Texas A&M football: My 10 favorite moments from the 2020 season
Say what you want about Texas A&M in 2020, but the Aggies did their job.
They won every game they were supposed to, with their lone loss coming at the hands of eventual champion Alabama. All season they remained right on the edge, daring the College Football Playoff committee to take a chance on them.
It never did, and A&M answered with an Orange Bowl victory thanks to a dominant 4th quarter.
Getting left out of the Playoff was disappointing, but there was still plenty to like about this season. When we look back, it could ultimately be the turning point for Jimbo Fisher’s tenure as Aggies coach.
No matter what happens going forward, this year should be remembered fondly. Here are my 10 favorite moments from the 2020 season:
1. Devon Achane’s touchdown run
The play of the year for Texas A&M came from a freshman in the final quarter of their final game.
With Isaiah Spiller sidelined with a leg injury, Achane entered and assumed the role of lead back in the Jan. 2 Orange Bowl against North Carolina. He had gotten a few carries on the previous 3 drives but hadn’t yet made a huge impact on the big stage. That would soon change.
With the game tied at 27, Achane trucked a few defenders before breaking free down the sideline for the 76-yard go-ahead score. That sapped any momentum the Tar Heels had as the Aggies went on to win the Orange Bowl, 41-27.
Texas A&M freshman running back Devon Achane.
76-yard go-ahead touchdown run.
— Matt Zenitz (@mzenitz) January 3, 2021
Achane scored the next touchdown as well and finished the game with 140 yards on 12 carries. He definitely started to develop late in the season, so he will be a name to watch heading into next year.
2. Caleb Chapman’s touchdown catch against Florida
Chapman actually suffered a season-ending injury making this catch, which makes it even more remarkable.
The 51-yard bomb didn’t win the game, but it did tie it and put A&M in position to later win, 41-38, on a field goal. Chapman catches the ball, collides with a defender and is then seen grabbing his leg as he hops up.
Hopefully, Chapman is able to make a full recovery and contribute next season. He was starting to come on as one of Kellen Mond’s top targets before the injury. In any case, he gave us this play, which makes him look tough as nails still coming away with the catch.
3. The field goal that sealed the victory
This game on Oct. 10 was the reason the Aggies found themselves back in the Playoff race.
The defense came away with a fumble recovery after Chapman’s touchdown to put the offense in position to set up a chance to win on a field goal. With a mix of Mond and Spiller, the Aggies set up this game-winning kick from Seth Small.
It was arguably the moment that put A&M on everyone’s radar. They made a huge jump in the rankings afterward and haven’t lost a game since. Can they extend that streak into next season?
4. Mond’s game against South Carolina
Mond had one of his best games of the year on the road Nov. 7 against the Gamecocks.
The senior threw for 224 yards and 4 touchdowns and added a 5th on the ground in a commanding 48-3 victory. He became A&M’s all-time leader in touchdown passes during that game. It’s one of many school records he holds; he also became the leader in total offense this year and was already the leader in completions and attempts.
Mond had his best season in 2020 and has a chance to be drafted in a later round in the upcoming NFL Draft.
He had a rocky time in College Station, going through a coaching change early and couple of good (not great) seasons prior to this one. Although his numbers didn’t pop this year, he played his role well and often did have a high completion percentage.
I think this season and the Orange Bowl victory showed that Mond will be remembered as one of the best quarterbacks to play for A&M. This game was a huge milestone in that. But he wasn’t the only big part of the victory.
5. Fisher pulling his hamstring to escape a Gatorade bath
The Gatorade bath is a traditional part of the bowl game victory celebration that Fisher apparently wanted no part of.
Good work by the ESPN crew capturing Jimbo Fisher evading the Gatorade bath. pic.twitter.com/JBvQEbhl92
— Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing) January 3, 2021
Fisher was captured postgame at the Orange Bowl running away from a posse of Aggies trying to chase him down and dump the ice-cold beverage on him. They ultimately failed, spilling it on the field instead. Fisher said afterward that he pulled his hamstring.
The scene is still full of joy and almost better than if they had caught him. One of the season’s best moments by far. Hopefully, Fisher was able to make a quick recovery from his injury.
6. Coming back from COVID-19 to face LSU
As it did to many teams this season, COVID-19 found a way to interfere with the Aggies’ schedule.
They had to take a couple of weeks off after a few members of the team tested positive, returning against LSU on Nov. 28. A&M’s offense looked rusty, as Mond finished 11-of-34 for 105 yards. But they found a way to win, 20-7, with their defense.
They nearly pitched a shutout, with LSU scoring their 1st touchdown of the game with 38 seconds remaining. A&M also forced 3 turnovers, including a pick-6.
This performance proved that the Aggies had one of the top defenses in the conference and country. That it came after 2 weeks off and with the offense struggling is even more remarkable.
7. Mond’s response to missing the Playoff
The quarterback took to Twitter following the announcement that the selection committee had left A&M out of the Playoff. He defended A&M’s schedule, saying many of the teams they played would go undefeated in other leagues.
“Texas A&M has no quality wins.”
All of these SEC teams that are “MEDIOCRE” in the media’s eyes would run the table in some of these other leagues. Only a few teams out of the SEC can really play in the SEC.
— K M o n d (@TheKellenMond) December 20, 2020
Whether true or not, I love seeing players show passion. Mond clearly wanted the chance to go out playing for a championship, and the pain of not getting that opportunity is evident here.
I am all for him defending the Aggies’ right to be among the final 4.
8. Mond passing Johnny Manziel for the total yards record
Mond had another excellent game against Arkansas on Oct. 31. He was extremely efficient, going 21-of-26 for 260 yards and 3 touchdowns. He also became A&M’s leader in total offense.
He passed Manziel for the No. 1 spot on a 15-yard pass to Jalen Wydermyer. He now stands alone as the only player in school history to accumulate more than 10,000 yards of total offense.
A&M was in control for this entire game, with a couple of late Arkansas scores making the final of 42-31 seem closer than it was in reality.
9. Any Ainias Smith highlight
Smith really developed into a unique threat for the Aggies.
Used both in the backfield and as a receiver, he racked up 857 yards from scrimmage and also served as a punt returner. Seeing him switch jerseys every game never got old.
Smith was a constant big-play threat. It seemed that nearly every game, he created an opportunity with his speed. He was fun to watch grow, and he could develop into an even more dangerous weapon in the future.
10. 7 All-SEC selections
A huge testament to the season the Aggies had is that 7 players were selected to an All-SEC team.
Bobby Brown and Spiller were 1st-team members. Carson Green, Kenyon Green, Dan Moore and Wydermyer were all named to the 2nd team.
McKinnley Jackson made the freshman team.
Seven players named to the all-conference team is a huge accomplishment and was a great way to end the season for A&M.