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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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A&M beats Sam Houston in six-hour contest

Photo by Photo by Robert O’Brien

Sophomore WR Yulkeith Brown (8) completes a pass from sophomore QB Haynes King (13) during the Aggies’ game against Sam Houston State at Kyle Field on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022.

Texas A&M hosted the reigning Western Athletic Conference champions and future Conference-USA member Sam Houston State in a home matchup to open up the 2022 college football season.
While the Bearkats currently sit in the Football Championship Subdivision, or FCS, the game wasn’t going to be a free win. Sam Houston went undefeated in the 2021 regular season and won the FCS title in 2020. And while the game wasn’t likely to be a normal Week 1 tune-up, a six-hour game ending in a 31-0 victory was not the expectation heading into the morning of Saturday, Sept. 3.
The opening quarter was slow for the Aggies. A three-and-out on the first drive showed the Aggies early that the run game wasn’t there for them. The offensive line struggled to create holes for junior running back Devon Achane who ended the half with just eight rushes for 8 yards and the game with 18 rushes for 42 yards.
“We didn’t get Achane going, but it’s not his fault,” coach Jimbo Fisher said. “Up front, we’ve got to be better blocking.”
Immediately, it was obvious that the game had to be won through the air, putting faith in redshirt sophomore Haynes King — who had only been named the starter the week before. On the second drive, he had a pair of sideline balls to wide receivers freshman Evan Stewart and senior Ainias Smith, propping the Aggies into field goal range. Junior kicker Caden Davis missed wide-right from 52-yards out, though, killing the Aggies’ momentum.
“I thought [Stewart and freshman receiver Chris Marshall] played pretty well,” Smith said. “Coming in as a freshman, I know they had some jitters walking out of the tunnel, but I thought that went away as soon as the game started. … They didn’t play like freshmen.”
Fortunately for the slow-moving offense, A&M’s defense showed up early to ease the pressure. On two straight possessions, the Bearkats were held to fourth-and-short in their own territory, forcing punts.
On Drive 3 for A&M, the team finally hit a breakthrough. Sophomore wideout Yulkeith Brown lined up in the slot and beat his man on a fade route. King lofted the ball with the perfect amount of air toward the left sideline, hitting Brown in stride for a 66-yard touchdown with 3:39 to go in the first quarter.
A&M’s defense began to show chinks in its armor when the Bearkats started using redshirt sophomore quarterback Jordan Yates on the move. A transfer from Georgia Tech, Yates’ status as the starter was uncertain entering the game, but his legs made the difference for the Bearkats. Sam Houston State mixed in designed runs, bootleg passes and scramble drills that kept the Aggies’ defense on edge.
Yates finished the first half with nine rushes for 54 yards, while the rest of the roster combined for negative-2 yards on six carries.
Despite the early struggles to rush the passer displayed by A&M’s defensive line, they managed to keep the Bearkats scoreless at the half, going into the break up 17-0. Active hands in the middle of the field were valuable defensively, as A&M had four pass deflections in the first half — one of which came from senior linebacker Andre White Jr., who deflected a pass from Yates that popped up into the outstretched arms of sophomore defensive back Jardin Gilbert.
Despite entering the half up 17-0, the offense often looked stagnant. A key factor in this was the over-reliance on big plays. The Aggies’ second touchdown of the first half came when King connected with Smith down the seam — the receiver shook off a pair of would-be tacklers and housed a 63-yard score. Of King’s 231 first-half passing yards, 129 yards, or roughly 56%, came on just Brown’s and Smith’s touchdown catches.
A weather delay gave A&M extra time in the locker room to go over its second-half plans. The season-opening game in 2021 saw the Aggies lead Kent State by a score of 10-3 at the half before pushing for a 41-10 win after halftime adjustments.
Fortunately for the Aggies, the rain and lightning gave them a lot of time to re-evaluate — two hours and 54 minutes worth of time to be exact.
“At first we were all locked in, we had our pads on,” Smith said. “[But after a while,] we were waiting on the game to be canceled. … Once it was really time to put on our helmets and it was time to go to work, we cut our music off and it was go time.”
The Aggies emerged with new life to start the second half, particularly along the offensive line. A&M ran the ball 10 times for 50 yards on their first drive, punching in a 1-yard touchdown with Achane. But on the next drive, the Aggies got back into their air attack, throwing five times in six plays, the last of which resulted in an interception into the hands of Sam Houston’s junior defensive back Kameryn Alexander.
King threw two interceptions in the game, the first coming midway through the second when a pass down the middle of the field to Stewart was intercepted by graduate safety B.J. Foster, a Texas transfer.
“I thought Haynes played a solid game, but he still made two critical mistakes,” Fisher said. Fisher also said he liked King’s aggressiveness in the air but hopes to see King throw the ball more often to his checkdown options. While there were errors, Fisher said there were more big plays than the team had seen in the past.
King took back control of the game at the start of the fourth quarter when he hit Smith in stride down the right sideline for his second score of the game. The 43-yard touchdown put A&M up 31-0.
With the ball back in their hands, the Bearkats began marching their way back down the field but found themselves in a fourth-and-long situation. They ran a fake punt that caught the Aggies off guard and picked up a first down, but a few plays later White forced a fumble near field-goal range that was recovered by freshman defensive back Jacoby Mathews, icing the game.
“Having that zero stay up there [on the scoreboard] is a good feeling when it’s all over,” senior safety Demani Richardson.
The Aggies called it quits for their starters with seven minutes remaining — King finished 20-for-31 in the air for 364 yards and three touchdowns with two turnovers. Smith led the team in receiving with six catches, 164 yards and two touchdowns.
“Any win is a good win,” Fisher said. “Got a win, got a shutout. The guys played hard, and I thought the defense was outstanding in the game.”
“A lot of young players saw the field,” Fisher said. “We have to get better each week. We have a great opponent coming in next week in [Appalachian State], and we have to keep developing in everything we do.”
A&M heads into Week 2 looking ahead to its home matchup against Appalachian State at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 10 at Kyle Field, following the Mountaineers’ Week 1 loss against North Carolina, 63-61.

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