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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’ miracle comeback bid falls short in 30-24 loss to South Carolina

Photo by Photo by Ishika Samant

With defense on his back, junior RB Devon Achane (6) runs with the ball during a game against the Alabama Crimson Tide on Saturday, Oct. 8, 2022, at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

When the game clock read “0:00” following the Texas A&M football team’s 30-24 loss to South Carolina on Saturday, Oct. 22, there were two very different scenes on the turf at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, S.C.
On one side of the field, an exuberant and elated South Carolina squad celebrated its fourth consecutive victory, which also served as the program’s first-ever win over the Aggies in the teams’ ninth meeting against each other. Players gathered near the bleachers, reveling the victory with the 77,837 fans that created a rocking atmosphere that led to the Aggies committing eight false start penalties.
As the biggest party in the state began, players and the team’s supporters alike were filled with a sense of hope and promise for the future of the program under second-year head coach Shane Beamer.
It was a different story for the Aggies, to say the least.
Players and coaches shuffled slowly to the locker room after A&M dropped to 3-4 on the season, its first time sinking below a .500 winning percentage through six games since the 2009 team finished with a 6-7 record. Questions abound regarding the future of the program and its leadership, and the 12th Man is left wondering how a team ranked No. 6 in the country pre-season now sits near the basement of the Southeastern Conference.
The maroon and white looked like a completely different team against South Carolina compared to the squad that came within two yards of toppling then-No. 1 Alabama just two weeks before. After just over five minutes of play, A&M found itself in a 17-0 hole that it couldn’t climb out of.
“We’ve just got to execute better in the beginning, do the things we need to do and pick up some of the self-inflicted wounds,” coach Jimbo Fisher said.
The Gamecocks gave new meaning to the phrase “getting off to a hot start,” as senior wide receiver Xavier Legette returned the opening kickoff 100 yards to the house, tiptoeing along the sideline en route to the end zone to electrify the South Carolina faithful and start the game with a bang.
On the Aggies’ first drive, sophomore quarterback Haynes King connected with freshman wide receiver Evan Stewart for a 25-yard pickup, only for redshirt senior defensive back Darius Rush to pick off his next pass to the A&M 5-yard line. The Aggies’ defense managed its first stop of the night, limiting South Carolina to a field goal that grew its lead to 10-0 after less than three minutes.
To make matters worse, A&M turned the ball over again on the third play of its next possession when freshman center Matthew Wykoff, returning to the position after an injury to sophomore Bryce Foster, snapped the ball prematurely directly into King’s knee. The ball bounced over the line of scrimmage and right into the hands of junior defensive lineman Tonka Hemingway, who raced 17 yards to the Aggies’ 19-yard line.
“[Wykoff] thought the cadence was going on, and [King] was trying to check to another play … A lot of people were hearing something different than [what] we were actually hearing,” Fisher said.
Three plays later, graduate running back and Wake Forest transfer Christian Beal-Smith got in on the fun with a 5-yard rush for a touchdown, putting the Gamecocks on top, 17-0, very early on despite tallying just 36 yards of offense.
“We just need to start off fast,” sophomore defensive lineman Fadil Diggs said. “Starting off slow, that’s never a good thing.”
Sophomore kicker Randy Bond and A&M were able to stop the bleeding with a 51-yard field goal on the next drive, inching within two touchdowns of the home team.
The two teams exchanged punts before freshman defensive back Bryce Anderson forced the ball out of sophomore running back Juju McDowell’s grasp at South Carolina’s 29-yard line, earning the Aggies their first turnover of the night just before the end of the first quarter. A&M marched to the 9 but had to settle for another field goal from Bond, bringing the score to 17-6.
The Aggies continued to chip away at the lead in the second quarter, as King capped off a 13-play, 94-yard drive with a 9-yard scoring strike to senior tight end Max Wright, who reached the ball across the goal line plane as he was being wrapped up by a defender. It became a 17-14 ballgame two minutes before halftime when King zipped a pass to Stewart for the 2-point conversion.
After holding A&M scoreless on its first two possessions of the second half, the Gamecocks got their offense going and bolstered their lead to 24-14 with 3:25 to go in the third quarter as redshirt sophomore running back MarShawn Lloyd found a lane to the end zone on the left side of the field for an 18-yard touchdown run.
