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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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ANALYSIS: Short-handed, dysfunctional Aggies sharp second half paves way for win over Cajuns

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Photo by Photo by C. Morgan Engel

Senior wide receiver Damion Ratley hauls in a pass that was initially ruled a touchdown, but was later reversed after referee review. The ball was marked down at the one yard line and the Aggies scored on the following play.

Depleted and dysfunctional at times, Texas A&M (2-1) woke up from a sluggish start in the second half to top Louisiana-Lafayette (1-2) 45-21 Saturday afternoon at Kyle Field.
“Part of it is because of the early game, and some of the new guys aren’t used to it,” senior safety Armani Watts. “We woke up at 6:30 this morning, so some of the guys are getting used to that. We just had to refresh and get our minds right, then come back and play how we play.”
Missing the likes of Trayveon Williams, Connor Lanfear, Jake Hubenak and Charles Oliver, the Aggies were unable to gel with various groups in the first half while rapidly rotating personnel.
“We went into the game saying series this and series that, these guys are going to go into the game, not wait until situations,” Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin said. “Did that hurt us in the first half? It probably did, but I think it helped us and it will help us down the road because of the combinations of guys that we played.”
In the first thirty minutes, the Cajuns were cruising on both sides of the ball and caused the Aggies to stumble in key areas – specifically the run game.
With Williams out, the Aggies totaled 15 carries for -22 yards on the ground in the first half. Kendall Bussey was the leading rusher at the break with just 14 yards on three carries. A&M still had Keith Ford, but the brute was bullied in the first two quarters, with -4 yards on seven carries.
“Watching from the sidelines, I was kind of able to see a few more things that Keith [Ford] wasn’t seeing on the field and I was just trying to help him make that adjustment,” sophomore running back Kendall Bussey said. “I knew come halftime we’ll make some adjustments and talk things out so I was just ready to go second half to try to make something happen.”
The Cajuns offense capitalized on A&M miscues, too, converting two turnovers into 14 points.
“People just wanted it. Our guys were fighting,” ULL quarterback Jordan Davis said of the Cajuns strong first half. “We had it in our mind and we were ready to go.”
Any chances of an upset were axed in the second half though, as the Aggies outscored ULL 31-0 in the half, out-gaining the Cajuns 353-82 in the final thirty minutes.
“I think what changed was that the first half we weren’t playing with emotion,” sophomore linebacker Tyrel Dodson, who had a pick-six in the fourth quarter said. “You know, no one can play defense without any emotion. Second half we came out with emotion and created turnovers.”
The Aggies capitalized on three second half Cajun turnovers converting them into 21 points. In total, A&M turned five ULL turnovers into 28 points.
“Our defense has consistently created turnovers,” Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin said. “We’re in the plus margin every week.”
Freshman Jacob Kibodi stole the show down the stretch, springing for a 67-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter to cap off a team-high 101 yards on four carries.
“Jacob Kibodi showed that he wants to play and he’s capable of playing and he’s big and he’s fast,” Sumlin said. “I like that combination. It’s always good when it’s on your team.”
Quarterback Kellen Mond settled in during the second half, going 13-for-17 and 152 yards with one touchdown. Mond’s down-field passing showed major improvement as well, as the freshman had seven 15-plus yard passes in the game.
“He’s gotten better and I think he’s comfortable. He’s more assertive. He was a lot more assertive last night at practice, he was a lot more assertive pregame and that’s normal as a young guy. I think during this time, we as coaches are getting to know him, what his strengths are,” Sumlin said. “So for him it’s a learning experience but I think he’s obviously becoming more comfortable with playing.”
Up front, numerous offensive lines took the field, as the Aggies were still trying to piece together its starting five.
“We were substituting in mass trying to get our young guys some playing time, some experience,” sophomore offensive lineman Erik McCoy said. “We have a lot of guys who are not at 100 percent, so we know we’re going to have to play other guys down the line.
“We’re getting to the point where we’re finding the best five to work with each other.”
Turning to SEC play, players and coaches alike agree that spring-boarding off the second half of today’s game will be critical to remain consistent in next week’s matchup against Arkansas in Arlington.
“It’s going to be very, very important for us to find that balance. We just have to stay consistent,” Dodson concluded. “If you’re inconsistent going into SEC play, that’s going to be bad. So we have to find some consistency and have high energy while doing it.”

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