into Monroe.”