JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) - Trayveon Williams ran for 236 yards and three touchdowns, smashing a 30-year-old school record and carrying No. 21 Texas A&M to a 52-13 victory against North Carolina State in the Gator Bowl on Monday night.
The Aggies (No. 19 CFP) ended 2018 with a four-game winning streak and broke a three-game postseason skid. It was the first bowl victory for most of Texas A&M's roster, including Williams.
It also capped an impressive inaugural season for coach Jimbo Fisher in Aggieland.
Williams earned MVP honors, a potential final curtain call for his college career. The junior is expected to leave school early and enter the NFL draft.
No one could blame him after the way he closed out the season. Williams ran for 829 yards and eight scores during Texas A&M's final four games, all wins. His performance against the Wolfpack gave him 1,760 yards for the season, topping Darren Lewis' previous mark of 1,692 set in 1988.
Williams had 61 yards rushing in the first half and then got rolling in the third quarter. He carried five times for 82 yards on one drive, including a 17-yard touchdown run. He topped that with a 93-yard scoring run on Texas A&M's ensuing drive.
His longest scamper broke the previous Gator Bowl record of 216 yards rushing set by Syracuse's Floyd Little in 1966 against Tennessee.
Kellen Mond completed 14 of 26 passes for 140 yards, with a touchdown and an interception. Mond also ran five times for 85 yards and a score. Kendrick Rogers made a leaping, 6-yard catch in the back of the end zone to help Mond.
Little went right for the Wolfpack, which was trying to get to double-digit wins for the second time in school history.
Ryan Finley, a senior playing his final game, completed 19 of 32 passes for 139 yards. He threw a touchdown passes and two interceptions. Tyrel Dodson returned one of the picks 78 yards for a score early in the third quarter, a play that turned a close game into a two-touchdown advantage.
Finley also was sacked twice before getting pulled in the fourth quarter. Coach Dave Doeren clearly wanted to protect Finley, who's expected to be an early round pick in the NFL draft in April.
It certainly didn't help that NC State played without two of its best players, including the team's leading tackler.
Receiver Kelvin Harmon, who leads the Atlantic Coast Conference with 1,186 yards receiving, and senior linebacker Germaine Pratt skipped the bowl to protect their NFL draft stocks.
It's unlikely Pratt could have done enough to make a difference against Williams, who averaged 12.4 yards on 19 carries against a defense that allowed 109.1 yards a game all season.
North Carolina State: The Wolfpack played in their fifth consecutive bowl game, but failed to get three straight postseason wins for the first time in school history. It was a disappointing finale after ending the regular season with three consecutive wins, but still proof that Doeren has the program headed in the right direction.
Texas A&M: The Aggies have one of the youngest rosters in the Southeastern Conference and have enough talent to challenge Alabama in the coming years.
The game drew 38,206, the bowl's smallest crowd since 1952.
North Carolina State will have to replace Finley, Harmon, Pratt and three starters on one of the nation's best offensive lines.
Texas A&M has one of the county's most challenging schedules in 2019, a slate that includes Alabama and road games against Clemson, Georgia and LSU.
Texas A&M postgame notes vs. NC State
ABOUT THE WIN ---
· With the victory, Texas A&M improved its season record to 9-4, which was the program’s first nine-win campaign since 2012.
· First-year Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher improved his career record to 6-2 in bowl games.
· Tonight’s win snapped a three-game losing skid by the Aggies in bowl games.
· The Aggies improved its all-time bowl record to 18-22 in the 40th bowl game appearance in program history.
WILLIAMS SHATTERS SCHOOL ALL-PURPOSE YARDS RECORD ---
With another enormous game, second-team All-American RB Trayveon Williams shattered a handful of Gator Bowl records, as well as several Texas A&M standards.
· His 236 rushing yards were a Gator Bowl record, breaking the 52-year old record of 216 by Syracuse’s Floyd Little in 1966. It was the fifth 200-yard game of his career, which is a school record.
· Williams’ 93-yard TD gallop was a career long and broke the Gator Bowl record for longest TD run of 69 by Florida State’s Leon Washington in 2005. It was the seventh 90-yard plus run in school history and ranked fifth on the school list.
· Williams also took down school standards for rushing yards and all-purpose yards in a season. The junior became the first Aggie to surpass the 2,000 yard mark for all-purpose yardage in a season and cross the 1,700 rushing yard mark in a single season.
Season Rushing Yards Season All-Purpose Yards
Trayveon Williams 1,760 2018 Trayveon Williams 2,038 2018
Darren Lewis 1,692 1990 Cyrus Gray 1,806 2010
Darren Lewis 1,691 1988 Christian Kirk 1,789 2015
Johnny Manziel 1,410 2012 Darren Lewis 1,739 1990
Greg Hill 1,339 1992 Leeland McElroy 1,709 1995
MANN CLINCHES ANOTHER NCAA RECORD ---
With his 145 yards on three punts, Ray Guy Award winner and unanimous All-American Braden Mann capped off perhaps the greatest season by a punter in NCAA history as the junior broke the NCAA single season record for the highest average per punt with a sparkling average of 51.0 on 50 attempts in 2018. Mann, who also set NCAA records for most 60-or-more yard punts in a season and highest single game average in 2018, surpassed LSU’s Chad Kessler (50.3 average; min. 36 punts), Iowa’s Reggie Roby (49.8; min. 40 punts) and West Virginia’s Todd Sauerbrun (48.4; min. 50 punts).
