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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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A&M played 1 half, Florida played 2

Photo by Robert O’Brien

Sophomore QB Haynes King (13) prepares to signal for the snap during the second half of Texas A&M’s game against Florida at Kyle Field on Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022.

Texas A&M played one complete half of football, Florida played two. 

Disease has spread throughout the locker room this week in College Station and has forced the absence of many players. One in particular, freshman quarterback Conner Weigman, was ruled out with the flu along with 11 other starters who have a similar illness or previous injuries. 

In his place, sophomore quarterback Haynes King was in control of an offense that was without two starting offensive linemen and two starting receivers. As for the defense, they’re without two starting defensive ends, a starting defensive lineman and three starting defensive backs. To keep in mind, freshman defensive back Bryce Anderson was previously playing the position for injured junior defensive back Antonio Johnson. Unfortunately for the Aggies, he was also out this game with the flu, so freshman Jacoby Mathews filled in for the two. 

With multiple missing teammates, many of A&M’s players needed to come in and make up for the gaps. Junior defensive lineman McKinnley Jackson woke up this morning and decided to bring the same intensity he brought last week as the leading tackler and waltzed into the backfield for a 2-yard loss to open the game. After consecutive 10-plus yard throws from sophomore quarterback Anthony Richardson, the maroon and white defense forced an incompletion on third down and the Gators had to settle for a 50-yard field goal to start the game.

For only the third time this season, A&M coach Jimbo Fisher formulated the perfect play to get his Aggies down the field and score on the opening drive. What was that plan? Hand the ball off to junior running back Devon Achane and pray for a miracle. 

Achane ran for a 65-yard gain to start the drive and capped it off with a 5-yard score. 

The targeting penalty has haunted the Aggie secondary at Kyle Field in previous games, and it has come back to haunt No. 17. junior defensive back Jaylon Jones who was ejected after attempting to break up a 14-yard pass. This rule set up an easy 10-yard touchdown run for Richardson as he regained the lead for the Gators.

King’s movements looked fluent and precise when he came out on the second drive of the game and completed an 8-yard pass to senior tight end Max Wright, a 13-yard out route to freshman wide receiver Evan Stewart and a 28-yard pass to sophomore wide receiver Moose Muhammad III. To put the cherry on top of a well-put-together drive, King connected with Achane on a 5-yard touchdown pass to set up the Missouri City native for his second touchdown of the game. 

On the other end, though, the Aggies’ faced their kryptonite this season — mobile quarterbacks. After running it in for 10 yards on the previous drive, Richardson beat his opposing defenders to the outside and ran it in for his second rushing touchdown of the day and brought the Gators back up 17-14. 

At the end of the first quarter, A&M faced a 3-point deficit to Florida; however, it scored 14 points for the second straight time in the first quarter of an SEC game. 

Freshman running back Le’Veon Moss received back-to-back handoffs to start off the second quarter, and in case you were wondering, his second rushing attempt on this drive was the first time a running back not named Devon Achane received consecutive hand-offs all season. 

Mathews was named the starting nickel due to the absence of Johnson and Anderson, and overall, he filled in nicely to the role he was handed. The four-star recruit made an impressive pass deflection halfway through the second quarter and a pass deflection on a second-and-goal attempt on the same drive that was intended for redshirt freshman receiver Marcus Burke. This led to another Gator field goal for redshirt freshman kicker Adam Mihalek to push them up three. 

Stewart showed a little shake-and-bake action for the 12th Man as he hit his opposing defender with not just one but two hesitations for a 15-yard gain. However, this wasn’t enough to get anything going for the Aggies as they were forced to punt for the first time today by either team. 

Not many times has Fisher been credited for showing professional clock management skills. However, late in the second quarter, he proved why he was given the job. After the defense held junior wide receiver Ricky Pearsall to a 1-yard run, Fisher called his first timeout of the half at 2:17 in the second quarter. This allowed A&M defensive coordinator DJ Durkin to develop a plan to stop the Gators on third and long and give the A&M offense enough time to put together a scoring drive before the half came to an end.  

