Turnovers tell the story for A&M in season-opener, a story Aggies can't repeat
Kellen Mond saw the defenders coming and made an effort to slide, but it was too late.
Before Mond’s knee touched the ground, a Vanderbilt player poked the ball free. The Commodores pounced on it at the Aggies 43 with a chance to make it a one-possession game midway through the 3rd quarter. Ken Seals capped that drive with a 7-yard touchdown pass to Amir Abdur-Rahman to cut the A&M lead to 14-12.
Turnovers were the theme of the game Saturday evening. They almost cost the Aggies the game, but a late turnover may have won it, too, as No. 10 A&M escaped with a 17-12 victory.
Vanderbilt was marching into A&M territory when a tipped pass resulted in an interception by Leon O’Neal Jr. with 6:39 to play. The Aggies had a chance to run more time off the clock but found themselves facing 3rd-and-1 after a couple of Mond passes. Isaiah Spiller was stuffed at the line, forcing coach Jimbo Fisher to go for it on 4th-and-1.
Mond faked a handoff and took the ball for himself but fumbled. He fell on it but was short of the first down. It was a turnover on downs, and Vanderbilt was gifted yet another chance.
The Aggies defense once again came up clutch, forcing a three-and-out. A&M took over and successfully ran out the clock after a Mond completion to Jalen Preston on 3rd-and-5. Upset averted.
As the coachspeak goes, a win is a win, and A&M certainly won’t be complaining about being 1-0. But the victory does feel a bit hollow, as if it revealed shortcomings about Mond and the offense more than it reassured anyone that the Aggies have a shot to beat No. 2 Alabama next week.
Mond was at the forefront of the Aggies’ turnover issues. Texas A&M had 3 miscues — all fumbles — and 4 if you count the late turnover on downs. Of those 4, 3 were attributable to Mond. That’s not ideal for a player who was expected to take a step forward this season. Turnovers were an issue for Mond last year, and judging by the first game, it doesn’t look like much has changed.
It has been a long offseason. Mond’s top receiver, roommate and friend Jhamon Ausbon, opted out of the season a little less than two weeks prior to the game against Vanderbilt. A little rust was certainly to be expected. So we shouldn’t be so quick to hop on Mond and the offense for the turnovers after one game. They are lucky to have won and have an opportunity to improve as the season moves on.
That said, this is a trend that cannot continue.
The schedule is only going to get tougher for the Aggies. There are still four teams currently ranked in the top 10 that they have yet to play. A&M’s defense looked good on Saturday and made several big plays in the 4th. However, if the Aggies commit another 3 or 4 turnovers against the Crimson Tide next week, it’s far less likely their defense is going to be able to bail them out.
It might just be that the offense is a bit out of sync with the shortened preparation time and the late loss of Ausbon. Perhaps another week of practice, where surely these issues will be addressed, can help the Aggies look more cohesive.
They will need to hope that is the case, or they will fail to reach their lofty goals for this season once again.