(Min. 36 punts) 50.3—Chad Kessler, LSU, 1997 (39 for 1,961)
(Min. 40 punts) 49.8—Reggie Roby, Iowa, 1981 (44 for 2,193)
(Min. 50 punts) 48.4—Todd Sauerbrun, West Virginia, 1994 (72 for 3,486)
GILLASPIA CEMENTS STATUS AS 12THMAN LEGEND---
Senior FB Cullen Gillaspia continued to cement his name in Aggie lore as he became the first 12th Man in history to record a touchdown. The converted linebacker lumberd in from 13 yards out in the fourth quarter to make history.
BOWL RECORDS FOR THE 2018 AGGIES---
· The Aggies five rushing touchdowns in the 2018 Gator Bowl matched the five scores on the ground in the 1990 Holiday Bowl.
· Williams’ 93 yard rush bested the previous longest rush of 74 yards by Dante Hall in the 1998 Cotton Bowl against UCLA.
· Dodson’s 78 interception return topped the 64 yard return by Brandon Jennings in the 1998 Cotton Bowl.
· Williams’ three rushing touchdowns matched Billy Tidwell’s performance against Georgia in the 1950 Presidential Cup and made him the seventh player in program history to record three touchdowns in a single bowl game.
· Williams’ 236 yards are the second most by an Aggie in a bowl game, trailing only Curtis Dickey’s 276 yards on the ground against Iowa State in the Hall of Fame bowl in 1978. Williams moves to third in bowl game rushing yards with 334 through three bowl games, trailing Dickey (378) and George Woodard (360).
· Sophomore QB wasted little time making his mark on the 2018 Gator Bowl, the signal caller raced to the left for a 62 yard TD rush on just the second play of the opening possession. The scamper was the longest of the season for and marked his 10th career rushing TD. Mond finished with 85 yards on the ground, his second most in a game this year (98 yards at Alabama).
· The A&M defense was up to the task to begin the night, the Maroon & White forced a 3 and out to open game for the sixth time in 13 games in 2018.
· The Aggie defense remained stingy on the night, keeping NC State from recording a third-down conversion in the game. NC State was unable to convert a third down in 13 attempts, the Wolfpack entered the day at fifth in the NCAA at 50.9% on third-down attempts this season.
· Junior TE Jace Sternberger hauled in a 28 yard catch in second quarter, marking the 12th game of the year with at least one 20-yard catch.
· Sophomore WR Camron Buckley joined Sternberger as the only two Aggies in 2018 to record at least one catch in every game this year.
· Freshman Leon O’Neal Jr. recorded his first career interception to keep the Wolfpack from scoring at the end of the first half.
· The Aggies captured the momentum for good on the first NC State possession of the second half as junior LB Tyrel Dodson recorded a 78 yard pick-six, his second defensive score of the season and his second pick-six of his career. First INT TD since Derrick Tucker vs. Ole Miss on Nov. 18, 2017. 40-yard INT TD return vs. Louisiana in 2017. The Pick six was the second longest in a Gator Bowl history. Dodson finished the night with a game-high nine tackles (four solo), one tackle for loss and the interception for a touchdown.
· Senior nickelback Deshawn Capers-Smith put together one of the best games of his career in his final time donning the Maroon & White, the Lousiana native posted nine tackled including seven solo tackled and three behind the line of scrimmage.
· After falling behind 13-7 early in the second quarter, the Aggies reeled off 45 straight points including five touchdowns and a field goal on their final seven possessions (not including the field goal attempt to conclude the first half after an O’Neal’s interception with five second remaining).
LAST GAME FOR 16 SENIORS---
· It was the final game for 16 seniors: LB Otaro Alaka, DB Deshawn Capers-Smith, DE Landis Durham, OL Justin Dworaczyk, DL Landry Estes, RB Kwame Etwi, DS Austin Frey, LB Riley Garner, 12th Man/FB Cullen Gillaspia, DL Kingsley Keke, PK Daniel LaCamera, OL Connor Lanfear, DL Daylon Mack, OL Keaton Sutherland, DB Donovan Wilson and TE Trevor Wood.
· The Senior Class of 2018 compiled a 32-20 overall record and was one of an elite group of seniors that earned four bowl trips during their careers.
GAME CAPTAINS, 12thMAN ---
· Texas A&M’s game captains for the NC State game were senior DL Kingsley Keke, senior DE Landis Durham, junior RB Trayveon Williams and junior C Erik McCoy. NC State won the toss and deferred its choice to the second half. The Aggies received the opening kickoff.
· Senior RB Cullen Gillaspia was the Aggies’ 12th Man for the 38th straight game. He is now one away from matching the school record of 39 consecutive starts by a 12th Man held by Sam Moeller from 2013-15.