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

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Second half surge pushes Aggies past South Carolina, 24-17

Photo by By Jenny Hollowell

Freshman quarterback Kellen Mond led the Aggies in rushing with 95 yards on 16 carries.

For the second week in a row, Texas A&M found its way back from a double-digit deficit in the second half, rallying to defeat South Carolina 24-17 Saturday night on Kyle Field.

Both sides of the ball came to life in the second half for the Aggies, outscoring USC 17-7 and outgaining the Gamecocks 255-83.

“Even though we were down and facing adversity, we still fought,” running back Keith Ford said in the postgame press conference. “We still had good composure. We were still positive. We weren’t going at each other. We stayed as a team and we executed. We knew if we executed we were going to get the win.”

Ford put the Aggies ahead 24-17 with 7:42 to go in the game on a 17-yard touchdown run in which he pushed past multiple defenders into the end zone.

“I would just describe it as running hard, running to not get tackled,” Ford said of the touchdown. “That’s what our coaches preach every day. I don’t like going to the ground, so I was just fighting.”

USC extended its lead to 17-7 on the Gamecocks first drive of the second half, as Jake Bentley found OrTre Smith on a curl route for a 13-yard touchdown pass with 9:24 to go.

From that point on though, the USC offense would see little success. After the drive, the Gamecocks tallied minus-two total yards, punting the ball four times.

A&M dominated the line of scrimmage defensively, holding USC to 23 yards rushing — the fewest yards allowed by an Aggie defense since 2009. USC had minus-31 yards on the ground in the second half.

“Offensively we didn’t have much going for us other than that one drive for a touchdown,” South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp said. “We have to find some ways to run the football. That’s why you give up seven sacks and we got beat at times schematically and we got beat personnel wise.”

The Gamecocks inability to run the ball effectively allowed the Aggie defense to dial up relentless pressure. On the night, A&M sacked Bentley seven times.

“We’ve got to be able to stay balanced,” Muschamp said. “We can’t get into a launch-pad on the quarterback and that’s what happened late in the game.”

Consistent stops energized the 12th Man, which Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin credited to adding momentum on defense down the stretch for A&M.

“In the third and fourth quarter, I thought the fans impacted the football game,” Sumlin said. “I think that our players felt the energy, particularly defensively. I think it impacted our opponent and their ability to communicate. I thought our fans were outstanding tonight in a close football game that needed that energy.”

A&M clawed back towards the end of the third quarter, as Daniel LaCamera drained a 46-yard field goal with 59 seconds left to cut USC’s lead to 17-10.

Ford knotted the game up at 17 with 12:27 to go in the game with a 7-yard touchdown run, gaining extra help from a platoon of linemen who helped plow the power back in for six.

Both offenses were quite stagnant in the first quarter, accounting for a combined 114 total yards and punted the ball five times on six drives.

A&M broke through on the second play of the second quarter though, as Trayveon Williams punched in a 1-yard rushing touchdown, giving the Aggies a 7-0 advantage at the 14:45 mark.

USC was quick to respond, as Bentley escaped a sack from Jarrett Johnson and launched a 45-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Shi Smith, tying the game at seven with 12:45 to go in the second quarter. The Gamecocks pulled ahead 10-7 on their next possession on a 29-yard field goal by Parker White at the 9:12 mark.

“South Carolina decided that they couldn’t run it at all, so they just said we are going to throw it every snap which is not what they have been doing,” Sumlin said. “They threw it every snap and were effective doing it. We had to change some things and mix up some coverages in the second quarter after we gave up some yardage and big plays.”

A&M caught a break late in the second quarter as Landis Durham forced Bentley to fumble inside the Aggie 10 and was recovered by Kingsley Keke at the 6-yard line, keeping the Gamecocks from potentially going ahead by two scores.

“That’s something my position coach himself harps on, the lawnmower technique. That’s something we practice every week,” Durham said. “I’ve got to give props to him on that one, Coach Price. Something that you focus on is getting turnovers … It’s something we try to take advantage of.”

Kirk muffed a punt for the second time in three weeks early in the first quarter, which was recovered by USC at the A&M 29-yard line. The Gamecocks were unable to capitalize though, as Parker White pulled a 46-yard field goal attempt wide right.

USC leaving potentially 10 points on the board proved costly in a seven-point loss to A&M.

“We have to figure out some ways to generate some more points,” Muschamp said. “We can’t fumble in the red zone. These are recurring themes and issues with not finishing drives.”

Moving forward, the Aggies now face almighty Alabama, as the top-ranked Tide travel to Kyle Field next Saturday. With a four-game winning streak though, the momentum built by A&M will be key in facing Goliath next Saturday night.

“Back-to-back SEC wins is always a good thing,” offensive lineman Erik McCoy said. “We know we have another SEC game next week and we have to go out and play at our best.”

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