Freshmen Kyler Murray, Christian Kirk carry Texas A&M again
After struggling early, Texas A&M dominated the second half Saturday at Kyle Field pulling away for a much-needed 41-17 victory over Western Carolina. The Aggies (7-3, 3-3 in the SEC) scored the first 13 points of the second half while their defense held the Catamounts (6-4) to a only a fourth-quarter field goal. Western Carolina is 0-8 all-time against SEC teams, including two losses this season.
Here’s an analysis of the A&M win:
- Kyler Murray is going to be a good QB: He’s not there yet, but the freshman has all the tools necessary to be a good one. With outstanding arm strength and an ability to beat you with his feet, once he learns to make better decisions with throws downfield, he will put himself in the top tier of quarterbacks in the SEC. He overcame two early interceptions on Saturday by throwing for 191 yards (22-for-39) and three touchdowns, his first multiple touchdown game.
- Christian Kirk can do it all: The true freshman had a career-high nine catches for 122 yards and two touchdowns. He’s the first true freshman in program history to surpass 60 catches (63) and 800 yards (828). He also tied the true freshman record with six TD receptions. In all, Kirk accounted for 198 all-purpose yards. He returned a punt 46 yards and added 30 yards on two kick returns.
- Taylor Bertolet is a reliable kicker: The senior drilled field goals from 47 and 52 yards to help the Aggies pull away in the third quarter. Bertolet has 16 field goals on the season and 31 for his career. He’s just the 10th player in program history to reach 30 field goals.
- The Aggies are deep with talented receivers: With WRs Speedy Noil and Josh Reynolds suspended for Saturday’s game for violating team rules, Aggies QBs still completed passes to nine different receivers. Kirk led the group, but Jeremy Tabuyo (5-53) and Damion Ratley (4-33) also stepped up nicely.
- Kyle Allen returns to the field: The Aggies’ former starting QB, who hadn’t played in the past two games after being benched in favor of Murray, earned his way back to the field. According to Sumlin, Allen practiced well this week and was next in line to relieve Murray late in Saturday’s win. Allen was a perfect 6-for-6 passing for 88 yards and a touchdown.
Offense: (A-minus) – The only drawback from an otherwise outstanding performance was the turnover problem. Three is too many, and that really shouldn’t be happening against an inferior nonconference foe. However, the Aggies did roll up 583 total yards, converted on 10-of-18 third downs, and controlled the football for nearly 35 minutes while piling up 36 first downs.
Defense: (C) – The Aggies shut down Western Carolina in the second half, holding the Catamounts to just three points. It was a much-improved showing than that of the first two quarters when Western Carolina enjoyed much more success. For the game, the Catamounts were able to pile up 302 yards of offense but mounted few sustained drives, holding the ball for just 25 minutes.
Special Teams: (B-plus) – Aggies K Taylor Bertolet missed one field goal attempt but was successful on two others. Drew Kaser averaged 42 yards on two punts. Kirk’s punt- and kick-return yardage set up the Aggies in good field position.
Coaching: (B) – You can’t complain too much about a lopsided victory, and the gameplan was solid, for the most part. Western Carolina had some success running the ball in the first half but defensive coordinator John Chavis made the necessary adjustments to slow down the ground attack of the Catamounts, who fell further and further behind in the second half and were therefore forced to go to the air.
Overall: (B) – A solid second half improved the overall grade for the game. A very good second half that found the Aggies outscore their visitors 20-3, and that was the kind of domination that was expected. It brought the grade up after a shaky first half.
Relying on the ground game with RB Tra Carson in the first half, the Aggies overcame three turnovers by modifying the passing game to more bubble screens and throws near the line of scrimmage. That change not only allowed for more completions and less chance for turnovers, but also got the speedy A&M receivers out in space to utilize their talents.
- RB Tra Carson: Taking the pressure off Murray, Carson rushed for 109 yards on 17 carries and one touchdown in the first half before the coaching staff gave him the rest of the night off.
- WR Christian Kirk : The multi-talented true freshman accounted for 198 all-purpose yards. In addition to hauling in a 43-yard pass and touchdown catches covering 14 and 22 yards, Kirk also added a 46-yard punt return.
- DB Sam Moeller: On senior night, this senior – one of 18 on the roster – deserves special recognition. Moeller was the Aggies’ 12th Man for the 36th straight game, a school record.
- WR Ricky Seals-Jones left the game late in the third quarter with an ankle injury and did not return.