Rapid Reaction: Texas A&M rallies past Oklahoma State to win Texas Bowl
Three of Texas A&M’s five losses this season were teams that were ranked No. 1 in the nation at the time of the game. So the Texas Bowl, against No. 25 Oklahoma State, would provide a much more accurate gauge as to just where this Aggies team stacked up this season. They beat the seven teams they were supposed to beat.
So in the Aggies’ third trip to the Texas Bowl and school-record 11th consecutive bowl appearance, a 24-21 victory over the Cowboys on Friday in Houston salvaged an 8-5 season, the second under head coach Jimbo Fisher, now 17-9 at Texas A&M.
The victory snapped a four-game losing streak to Oklahoma State (8-5) in a series that dates to 1913 and extended their all-time series lead at 18-10. They last defeated their former Big 12 colleagues in a 24-23 nail-biter on Oct. 6, 2007, at Kyle Field.
With the Cowboys averaging better than 33 points per game and the Aggies 30 points per game coming in, a defensive struggle was the last thing most expected. But that’s what a healthy NRG Stadium crowd witnessed. After spotting the Cowboys a 14-0 lead, the Aggies rallied to win it late.
Kellen Mond didn’t do much with his arm, but the Aggies’ quarterback made up for it with his legs in crunch time of the fourth quarter. Mond gave the Aggies a 21-14 lead early in the fourth quarter with an electrifying 67-yard touchdown run. He then dashed 30 yards late in the game to set up a 25-yard field goal by Seth Small for a 24-14 lead.
Perhaps the brightest stars were freshmen running backs Isaiah Spiller and the versatile Ainias Smith, a converted receiver who also handles the punt and kick return duties. The two combined for more than 100 yards and both ran with conviction. Smith used his speed well at the new position. He had not run the ball from scrimmage this year prior to the bowl game.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: The Aggies played the run well but couldn’t stop the pass. Oklahoma State grabbed the early momentum and a 14-0 lead when QB Dru Brown completed 4-of-5 pass attempts in the first quarter for 109 yards and a touchdown.
Aside from one breakaway run from Chuba Hubbard, the nation’s leading rusher, Texas A&M held the Cowboys to 1 rushing yard in the first 15 minutes, then got back in the game by holding the Cowboys to 16 total yards in the third quarter. The Aggies came up with a big stop on 4th-and-1 from their 34-yard line with 8 minutes left in the game.
But Hubbard eventually got his yards in chunks and went over 2,000 yards for the season with a 16-yard burst late in the first half. He’s the first RB to do so at Oklahoma State since the legendary Barry Sanders. However, on that fateful play, the Cowboys inexplicably elected to fake a toss to Hubbard and Brown was stopped for no gain.
Oklahoma State went 97 yards in 5 plays to take a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter after squandering an earlier opportunity following a turnover. The Cowboys came up with a strip-sack of Mond at the Texas A&M 26-yard line, but the Aggies’ defense bowed up and Oklahoma State kicker Matt Ammendola came up short on a 53-yard field goal attempt.
But after Aggies All-American punter Braden Mann pinned the Cowboys at their own 3-yard line on a perfectly executed 40-yard punt, Hubbard ripped off a 37-yard run, setting up a 42-yard touchdown pass from Brown to Braydon Johnson.
The Cowboys made it 14-0 on their next drive when Brown hit Johnson with a 57-yard bomb. Brown then ran 9 yards himself to cap a 4-play, 82-yard touchdown drive for a 14-0 lead.
Oklahoma State let the Aggies back in the game midway through the second quarter. A 17-yard punt gave Texas A&M outstanding field position, needing just 22 yards to reach the end zone. They accomplished that in 6 plays with Spiller scoring on a 1-yard run.
A second missed long field goal attempt of the half by Ammendola, this one from 46 yards just before the half, left Oklahoma State’s lead at 14-7 heading into the third quarter.
And on the Aggies’ initial drive of the second half, the Cowboys accomplished what appeared to be a 3-and-out. But an offsides penalty gave the Aggies new life and they took advantage, driving 60 yards in 7 plays to tie the score at 14. Mond threw 10 yards to a diving Jhamon Ausbon for the score.
A 28-yard completion from Mond to TE Jalen Wydermyer and a 19-yard option run by Smith set up the tying score.
Oklahoma State tacked on a touchdown late to make it 24-21 but A&M ran out the clock to hang on.