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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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Texas A&M pitcher Ryan Prager (18) delivers a pitch during Texas A&M’s game against Kentucky at the NCAA Men’s College World Series at in Omaha, Nebraska on Monday, June 17, 2024. Prager went for 6.2 innings, allowing two hits and zero runs. (Chris Swann/The Battalion)
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Texas A&M pitcher Ryan Prager (18) delivers a pitch during Texas A&M’s game against Kentucky at the NCAA Men’s College World Series at in Omaha, Nebraska on Monday, June 17, 2024. Prager went for 6.2 innings, allowing two hits and zero runs. (Chris Swann/The Battalion)
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Texas A&M outfielder Jace Laviolette (17) robs a home run from Florida infielder Cade Kurland (4) in the top of the ninth inning during Texas A&M’s game against Florida at the NCAA Men’s College World Series at Charles Schwab Field in Omaha, Nebraska on Sunday, June 15, 2024. (Hannah Harrison/The Battalion)
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Defending Kyle Field

Freshman+quarterback+Kellen+Mond+only%26%23160%3Bhad+56+passing+yards+before+leaving+the+game+in+the+4th+quarter.%26%23160%3B
Photo by Photo by Hanna Hausman

Freshman quarterback Kellen Mond only had 56 passing yards before leaving the game in the 4th quarter. 

Playing at home is supposed to be an advantage in the SEC, a conference where some of the largest and rowdiest fan bases in the country reside. That home field advantage has been absent in the Texas A&M-Auburn matchup. As recent history proves, the road team has always won each of the five meetings between the schools since A&M joined the SEC in 2012.
The Aggies (5-3, 3-2 SEC) will try to end that streak Saturday as Kevin Sumlin looks to put on a better showing after last weekend’s 35-14 drubbing at the hands of Mississippi State.
“We really need [a win] this week — it’s going to be a big-time test for us,” wide receiver Christian Kirk said at Tuesday’s press conference. “They’re going to come in here with the right attitude and a lot of energy, and we’re going to have to match it and go out there and execute.”
The Tigers (6-2, 4-1 SEC) are coming off a bye week and crushed Arkansas on the road 52-20 in their last game.
Auburn, ranked 14th in the first CFB Playoff rankings, boasts the SEC’s third-most potent offense and have a slew of weapons that can do damage to opposing defenses. The running back duo of Kerryon Johnson and Kamryn Pettway give defenses fits with Johnson’s speed and Pettway’s power, and the ground game has opened up the aerial attack for redshirt sophomore quarterback Jarrett Stidham.
Stidham is playing in his first season at Auburn after transferring from Baylor, and he leads the conference in completion percentage and has only been picked off three times this season.
For A&M, the offense struggled to move the ball against the Bulldogs under the direction of Kellen Mond. The freshman quarterback completed only eight passes for the second game in a row, and came out of the game late in Saturday’s game after a late hit.
Sumlin said Mond will start against the Tigers even though redshirt freshman Nick Starkel threw for 133 yards including a 70-yard touchdown in relief. With Mond back under center, Sumlin said the emphasis remains on getting consistent production on the ground to open up the passing game.
“He is an effective runner — we’ve seen that all year,” Sumlin said of Mond. “There are other ways for us to create running lanes and seams, and so as a coaching staff we have to be able to be a little more creative in the running game and maybe utilize some other people to do that.”
Mond led all Aggie rushers with a paltry 32 yards while running backs Trayveon Williams and Keith Ford amassed only 57 yards on 18 carries. A&M has not surpassed 100 rushing yards since the South Carolina game on Sept. 30, which has stalled its offense as a whole.
“Teams are stacking the box, so it’s kind of difficult to run the ball in that situation,” said Williams, who rushed for 127 yards and a touchdown in last year’s 29-16 win over Auburn. “When that happens you have to produce in the passing game. We have to critique some things in our game.”
The Tigers are ranked fourth in the SEC in total defense, but their pass coverage has been a bit vulnerable at times. A&M failed to connect on two deep passes early in last Saturday’s game that could have set the tone for the offense, and Kirk said converting those chances is going to be crucial for their success moving forward.
“It comes down to taking advantage of our opportunities,” Kirk said. “Our first two plays of the game last week on offense we could’ve hit both for touchdowns. A big part of our offense is making those explosive plays and we just didn’t do it.”
Even with the ugly loss against Mississippi State, a win over Auburn would propel the Aggies to bowl eligibility and re-establish their position toward the top of the SEC West standings. Sumlin said his players will keep the same approach they’ve had all season.
“I care about what these guys in this building think first,” Sumlin said. “I think that they’ve shown a resiliency before, I think they’ve show toughness before and I think they’ve shown the ability to finish before. As we got back to work yesterday the attitude and the way they’ve approached things all year lead me to believe that’s still who we are.”
Kickoff is scheduled for 11 a.m. at Kyle Field and will be broadcast on ESPN.

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