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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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The BattalionMay 4, 2024

Young talent shows out, falls short against No. 15 Ole Miss

Coach+Jimbo+Fisher+walks+back+to+the+locker+room+after+Texas+A%26amp%3BMs+game+against+Ole+Miss+at+Kyle+Field+on+Saturday%2C+Oct.+29%2C+2022.
Photo by Photo by Robert O’Brien

Coach Jimbo Fisher walks back to the locker room after Texas A&M’s game against Ole Miss at Kyle Field on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022.

The maroon and white crowd erupted at the mention of freshman quarterback Conner Weigman over the stadium’s speakers. The former five-star and No. 2 quarterback prospect of the Class of 2022 brought new hope to Texas A&M football’s faithful after a 3-4 start, supplanting redshirt sophomore Haynes King at the helm of the offense.
“[We] liked what we saw last week, and guys were banged up,” coach Jimbo Fisher said about the choice to start Weigman, who he said will be the starter moving forward. Fisher said there were no regrets in not starting Weigman sooner in the season, saying he did not want to “ruin” the freshman by starting him too early.
“I’m very comfortable with [Weigman] going forward,” Fisher said. “You can ruin a guy a lot quicker than you can make a guy.”
A&M was taking on No. 15 Ole Miss at home 42 days since its last in Kyle Field. A three-game slide on the road put A&M’s back against the wall, gasping for air as the Aggies’ season seemed to sink away — a must-win home game with a new quarterback; the third different starter of the season.
Ole Miss’ running game smashed through these dreams, though, as freshman running back Quinshon Judkins took over en route to 34 carries for 205 yards and a touchdown. The Rebels escaped the rowdy crowd of 101,084, taking down the Aggies 31-28 as their young talent fell short of the upset.
Fisher said the Aggies struggled to stop the running game early and the quarterback on scrambles.
“Last week [our run defense] was pretty good,” Fisher said. “We just got to do a better job and evaluate … We’ll get it right.”
The fast-paced offense of Ole Miss got to the Aggies’ defense early, as the Rebels’ offensive line produced hole after hole for Judkins. Judkins got Ole Miss in scoring position and sophomore quarterback Jaxson Dart connected with junior wide receiver Dayton Wade for a first-drive, 7-0 lead.
Weigman and junior running back Devon Achane marched downfield methodically before facing a fourth-and-1 on the 3-yard line. Fisher called a timeout to reevaluate the play call, and he opted to go for it. Weigman received the snap and hit sophomore wide receiver Moose Muhammad III in stride on a slant pass, completing a 3-yard touchdown to tie the game up.
The Aggies scored on their first drive of the game for just the second time all season, but they didn’t stop there. They forced a punt after an Ole Miss holding penalty, and after receiving the ball back, kept their maroon foot down on the gas pedal. Achane and Weigman continued their streak of positive plays, tying the bow on the drive with another touchdown pass from Weigman.
Weigman hit freshman wideout Evan Stewart down the left sideline, sailing the ball right over the head of senior defensive back Deantre Prince. The ball went just where only Stewart could reach it, who had a step on Prince, and Stewart stabbed the ball out of the air with his left hand, hauling it in for a 14-7 lead.
An eventful first quarter ended with the Ole Miss back in field goal range on the 15-yard line. The Rebels, looking to stay aggressive, went for it on fourth-and-3, but as Dart darted his way to the right side of his tackle, the play was swallowed up by a swarm of Aggies. The stop was credited to a pair of freshmen, defensive lineman LT Overton and defensive back Bryce Anderson. As was a theme early in the game, the freshmen took center stage in an early Aggie surge over the one-loss Rebels.
The momentum died down for both teams. A&M managed to plug the runs up the middle but failed to convert its own short-yardage situations. As Ole Miss continued to struggle on the ground, Dart found success on his own, scrambling on multiple passing plays to get Ole Miss back in scoring range. On fourth down, Ole Miss kicked the first field goal of the game, closing the gap to 14-10 before halftime.
The scoring resumed after Ole Miss ran a 13-play, 94-yard drive that was aided by crucial penalties — including two third-down pass interference calls — that ended in a touchdown connection from Dart to junior tight end Casey Kelly in the back of the end zone. The Rebels opened the half with a 17-14 lead, and the Aggies hadn’t scored since their first two drives.
Dart continued to use his legs to his advantage, extending plays and getting back into scoring position. On the goal line, Dart connected with senior wide receiver Jonathan Mingo on a short route for a 2-yard score.
Down 10 points at the start of the fourth, the Aggies needed to recover from their second-half slide. The freshman-to-freshman connection sparked new life into the Aggies. Over the course of four plays, Weigman hit Stewart on the left hash for a 17-yard catch and again deep down the left sideline for a 36-yard jump ball. The deal was closed when Weigman found a wide-open receiver after a fake handoff to Achane, striking freshman Noah Thomas for a 2-yard touchdown, 24-21.
The Rebels did not back down, as Judkins continued his strong performance on the ground with a 61-yard rumble up the middle, staying balanced through contact and advancing the ball to A&M’s 14-yard line. He ran in his own score, putting himself over 200 yards on the day. The Rebels led 31-21 with seven minutes left in the game.
“[Judkins] has my respect, playing at this level isn’t easy,” freshman defensive lineman Albert Regis said. Regis said that gap integrity and yards after contact are what cost the Aggies defensively.
Weigman captained another strong drive dealing the ball to Stewart and Muhammad, but a hit from senior defensive lineman Tavius Robinson that was called roughing the passer seemed to leave him dazed. Despite this, Weigman delivered a ball to Achane on third down, who took it seven yards for a score with 1:25 left on the clock in a 3-point game.
Ole Miss got the ball back, needing a first down to end the game, but a crucial tackle for loss from senior linebacker Andre White Jr. forced a punt back into A&M’s possession. A Rebel bounce put the Aggies on the 8-yard line, though, and the Aggies turned the ball over on downs.
“[Weigman] did great,” senior tight end Max Wright said. “Super proud of that kid. He came in with a poise and confidence that is infectious … The kid played his heart out.”
Wright said that if anyone were in the locker room post-game, they’d see how hard this game hit the team after falling short in such a big game. Like multiple times this season, the Aggies were just a few plays away from a win, instead falling to 3-5 on the year.
“We know games like this are what bring a team together,” Wright said. “Got some tears here and there. Any time you lose a game like that … it really rips your heart out … That locker room was tough to be in.”
The Aggies play next Saturday, Nov. 5, against the Florida Gators in Kyle Field. The game will kick off at 11 a.m., as A&M fights for six wins for bowl eligibility.

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