Aggies win ugly, 24-14 over Nicholls State

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COLLEGE STATION, Texas (KBTX) – Kendall Bussey ran for 97 yards and the go-ahead 2-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter as Texas A&M outlasted Nicholls State 24-14 on Saturday night.

The game was tied at 14-all when Bussey bulled into the end zone for A&M's first score since the first quarter with about 7 1/2 minutes left to put the Aggies (1-1) on top.

Nicholls State (1-1), an FCS school which plays in the Southland Conference, challenged the Aggies a week after they squandered a 34-point third-quarter lead in a stunning 45-44 loss to UCLA.

"We were able to do something we didn't do last week which was finishing a football game in the fourth quarter," coach Kevin Sumlin said of the win.

The Aggies started Kellen Mond at quarterback after Nick Starkel suffered a broken ankle last week, but Jake Hubenak took over early in the third quarter and finished the game. Mond threw for 105 yards and a touchdown and Hubenak added 93 yards passing.

Damion Jeanpiere grabbed a 54-yard reception from Chase Fourcade to get Nicholls State to the 6-yard line early in the fourth quarter. Two plays later he connected with Stephen LeBouef on a 5-yard touchdown pass. LeBouef caught the ball short of the goal line and dragged safety Larry Pryor into the end zone with him for the score.

Fourcade scrambled for several seconds before finding Mason Roberts in the back of the end zone for the 2-point conversion that tied it.

The Aggies punted five straight times after their second touchdown before Daniel LaCamera's 52-yard field goal attempt early in the fourth quarter sailed wide left.

"By no means are we where we need to be," Sumlin said. "In a game like this it really gives our team an opportunity to look at who we are objectively ... it's about fixing ourselves internally."

The Colonels couldn't move the ball after Bussey's touchdown and had to punt. The Aggies then ran Bussey again and again to eat up the clock before adding a field goal with 18 seconds left.

"Getting the win's always good whether it's ugly or not," safety Armani Watts said.

The Aggies looked good early, and took a 7-0 lead when Mond connected with Kirk on a 27-yard touchdown pass on their first drive. A 17-yard scoring run by Trayveon Williams made it 14-0 with about three minutes left in the first quarter.

Lorran Fonseca made field goals of 37 and 34 yards in the second quarter to get Nicholls State within 14-6 at halftime.

Fourcade threw for 264 yards with a touchdown and an interception and Jeanpiere had five receptions for 174 yards.

UP NEXT

NICHOLLS STATE: The Colonels host Prairie View A&M next Saturday.

TEXAS A&M: The Aggies host Louisiana-Lafayette next Saturday in their last tune up before starting Southeastern Conference play against Arkansas on Sept. 23.

THE TAKEAWAY

NICHOLLS STATE: The team should fare well in the Southland Conference considering what the Colonels did against the Aggies on Saturday night.

TEXAS A&M: The Aggies will have to figure out a way to be more consistent and either Mond or Hubenak will have to improve if they hope to have any success when SEC play begins.

GAME 2:

Nicholls at Texas A&M

Texas A&M 24, Nicholls State 14

6:07 p.m. | Sept. 3, 2017

Kyle Field, College Station, TX

ABOUT THE VICTORY ...

Texas A&M tallied its fifth straight victory in a home-opener with a hard-fought 24-14 win over Nicholls at Kyle Field. The two teams were knotted at 14-14 early in the fourth quarter, but the Aggies closed out the game by scoring the final 10 points.

• The victory evened the Aggies’ season record to 1-1.

• It was the 80th victory of Kevin Sumlin’s head coaching career -- 45 at Texas A&M and 35 at the University of Houston.

• The win was the Aggies’ 26th straight home victory over non-conference opponents.

• Sumlin’s record vs. non-conference teams at Kyle Field improved to 17-0.

notables ...

• Two games into the 2017 season, the Aggies still haven’t suffered a turnover and are plus-5 in turnover margin.

• Texas A&M scored a touchdown on its initial offensive series of the game for a second straight week.

• WR Christian Kirk grabbed his 17th career reception on the first drive of the game. The TD catch moved him into a tie for sixth with Mike Evans on the school’s all-time receiving TDs list.

• The 27-yard catch also pushed Kirk over the 2,000-yard mark in career receiving yards. Kirk becomes the seventh Aggie to reach 2,000. Later in the first quarter, Kirk became the fourth player in school history to reach 170 career catches, joining Ryan Swope (252), Jeff Fuller (233) and Terrence Murphy (172).

