Postgame analysis: Aggies' late rally falls short in Music City Bowl loss
Texas A&M closed the 2015 season on Wednesday with a 27-21 loss to Louisville at the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl in Nashville, TN.
The Aggies, who finished the season 8-5, fought valiantly with QB Jake Hubenak making his first career start. But a final drive in the closing minutes came up just short and a miraculous comeback was not to be.
- Louisville doesn’t have a question mark at quarterback; the Aggies do: Cardinals true freshman QB Lamar Jackson played like a seasoned veteran, throwing for 227 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for another 226 yards and two more scores. The Aggies had no answer for the slippery, strong-armed rookie. He became just the third player in bowl history (Vince Young, Johnny Manziel) to rush and pass for 200 yards each in the same game.
- But there is reason to be optimistic about the QB position: Hubenak remained poised and nearly produced a last-minute comeback for the Aggies. It’s not like the Aggies will have to go back to square one at that position. He did throw for 307 yards (28-for-48) and two touchdowns. Not too shabby for your first career start. There is potential there and with an offseason and spring practice, who knows how good Hubenak can be?
- Aggies P Drew Kaser one of the best ever: The Aggies’ senior punter fell just shy of the NCAA FBS career punt average record. He had seven punts for a 43.7-yard average on Wednesday and finishes his career with a 46.196-yard average on 168 punts. The FBS record is 46.31, set by West Virginia’s Todd Sauerbrun (1991-94). Kaser is just the second player in NCAA history to average more than 46.0 yards per punt for his career with a minimum of 150 punts.
- WR Christian Kirk has a bright future: The freshman led the Aggies’ receiving corps all season long. With 84 yards on a career-high 10 catches, Kirk finished the season with 1,009 yards – the first true freshman in school history to accomplish that feat. He also came up just 17 yards short of the school’s single-season all-purpose yardage record of 1,806 set in 2010 by Cyrus Gray.
- RB Tra Carson finishes strong: The Aggies senior rushed for 106 yards on 20 carries. It was his seventh 100-yard game this season. Carson also ripped off a career-long 55-yard run.
Offense: (C) – All things considered, it was an exceptional game offensively. Hubenak remained poised throughout and the Aggies were able to roll up 445 yards of total offense. Two turnovers, however, took away from the overall effort, and it wasn’t until late in the game that the Aggies were finally able to move the ball with any consistency.
Defense: (D) – The Aggies chased Jackson all over the field. When they weren’t yielding big yardage on the ground, Jackson was picking them apart through the air as well. Texas A&M gave up 534 yards total. Jackson accounted for 453 of those.
Special Teams: (C) – Kaser’s efforts have already been discussed. The Aggies also missed their only field goal attempt and averaged nearly 21 yards on four kickoff returns. Kickoff coverage was very good, holding the Cardinals to just a 17-yard average on three returns. But punt coverage wasn’t as strong. The Aggies yielded an average of 16.3 yards on three punt returns.
Coaching: (C) – The defensive game plan wasn’t at all effective in the beginning. It wasn’t until the Aggies fell behind 20-7 that changes were made and the Cardinals were held in check. Offensively, execution was a bigger problem than the plan of attack.
Overall: (C-minus) – It took far too long for the Aggies to adjust to what the Cardinals were doing. A reenergized effort over the final three quarters enabled them to make a game of it. But the offense came up a play or two short of what would have been a miraculous comeback.
Defensively, the Aggies started out slow. An ineffective game plan coupled with a somewhat lethargic effort resulted in a 20-7 deficit the Aggies ultimately could not overcome. Considering it was Hubenak’s first career start, the playbook probably wasn’t opened all the way.
- QB Jake Hubenak: He sure didn’t look like a guy making his first college football start. Hubenak threw the football with confidence and did an admirable job of leading the team throughout the game.
- WR Josh Reynolds: The junior had a career high in both catches (11) and yards (177). It was his fifth 100-yard game. In two seasons, Reynolds has hauled in 103 passes.
- Sam Moeller: The senior set a school record. He played in his 39th straight game as the Aggies’ 12th Man.
- Kirk, FS Armani Watts, and RG Jermaine Eluemunor all went down with injuries at various stages in the game, but all returned soon after.