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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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Aggies fall to No. 1 Alabama in thrilling fashion, 27-19

Photo by By Kevin Chou

Freshman quarterback Kellen Mond completed 19 of his 29 passes for 237 yards with one touchdown against Alabama.

When you are a 26.5-point underdog and playing against Alabama, you have to win the turnover battle. The Aggies were unable to do that Saturday night and fell to the No. 1 Crimson Tide 27-19 in a game that came down to the final minutes.
On the ropes down 24-3 late in the third quarter, the Aggies went for it on fourth-and-9, and freshman quarterback Kellen Mond darted a pass to senior receiver Damion Ratley for a 32-yard gain, setting the Aggies up with first and goal at the Alabama 3-yard line.
After their three rushing attempts were unsuccessful, the Aggies elected to go for it on fourth-and-goal. Mond threaded a needle, completing a 3-yard pass to Christian Kirk as he was falling out of bounds. Kirk was able to keep one foot in bounds to complete the jaw-dropping catch that narrowed the Alabama lead to 24-10 with 1:39 to go in the third quarter.
“With a freshman quarterback, it’s on us as receivers to go out there and make those catches for him,” Kirk said.
A&M stifled the Crimson Tide offense on their next possession, forcing a three-and-out. Punter J.K. Scott kicked the ball just 19 yards to start the fourth quarter, setting the Aggies up with key field position on their own 47-yard line.
Mond marched the Aggie offense down the field, initiating a 44-yard drive before throwing the ball into double coverage and Alabama safety Minkah Fitzpatrick picked the ball off at the 1-yard line. A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin said that though his freshman quarterback was a catalyst of the offense throughout the game, there were some throws he would like to have back. 
“Kellen’s [Mond] got some throws that he’d like to have back, but I think we’re not in the position at the end of the game to onside kick and do some things if he doesn’t play the way he has down the stretch,” Sumlin said.
After the turnover, the A&M defense was all over the Alabama running backs, who were pinned inside their own 5-yard line. Alabama was unable to get a first down and were forced to punt. 12th Man Cullen Gillaspia timed the Alabama snap count perfectly and got around the edge in time to block the punt into the back of the end zone for a safety. 
“Coach Banks drew up a great scheme against their punt team and I just did my job,” Gillaspia said.
The succeeding Aggie possession was fruitless and Alabama got the ball back and extended their lead to 27-12 via a 44-yard field goal by Andy Pappanastos with 2:09 to go in the game.
Mond drove the Aggies down the field with key completions to freshmen Jhamon Ausbon and Camron Buckley. He then ran the ball up the gut for a one-yard touchdown, pulling the Aggies within striking distance at 27-19.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Aggies attempted an onside kick with 17 seconds remaining in the game, but, it was easily caught and run 39 yards by Fitzpatrick. Alabama then took a knee, clinching the 27-19 victory.
Though they were not expected to be in such a close game down the stretch, Sumlin was disappointed that his team couldn’t walk off the field with a victory.
“There’s no moral victory. When you play that hard and play that long, no one’s happy,” Sumlin said.
Coming into the game, the Aggies knew they would have to score first and set the tone for the rest of the game.
The maroon and white did just that, driving down the field with a 31-yard pass to sophomore running back Trayveon Williams. That drive was capped with a career-long 52-yard field goal from junior kicker Daniel LaCamera, giving the Aggies a 3-0 lead, and all the momentum.
However, that momentum was halted after Alabama running back Damien Harris bolted 75 yards down the field untouched, for a touchdown on the first play of the ensuing drive.
The Aggies got the ball back and Kirk was hammered while returning the Alabama kickoff. Kirk lost the ball, however, the Aggies recovered it at their own one-yard line. The Aggies were forced to punt on the drive, setting up key field position for Alabama.
A&M’s run defense came up big, forcing a three-and-out putting the ball back in Mond’s hands. Mond marched the Aggie offense down the field, however, the drive was stopped after he was sandwiched in between two Alabama defenders, and fumbled the ball.
Alabama’s running backs ran through the Aggie run defense like a hot knife through butter in the second quarter, rushing for a whopping 112 yards. Alabama moved the ball down the field, but had to settle for a field goal after A&M sophomore defensive back Larry Pryor broke up Alabama sophomore quarterback Jalen Hurts’ pass. The field goal put the Crimson Tide ahead 10-3 with 5:41 remaining in the second quarter.
On A&M’s next possession, Williams was hit by Alabama defensive tackle Joshua Frazier and knocked the ball out of Williams’s hands, which was recovered by the Tide. The turnovers proved costly for the Aggies who knew that they would be key to competing in this game.
“We knew going into this game that the turnover battle was important and we didn’t win that battle tonight,” junior offensive lineman Koda Martin said.
Alabama continued their success pounding the football down the field with Harris, who ran for 27 yards, before he was brought down on the A&M 1-yard line. Hurts then ran the ball outside the tackles, and into the end zone for a touchdown with 3:16 left in the half.
The two teams traded long possessions but neither of their drives proved fruitful. Alabama outgained the Aggies 245-146 in the first half, and entered the locker room at halftime with a 17-3 lead.
Alabama started the second half off with a 75-yard touchdown drive, that ended with an eight-yard touchdown pass from Hurts to Henry Ruggs III on a slant route.
Though there are no moral victories, the Aggies had a very strong outing, competing with the number one team in the country and earning the respect of Alabama head coach Nick Saban.
“We were supposed to put the game away and we didn’t.” Saban said. “This is a different Texas A&M team.”
Christian Kirk added that after tonight, all the Aggies will be focused on is the Florida Gators who they play next Saturday in Gainesville.
“We’ll think about it tonight and then tomorrow we move on to Florida,” Kirk said.
The Aggies game against Florida will kickoff at 6:00 p.m. and will be televised on the SEC Network. 

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