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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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Aggies fall short in thriller to Wake Forest, 55-52

Camron+Buckley
Photo by Photo by Meredith Seaver
Camron Buckley

CHARLOTTE – At times, Texas A&M had no means having a chance to beat Wake Forest in the Belk Bowl, yet the Aggies fell short in a thrilling comeback-bid, 55-52, Friday afternoon at Bank of America Stadium.
After A&M stuffed the Demon Deacons twice inside the Aggie five, Matt Coburn bounced to the outside and punched it in for six from one yard out. The methodical 13-play, 69-yard drive gave Wake Forest a three-point advantage with 2:18 to go.
Facing fourth-and-15 from their own 44, Aggie QB Nick Starkel’s pass sailed over the head of receiver Damion Ratley, sealing the win for the Demon Deacons.
“You’ve got to get a stop and the last two drives we didn’t get a stop” A&M interim head coach Jeff Banks said. “If you’re going to play that kind of shootout, you’ve either got to get a stop late in that game, which we didn’t, or you’ve got to keep scoring, and we just came up a little short.”
Christian Kirk could not be stopped, totaling 13 catches for 189 yards and three touchdowns as Nick Starkel’s top target. The redshirt freshman was electric, throwing for 499 yards on 42-of-63 passing.
Kirk went down in the third quarter with what at first appeared to be a serious leg injury that even brought a cart onto the field. Kirk, however, powered through the pain and finished the game.
“He’s going to fight for us no matter what,” Ratley said. “Me personally, I didn’t think he was going to come back, but he showed his true toughness and he showed the team that he really cares about them.”
With Kirk and running back Trayveon Williams out after being knicked up on back-to-back plays, the Aggies were able to retake the lead, 42-41, on Keith Ford’s 1-yard touchdown run with 1:59 in the third quarter. Daniel LaCamera’s 19-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter pushed A&M’s lead to four.
The field goal was tough to swallow for A&M, however, as Ford was ruled just short of the end zone two plays before. He was stuffed behind the line of scrimmage on the following play.
“I felt like I had that touchdown,” Ford said. “I don’t really have any control over that, so I just go with the next play call is.”
Wake Forest torched the A&M defense, totaling 646 yards. It was the second-straight game the Aggies surrendered over 600 yards to its opponent. Yet again, big plays were detrimental to the A&M defense, as Wake Forest raked up 14 plays of 15-plus yards.
Banks pointed towards the depleted front and the youthful secondary as possibilities for A&M’s struggles on defense.
“We’ve obviously had some injuries,” Banks said.”We played three safeties and three defensive ends. That’s not exactly how you draw it up depth wise.”
A bright start quickly turned gloomy for A&M in the first half, surrendering 31-unanswered points after jumping out to a fast 14-0 lead.
After being heavily pressured in the first two drives, Wake Forest QB John Wolford began to settle into the pocket, connecting on four first-half touchdown passes, two to Tabari Hines. The Demon Deacons added another score on a 59-yard punt return TD from Jessie Bates.
Amidst a major meltdown, Kirk added his second touchdown with 18 seconds before the break to get A&M within 38-28 at the intermission.
“I told them six penalties, two turnovers and the punt return for a touchdown is not the kind of football we’re capable of playing,” Banks said of his halftime message. “We take some of those little things away and play more disciplined, we have a chance to win this football game.”
Special teams shined early for A&M, as Deshawn Capers-Smith blocked a punt on WF’s opening drive which was recovered in the end zone by Charles Oliver for an Aggie touchdown.
The loss gives A&M its worst season since 2011, which was the last time the Aggies made a coaching change and played with an interim head coach in the bowl game as well. Unlike that team, however, A&M was unable to close one era on a high note, something that troubled departing seniors.
“Coach Sumlin brought me here, he brought everybody on this team right now here, and it was tough for us not to be able to get this win for him,” Ratley said. “I hope he’s happy with our performance and I hope he knows we played for him this game.”

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