• True freshman QB Kellen Mond made his first career start and also logged his first career TD pass with a 27-yarder to Christian Kirk in the first quarter.

• Mond finished his first start with 105 passing yards on 12-of-21 attempts.

• Senior QB Jake Hubenak saw his first action of the season, entering the game in the third quarter. Hubenak finished the game 12-for-15 through the air for 93 yards.

• Sophomore RB Kendall Bussey posted a career-long 41-yard run in the fourth quarter. A few plays later, he logged his first career touchdown on a two-yard plunge. Bussey finished the night as the leading rusher for the Aggies for the first time of his career (15 rushes, 97 yards)

• Junior DE Landis Durham made the first start of his career and also logged the first sack of his career in the third quarter.

• Redshirt freshman WR/TE Aaron Hansford logged his first career catch (4-yarder in the first quarter).

• True freshman DB Debione Renfro made a huge play in the third quarter with a strip and fumble recovery to end a Nicholls drive deep in A&M territory.

• Sophomore Tyrel Dodson recorded his first career interception to seal the victory late in the fourth quarter, the interception was the first of the season for the A&M defense.

• The Texas A&M offense finished over 50% (10-for-19) on third downs for the first time since the New Mexico State game last season (7-for-13, Oct. 29, 2016).

• The Aggies posted time of possession of more than 34 minutes in back-to-back games for the first time in the Kevin Sumlin era.

• The A&M defense allowed less than 75 yards rushing in back-to-back games for the first time since the 2011 season (Oklahoma State 46 yards, Sept. 24; Arkansas 71 yards, Oct. 1).

• Texas A&M entered the weekend tied for national lead in turnover margin, the Maroon & White have not turned the ball over in the 2017 season while forcing 5 turnovers (4 fumble recoveries and 1 interception).

GAME CAPTAINS, 12TH MAN

• Game captains for the Aggies were Cullen Gillaspia, Christian Kirk, Trayveon Williams and Armani Watts. Nicholls 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 15th straight start.

Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M Head Coach

On if it was planned to bring Jake Hubenak in…

“The game kind of dictated that. I think it’s a little bit a both. Like I said before, we got going. They were both playing. That was the plan. I thought Kellen started off very well. The first couple series, he was accurate. Moved the ball with tempo. We had issues in the middle part of the game, which weren’t all the quarterbacks fault. We had some protection issues. We weren’t able to run the football. He missed a couple things, but he didn’t really have the time to do a lot and some of the adjustments that they made and we made with their blitzes and things like that. We weren’t able to do things that we needed to do offensively from a protection standpoint and really being able to help him with running the ball the way we needed to. Jake came in and did a nice job. I thought he operated with both tempo and he operated also with being able to manage the clock. We didn’t ask him to get down the field much with throws. I thought his intermediate passing game was very good. There were positives and negatives for both guys. Pull reads and things like that where Jake should’ve pulled it. There’s times where he pulled it and he should’ve just handed it off. It’s still a work in progress but both those guys are getting better.”

On the team’s response to tied game in 4th quarter…

“We weren’t perfect. There were some things that happened in the game that were frustrating to players and coaches. Give Nicholls credit for that. It wasn’t just about execution. They were playing hard. We weren’t able to run it the way we wanted to as we did in the first part of the first quarter and they were able to run it on us. We did something we didn’t do a week ago and that was finish the football game in a different style. It wasn’t pretty but it was effective. They tied the game and we went on a pretty substantial scoring drive and finished the game with Kendall Bussey who had an outstanding night tonight and ran it 100 yards. He’s a guy who came off the bench. Did we handle that situation better than we did a week ago? You bet we did. That’s a team effort. Not just a quarterback situation. That’s an execution situation. In that respect we got better.”

On the importance of Kendall Bussey’s performance…

“I thought it was a time where we needed to finish a game which we did. He did a great job. We just talked about that in a locker room. There’s always going to be guys that you’re not talking about as players, particularly young players. When their time comes they need to be mentally ready. They wouldn’t be here if you weren’t physically ready to play at this level. Expectation is the same for them as it is for the starters. Kendall is a guy that has been around here has really waited his time. I think what you saw tonight was a guy that had had his opportunity and made the most of it. This is very positive for him and very positive for this football team. It gives us a third guy that we need and we’re going to need for the next 10-14 weeks. We’d like to develop four of them incase these things happen because running backs get this. When they get tired nothing good happens. Either mistakes fumbles or injuries. Kendall came in and gave us what we needed to finish the game.”