The Aggies shook off being forced to a three-and-out on their ensuing drive with Diggs strip-sacking redshirt junior signal-caller and Oklahoma transfer Spencer Rattler on the first play of South Carolina’s next possession. Anderson recovered the fumble at the Gamecocks’ 24-yard line, setting his team up with prime field position.
A&M took advantage of the opportunity, as junior running back Devon Achane, the cornerstone of the Aggies’ offense this season, found a seam up the middle and dashed 15 yards for a score three plays later. Bond’s extra point brought the visitors’ comeback bid within three at 24-21 with a quarter to go.
The A&M offense took a hit at the start of the start of the fourth quarter, though, when King suffered an injury to his throwing shoulder after throwing a ball away, resulting in his removal from the game for precautionary reasons.
“[The training staff] couldn’t give me enough of an evaluation,” Fisher said. “They thought his shoulder popped out and came back in … It was not worth the risk of the future of his career, especially on your throwing shoulder without being able to get an MRI.”
Thus, the 12th Man was given its first taste of heralded freshman quarterback Conner Weigman, who inherited a second-and-10 situation and completed his first two passes for seven yards before the team punted. The former five-star prospect was considered a candidate for the starting quarterback role entering the season, but he saw his first live action in Saturday’s contest.
“I thought Conner [Weigman] was doing a nice job in the game, and it was a good chance for him to play,” Fisher said. “He was poised and understood what we were doing and how we were doing it.”
King finished the night with 178 passing yards, a touchdown and an interception after completing 17 of 32 attempts. He also added 19 yards on the ground on three rushes.
The Aggies couldn’t produce any points on the next drive either, opening the door for the Gamecocks to add a crucial insurance score. After rattling off a 24-yard run earlier in the possession, Lloyd seemed to seal the deal with a 4-yard touchdown run with three minutes to go. The extra-point attempt was batted down by junior defensive lineman McKinnley Jackson, but the A&M defense couldn’t return it for a possible two points, bringing the score to 30-21.
South Carolina didn’t allow a first down on the Aggies’ next possession, gaining possession at the A&M 15-yard line with two minutes left. The Aggies forced a fourth-and-1 at their own 6-yard line, reclaiming possession with a minute left to play and a flicker of hope for a comeback.
Weigman marched A&M downfield and proceeded to throw four passes of at least 15 yards, aided by a 15-yard roughing the passer penalty as well. With a first down at the Gamecocks’ 11-yard line, Fisher elected to send Bond out for his third field goal of the game, with the walk-on connecting from 28 yards out. With the score now 30-24 with 10 seconds remaining, an onside kick was the Aggies’ only option.
Junior kicker Caden Davis booted the ball, which bounced perfectly over a defender for an A&M recovery at midfield. Praying for a miracle, the Aggies lined up to attempt a Hail Mary pass for a win. Weigman’s first throw fell incomplete and short of the end zone, albeit with one second left on the clock. The final play was to no avail, though, as the quarterback was hit and threw for an incomplete pass, finalizing a 30-24 A&M defeat.
Through just one quarter, Weigman passed for 91 yards while completing eight of 15 attempts. On the night, Achane was limited to 99 yards on 20 carries with a touchdown, along with seven catches for 57 yards. Stewart followed up a career game against Alabama with six catches for 87 yards, while freshman tight end Donovan Green added four catches for 38 yards.
Defensively, Anderson finished with three tackles, two of which were for a loss, and a forced fumble. Senior linebackers Chris Russell Jr. and Andre White Jr., in his first game back since suffering an injury in the season opener, led the offense with six total tackles and a tackle for loss each.
“This is not who we are at all,” junior offensive lineman Layden Robinson said. “You’re seeing glimpses of us in a lot of good games, we just have to get there. We’ve just got to keep prevailing through.”
After this loss, the road doesn’t get much easier for the Aggies, who return to Kyle Field next Saturday for the first time since Sept. 17. A&M welcomes Ole Miss to town, who dropped its first game of the season on Saturday in a 45-20 loss to LSU. The Rebels ranked No. 7 in the nation entering the matchup.
From there, the Aggies take on Florida, UMass and LSU at home and battle Auburn on the road. Needing three more wins to reach bowl eligibility, A&M’s chances of postseason play may be in doubt, especially if they’re unable to beat South Carolina.
“It’s a stinker,” Robinson said. “But at the end of the day, we’ve got to take it like a man under our chin. It’s gone now. We can’t get it back, so we’ve just got to keep moving forward.”

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