Rapid Reaction: Texas A&M squeezes past Ole Miss
Going on the road and winning in the SEC is tough to do. But Texas A&M did just that on Saturday night, surviving a 24-17 nail-biter over Ole Miss at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. The Aggies improved to 4-3 overall and 2-2 in SEC play.
It was a must-win for head coach Jimbo Fisher in his second season at Texas A&M as it looks to become bowl eligible and continue to build a program that could soon compete for conference and national honors.
The loss greatly damages bowl game aspirations for the 3-5 Rebels (2-3 SEC) who still have games at Auburn and with LSU left on the schedule.
Texas A&M kicker Seth Small missed field goal attempts of 51 and 28 yards, opening the door for a dramatic late comeback victory in front of the home crowd. But when Aggies Ray Guy Award winning punter Braden Mann blasted a 55-yard punt inside the Rebels’ 1-yard line with 7:11 to play in the fourth quarter, it looked bleak for the home team — which was one of the nation’s best in the run game but coming into the game no better than 10th in the SEC in passing.
The Rebels couldn’t move the ball, punted, and the Aggies took advantage of a short field, driving 55 yards in 7 plays with Isaiah Spiller ripping of a 22-yard touchdown run. That gave A&M a 24-14 lead with 2:34 left in the game.
Ole Miss got within 24-17 on a field goal in the final seconds but A&M ran out the clock.
Ole Miss doesn’t have a quarterback controversy. It has a quarterback system. A system in which John Rhys Plumlee engineers a run-oriented offense where he plays an integral role. Then there’s Matt Corral, the passer in the system.
It worked to perfection on the Rebels’ opening drive of the second half, a 5-play, 65-yard march that enabled them to grab a 14-10 lead. But it helps to have an athlete like RB Scottie Phillips in the backfield with them. Phillips took a hand off from Plumlee and dashed 38 yards. Corral entered the game and threw a 22-yard pass to Phillips, setting up a 2-yard touchdown run by Snoop Conner.
And just when it looked like the Rebels running game was starting to grind down the Aggies’ defense, a scoop-and-score turned around the momentum.
The Aggies rushed Plumlee on the ninth play of a drive that had gone 42 yards to the Texas A&M 25-yard line. The freshman made the mistake of rolling into the pressure instead of away from it. He was strip sacked and Aggies LB Buddy Johnson picked up the fumble and ran 62 yards untouched to give Texas A&M a 17-14 lead.
Aggies DL Justin Madubuike, who was in on the scoop-and-score sack, then blocked Mississippi’s potential tying field goal attempt in the waning moments of the third quarter.
The Aggies scored first, going 73 yards in 10 plays before bogging down at the Rebels’ 6-yard line and settling for Small’s 24-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead midway through the first quarter. In the drive, Aggies QB Kellen Mond ran for more yards than he threw, rushing 3 times for 35 yards. He completed both pass attempts during the drive, good for 22 yards.
That lead lasted just three plays. Ole Miss freshman RB Jerrion Ealy broke to the outside and raced down the sidelines 69 yards for a score to put the Rebels on the scoreboard with a 7-3 lead.
Despite being sacked three times and throwing two interceptions before halftime, Mond gave his team a 10-7 lead with 38 seconds left in the second quarter on an 18-yard touchdown pass to Kendrick Rogers.