On what he’s seen out of Kellen Mond…

“Everything is an ongoing evaluation. I have to go back and look at the video. Like I said at UCLA, everything that happens is not the quarterback’s fault. At this level of football and the next level of football have something in common. The head coach and the quarterback get way too much credit when we win and we get all the blame when we lose. We get that. There are other people on the field too. Life pays off on results, we get that. It’s an ongoing evaluation so we’ll see where we are.”

Armani Watts, Texas A&M Senior Safety

On the defense tonight…

“I think we did ok. We could have done better. With a team like this we wanted to execute our plays. We got a lot of young guys in. I feel like we need to execute better, just be more physical.”

On the mood in the locker room after the game…

“Everybody is excited we got the W. Everybody is really cheering on [Kendall] Bussey right now, coming in and having the game he had. We’re just happy we got the win but we know we have work to do next week.”

On the focus going forward as a team…

“Really getting everybody acclimated and comfortable in their positions. Alignment and assignment with everybody (on) offense, defense, special teams, everything.”

Christian Kirk, Texas A&M Junior Wide Receiver

On team’s reaction to this game…

“In my eyes, a win is a win. Obviously offensively we would have like to put more points on the board, but like I said, a win is a win. The biggest take away from this game is the fact that we finished. We went in at halftime and it was close, and then they tied up the game. We easily all in our minds could have said it’s happening again, but we all locked in as a team and went out there and finished. The biggest thing too was it was a short week, and we still had a lot of guys banged up from the UCLA game. The fact that we finished and came away with a win is big time.”

On switching quarterbacks throughout the game…

“I would say it’s tough. In the beginning, I was still getting used to Kellen [Mond] a little bit and seeing how he plays and going through his reads. It was just adjusting to him and making sure we are going out there and making plays for him. Just like Jake [Hubenak] said, it’s hard his freshman year to be put in big time situations, and they expect to go out there and be perfect and make every play, but they aren’t going to do that. I’ve said it countless times that Jake’s been a guy that when our backs are against the wall has been able to come in and get us going. All of the receivers responded well to him. Once he comes in the game, we all know he is going to make the right reads and is going to go in there and play hard for us. It is a bit of an adjustment, but we honestly responded well to it.”

Otaro Alaka, Texas A&M Junior Linebacker

On being able to stop the run…

“We went into the offseason with plans to stop the run. We’ve been working on that since January, so it really didn’t surprise me that that’s what we are doing. We could still be a whole lot better.”

On Tyrel Dodson…

“I think Tyrel is getting better every day and every game. He shows some really good leadership out there and is a big strong player. I think he is going to keep getting better and that is what we need.”

On overall win…

“It is always good to get a win especially after last week with the way that game turned out. It is just good to finish a game in the fourth quarter. That is what we have been harping on is just finishing. A win is a win, so we are glad we got it.”

Jake Hubenak, Texas A&M Senior Quarterback

On coming into tonight’s game…

“I’ve been put in a couple of these situations over the past couple of years and it’s really nothing new to me. I love being out there. I love getting to play. It really doesn’t matter what the situation is, when presents itself I’m ready to go.”

On running back Kendall Bussey…

“He’s one of those guys that’s always ready to go. Everyone on this team knows it. They’ve seen him in practice. Being behind guys like Trayveon Williams and Keith Ford it’s kind of tough to get your playing time but we see it in practice every day. The guy runs hard, he’s fast, he can make people miss. We knew we wouldn’t miss a beat when he got in the game.”

Tim Rebowe, Nicholls State Head Coach

Thoughts on the game…

“I was just very proud of our players. I thought there was tremendous effort, they fought all the way to the end. We were in it at halftime, close ball game and we got the ball to start the second half. I thought maybe we could punch it in. We gave them a run at the end but we have to be able to get off the field there on third down. We had a couple shots there at the end to maybe block a field goal but we didn’t do it. Nevertheless, I was really proud of the effort by our players.”

On erasing an early deficit…

“We talked about limiting their possessions and we knew we couldn’t let them get momentum. We knew that was going to be a big factor. They had a big play on a pass interference call and then I got the 15-yard penalty that kind of got us off track. That one’s on me. Then we let them score real quick. In an atmosphere like this I thought we came back made it 14-3 and got one right before the half to put it within a one-score game.”

Moving forward…

“This team is special. I said before the game that I wanted to walk in that locker room win, lose or draw and have no regrets, leave it all on the field. We surely did that and I think we have something special here but it’s still one loss. We have a big home game next weekend. We have to pick ourselves back up and be ready to go.”