Rapid reaction: Texas A&M defeats Western Carolina
Here are a few quick thoughts on Texas A&M’s lopsided 41-17 win over Western Carolina at Kyle Field on Saturday.
What it means: It’s another addition to the win column for the Aggies, and each one carries significance in determining bowl bids. There was really nothing for Texas A&M to prove against the FCS school other than to get in the reps and allow young QBs Kyler Murray and Kyle Allen to continue to learn and grow at that position. Both, despite exceptional raw talent, still have a ways to go before becoming the polished signal-callers coach Kevin Sumlin is looking for.
What I liked: Leading by only a touchdown at halftime, Texas A&M came out in the second half and asserted itself. While the offense moved the ball almost at will, it was the Aggies defense that shut down any chance for Western Carolina to pull the upset. Texas A&M scored the first 13 points of the second half to pull away. Kicker Taylor Bertolet got into the act with field goals of 47 and 52 yards.
What I didn’t like: The downfield passing game still remains a mystery to Murray, although the young QB did throw for 3 touchdowns on an inferior Catamounts secondary. Murray had 3 interceptions a week ago and 2 more in the first half on Saturday, and the Catamounts dropped a couple more during the game that could have become significant turnovers. That and an inability for the Aggies defense to stop the run made this game a competitive one for the better part of three quarters.
Who’s the man: While the Texas A&M offense sputtered at times, one player proved to be a steadying force in the first half with the game still hanging in the balance. Aggies RB Tra Carson was a reliable force and a calming influence when the passing game sputtered. Carson rushed for more than 100 yards in the first half, carrying 17 times for 109 yards and a touchdown all before halftime while leading the Aggies to a 21-14 edge at the break.
Key play: With Western Carolina knocking on the door in a scoreless game, the Aggies pressured Catamounts QB Troy Mitchell, forcing a desperation heave into the end zone where Aggies S Justin Dunning came up with the interception. The key early momentum swing was capitalized on when Texas A&M proceeded to drive 93 yards in 14 plays for the game’s first touchdown with Carson carrying for the final 2 yards and an early Aggies lead.
What’s next: Texas A&M hits the road next week to face the Vanderbilt Commodores. It will mark just the second time this season that the Aggies will have played outside the state of Texas. They lost at Ole Miss 23-3 in the only other game beyond the Lone Star State. In addition to playing seven homes games this season at Kyle Field, the Aggies opened the schedule in Houston against Arizona State, and later took on Arkansas in Arlington. Texas A&M follows up the road trip to Nashville with another away game, the regular-season finale against LSU in Baton Rouge.