And it was definitely worth it. 

The maroon and white defense forced an incompletion and a punt that gave them the ball back with a little over two minutes to go. 

On this drive, Achane rushed left for 21 yards and a first down, King connected with Muhammad for 15 yards and Stewart for a 29-yard pass to the Gators’ 3-yard line with a minute to spare. The Aggies’ scored on a 2-yard run by Achane for his third touchdown of the game. 

A&M went into the locker room up 24-20 with an impressive stat line from the offense. King ended the first half with a 74% completion percentage, 184 passing yards and a touchdown. Achane finished the half as the leading rusher with 10 carries for 103 yards and three touchdowns. 

Fisher said Achane was included with the number of players who had illnesses earlier in the week, however, was still able to come out and play against Florida.

“[Achane] didn’t feel as good during the week and had some things go with him, but he’s going to go play and play his tail off,” Fisher said. 

Muhammad led the half in receptions with five and receiving yards with 74. However, Stewart wasn’t too far behind with just one less reception and four fewer yards. 

As for the defense, they looked better on third-down conversions than they have in the past. They held the Gators to only one conversion out of five attempts. In the secondary, they forced six incompletions, even with the lack of experience in the secondary. 

Being without 12 players at the start of the game, and 13 midway through, hadn’t seemed to affect the Fightin’ Farmers at all … then along came the second half. 

“It was disappointing,” Fisher said. “Guys were in [a] good place. What we were doing, thought we had a good plan coming back out. Got to execute and coach it better.”

After a quick three-and-out, it only took the Gators 40 seconds and two plays to regain the lead. A&M got the ball back and was forced to another three-and-out. 

In his first appearance since Sam Houston, freshman defensive lineman Enai White achieved the first sack of his collegiate career and the first sack of the game for A&M on a third-and-12 that resulted in a 5-yard loss and the Gators’ second punt of the game. 

As the game progressed, Richardson took advantage of multiple weaknesses in A&M’s defense coming out of the second half. The Florida native used his legs to tally 88 yards at the end of the third quarter, which made him the leading Gator rusher at the time. Richardson also attacked the corners in the Aggie secondary for 193 yards and two touchdowns. 

The Aggies ran a total of 14 plays for 19 yards and recorded only one first down in the third quarter. 

Only two receivers were targeted or caught a pass from King in this SEC matchup. Stewart and Muhammad combined for 15 catches and 202 receiving yards. 

The quick momentum the Aggies’ were scheming together, following the missed 28-yard field goal by Mihalek, left the stadium pretty quickly. King was sacked from his blind side by sophomore defensive lineman Princely Umanmielen, who forced a fumble that was recovered by redshirt sophomore linebacker Lloyd Summerall III.

Immediately after forcing a punt on the defensive end, King was sacked and fumbled again to set up Florida with perfect field position. At this point in the game, it felt as though the fans’ focus had shifted toward Game 6 of the World Series and away from A&M football. 

King finished the game with 279 yards on 23 completions and one touchdown. Once again, Achane finished as A&M’s leading rusher with 127. Stewart and Muhammad were the Aggies’ leading and only receptionists as receivers for this game as they combined for 28 targets and 219 yards. 

When asked if this was the game plan, Fisher said the way the defense lined up and the flow of the game resulted in Stewart and Muhammad recording the majority of the receptions. 
“The coverages [determined] where it went to,” Fisher said. “We had balls called to other guys that could have went to other places, just didn’t get there.”

On a positive note, A&M was perfect in red-zone percentage, scoring four out of the four times the team approached it. However, the Aggies didn’t approach this part of the field the whole second half. 

“You’ve got another game to play, and you’ve got three games to play,” Fisher said. “Just keep playing hard and doing your thing. Like I say, these tough times build character, and I think these guys will keep showing it.”

On Nov. 12, the Aggies will look to put a stop to this current five-game losing streak next week as they travel to Jordan-Hare Stadium to face Auburn at 6:30 p.m.

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