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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Texas A&M racks up 583 total yards on senior night en route to 41-17 victory

Photo by Photo By: Kathryn Perez

Aggie teammates celebrate with Christian Kirk following his touchdown victory.

Leading up to Saturday’s game against Western Carolina, the Texas A&M coaching staff stressed the importance of execution.
While the Aggies didn’t completely dominate the contest, they executed enough and finished with a 41-17 victory in front of 101,583 fans on Senior Night at Kyle Field.
“We played a lot of people tonight and closed out a game that was a great atmosphere in the locker room for our seniors,” head coach Kevin Sumlin said in his post-game press conference. “They were the first four-year group to go through the Southeastern Conference, and they finished out their careers here at Kyle Field with a win.”
The game got off to a shaky start for the Aggies, as Kyler Murray’s first pass went straight into the arms of WCU linebacker Daniel Riddle, who returned it back to the A&M 30-yard-line.
The A&M defense was quick to respond, as a heavy pass rush prompted Catamount quarterback Troy Mitchell to throw into coverage. True freshman safety Justin Dunning, who was starting in place of junior Justin Evans, came out with the interception in the end zone.
Murray quickly redeemed his early interception, as he engineered a 14-play, 93-yard drive that ended with a two-yard touchdown plunge by senior Tra Carson. 
“We started kind of slow, but we picked it up pretty good and ended up scoring 41 points, so that’s good,” Carson said.
Murray’s versatile skill set was on display again later in the first quarter, when he escaped the pocket and scrambled for 16 yards and a first down. On the very next play, the 18-year-old signal-caller found a wide open Jeremy Tabuyo for a 26-yard touchdown.
It was Tabuyo’s third touchdown reception of the season – on only six catches – and it meant that a trio of seniors – Carson, Tabuyo and kicker Taylor Bertolet – accounted for the Aggies first 14 points.
However, right when it looked like the Aggies were going to coast to an easy victory, the tide quickly turned in favor of the Catamounts.
WCU running back Detrez Newsome began by dashing up the middle for a 65-yard run and then snatching a swing pass from Mitchell that resulted in a 17-yard touchdown. On the ensuing kickoff, Christian Kirk fumbled the football and Western Carolina picked it up for a four-yard special teams touchdown.
In just nine seconds, Texas A&M’s seemingly comfortable lead completely evaporated.
It didn’t take the Aggies long to respond, though, as a steady diet of Carson runs and passes to Kirk quickly moved them down the field. The 58-yard-drive culminated when Kirk corralled a bubble screen and ran it into the end zone from 14 yards out.
Carson surpassed the 100-yard rushing plateau for the third consecutive game with 109 first-half yards. He did not touch the ball in the second half, and finished with 109 yards on 17 carries.
Backup running backs James White and Brice Dolezal received a heavy dose of carries in the second half, as Dolezal amassed his season high in carries and White compiled his season high in yards.
Bertolet nailed his two field goal attempts in the second half, including a 52-yarder. 
“He’s definitely improved,” Sumlin said. “We want him to make every field goal, but I could categorize him as having a solid year… He’s been solid for us this year and I’m really happy for him.”
The highlight of the night may have come on the defensive side of the ball, when Armani Watts landed a jaw-jarring hit on a Catamount receiver in the third quarter. His defensive teammate, senior Brandon Williams said that he has come to expect such plays from the sophomore safety. 
“That’s his kind of game, he’s going to have at least one big hit like that [every game],”Williams said. “He just came downfield like a missile and did damage.”
Kyle Allen relieved Murray on the Aggies first drive of the fourth quarter, directing a three-play, 68-yard scoring drive that required only 59 seconds. The touchdown, a 22-yarder to Kirk, gave the do-it-all receiver his career-high ninth reception.
Murray completed 21-of-39 passes for 191 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions to go along with seven carries for 50 yards, while Allen finished a perfect 6-for-6 for 88 yards and a touchdown.
The Catamounts finished with only 302 yards of offense – 165 through the air and 137 on the ground – as the Aggies held the Cy-Falls graduate Mitchell to 190 total yards.
Sumlin said that when the 65-yard rush by Newsome is taken out of the equation, the Aggies played a solid defensive game.
“It’s no secret, we have to elimiate the big play,” Sumlin said. “If you do that, and make people work down the field, it becomes more difficult. We gave up one big play, which was about a quarter of their offense.”
The Aggies will close out the season on the road at Vanderbilt and at LSU, as they attempt to win out in hopes of attaining the best bowl game possible.

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