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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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The BattalionMay 4, 2024

5 Takeaways from A&M-Vanderbilt

Photo by Meredith Seaver

Sophomore running back Ainias Smith takes the handoff from senior quarterback Kellen Mond.

Texas A&M beat Vanderbilt 17-12 to open the season on Saturday in Kyle Field. Here’s what we learned:
Smith, Spiller make up for loss of Ausbon
Following the opt-out of senior wide receiver Jhamon Ausbon, who has been playing with senior quarterback Kellen Mond since 2015, A&M needed to find someone else for Mond to connect with. It seems that role has been filled by sophomore running backs Ainias Smith and Isaiah Spiller. Spiller led the way in rushing yards for the Aggies with 117 yards, and Smith followed with 51. These two running backs showed a lot of promise for the rest of the 2020 season.
A&M coach Jimbo Fisher said he was satisfied with how Smith and Spiller competed on offense.
“I thought both of those guys did a good job on the offensive side of the ball,” Fisher said.
A slow but decent start
The Aggies had somewhat of a slow start during their season opener. Only scoring one touchdown during the first half and allowing the Commodores to score one field goal and a safety, the Aggies were only up 7-5 going into the second half. A&M picked up its momentum in the second half with a touchdown from sophomore wide receiver Caleb Chapman on a 17-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Kellen Mond. Junior kicker Seth Small finished the Aggies’ scoring with a 24-yard field goal, closing out the game 17-12 for the Aggies.
Mistakes and penalties
A&M has quite a bit to clean up this next week, as mistakes on offense and special teams allowed Vanderbilt to stay in the game. With Mond responsible for two of the five fumbles and a punt-return blocking penalty resulted in a safety, Vanderbilt was able to capitalize on several of A&M’s mistakes. Overall, protecting the football needs to be improved for the Aggies if they want to minimize mistakes during the rest of the season.
Defense shines
The Aggie defense rose to the occasion, which can be seen on the statsheet. Arguably, the play of the game for the Aggies came in the third quarter when junior defensive back Leon O’Neal Jr. intercepted a bobbled Vanderbilt pass and returned it for 38 yards. The A&M defense also had two sacks and 82 total tackles. Senior linebacker Buddy Johnson had 11 total tackles, four of which were solos. Senior defensive tackle Jayden Peevy also shined with five total tackles, one broken up pass, one quarterback hurry, and 1.5 tackles for loss.
“That’s what it’s all about, defense stepping up when you have to,” Johnson said. “That’s what wins national championships.”
Mond’s performance
Mond had a decent performance for the first game of the season but still has a bit more work to do. The signal caller had 189 passing yards and 18 rushing yards. A highlight of the game for him was the 17-yard touchdown pass he threw to Chapman during the third quarter. However he was responsible for three of the five total fumbles and was sacked once.
Fisher said he has higher expectations for Mond, and expects to see improvement.
“He made some big plays, but he can do better,” Fisher said. “He will continue to get better and work hard.”

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