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Kansas State holds on for Texas Bowl victory over Texas A&M

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Texas A&M and Kansas State played some classics when the two programs were in the Big 12. Even though they entered this year’s Texas Bowl in different leagues, they apparently didn’t mind adding another wild one to series history on Wednesday night.

The Wildcats used several big plays and a few timely defensive stops to survive a late surge by the Aggies and held on to win in vintage Bill Snyder fashion 33-28 down in Houston.

Quarterback Jesse Ertz turned in one of his best performances of the year with his arm in throwing for 195 yards, including one beautiful touchdown pass to speedster Byron Pringle. The signal-caller also wasn’t too shabby in terms of running the ball either with 67 yards on the ground and a pair of scores to finish just behind Justin Silmon (77 yards on 10 carries) for the game.

Texas A&M struck first in the bowl by marching 75 yards on the opening drive to make things look easy. It turned out that was just an aberration as points and yards were hard to come by after that thanks to a stingy KSU defense. Quarterback Trevor Knight finished with 310 yards, a score and an interception to nearly rally the Aggies to a fourth quarter comeback but had his pass fall just short on fourth down to end the late threat.

Wideout Josh Reynolds had a program bowl record 12 catches for 154 yards and two touchdowns to pace the passing game for A&M, which also included some ridiculous catches from Christian Kirk and Ricky Seals-Jones as well. In the end it wasn’t enough though, and completes another disappointing late-season slide under coach Kevin Sumlin once again after going as high as No. 4 in the initial College Football Playoff standings earlier in the year.

On the flip side, the victory by Kansas State caps an impressive season in the Little Apple thanks to  Snyder and company. The program nearly ran the table against the old SWC and beat five different teams from the state of Texas in 2016 to once again hit the nine win plateau in another remarkable campaign by the Wildcats.

Big plays power Kansas State to halftime lead over Texas A&M in Texas Bowl

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Big plays on both sides highlighted a fun first half in the Texas Bowl between old Big 12 rivals Kansas State and Texas A&M as the Wildcats took a 23-14 lead into halftime.

Keith Ford punched it into the end zone from seven yards out to kick off scoring for the Aggies after a 75-yard scoring drive to open the game. While things may have looked easy for Kevin Sumlin’s crew after that kind of impressive start, things would be anything but following that drive as quarterback Trevor Knight was under pressure most of the night. A pair of remarkable catches by Josh Reynolds and Ricky Seals-Jones midway through the second quarter would give A&M another score and a brief lead but that was otherwise it for a sputtering offense.

Kansas State would not back down when trailing however, thanks mostly to the improved passing of signal-caller Jesse Ertz. He tossed a perfect strike into the arms of Byron Pringle in the closing seconds of the first quarter for a 79 yard touchdown and scored using his legs to cap off a 55 yard drive not long after. Dominique Heath also got into the scoring action by taking a jet sweep 52 yards around the edge to the end zone to extend KSU’s margin on the scoreboard.

Everybody wondered which team would come into this game motivated to win it and it’s pretty clear that Bill Snyder’s squad checks off that box after one half of play. The Aggies are plenty capable of mounting a huge comeback given some of the weapons they have on offense and may have regained a little momentum heading into the locker room after a nice fourth down stand at the end of the half.

Miss. St. upsets A&M, shakes up playoff rankings

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Many an eyebrow was raised when one-loss Texas A&M was slotted ahead of unbeaten Washington in the first playoff rankings for the 2016 season.  Those eyebrows can now officially be lowered — to half-staff in College Station, as it turns out.

With star players on each side of the ball on the sidelines, A&M was unable to overcome its halftime deficit in the final two quarters as Mississippi State bullied its way to a 35-28 win in Starkville.  The Bulldogs held a 21-7 lead late in the second quarter, only to see Christian Kirk return a punt 93 yards for the score to cut the deficit to 14 just before the half; Kirk was responsible for slicing further into the lead, scoring on a 54-yard touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter to pull the Aggies to within seven at 28-21.

On the ensuing possession, however, the Bulldogs drove 73 yards in a drive that was culminated by Nick Fitzgerald‘s four-yard touchdown run with just over three minutes remaining in the game.  The punishing drive lasted 14 plays and burned nearly eight minutes off the fourth-quarter clock, and featured a trio of key third-down conversions.

With 1:33 left to play, though, a four-yard Jake Hubenak touchdown pass to Josh Reynolds on fourth down pulled the Aggies to within seven at 35-28.  However, the Aggies failed to recover an onside kick and the Bulldogs were able to run out most of the remainder of the clock.  They still had one more (very faint) chance, but that chance was intercepted to seal the upset.

Fitzgerald accounted for nearly 400 yards of offense — 209 passing, 180 rushing.  The sophomore also scored four of the Bulldogs’ five touchdowns, two each in the air and on the ground.

A&M, ranked No. 4 in the initial College Football Playoff rankings, played the entire second half without starting quarterback Trevor Knight (shoulder), and the vast majority of the last two quarters without star defensive end Garrett Myles.  MSU improved to 4-5 overall and 2-3 in SEC play.

No. 6 Texas A&M scores late to cut into No. 1 Alabama’s lead at halftime

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Alabama controlled the first half of play in their usual dominating fashion… right up until the final minute of the first half in their latest SEC West showdown.

Texas A&M cut into the Tide’s lead with an eight play, 80 yard touchdown drive just before halftime to head into the locker room down just 13-7 in a game much more lopsided than the score would indicate.

Prior to their final drive of the half, the Aggies couldn’t get much of anything going offensively and were averaging under three yards a play as Alabama’s defense dialed up the pressure and had several bone-rattling hits. Quarterback Trevor Knight made a huge run on 4th down as the clock was running out however to setup an eventual touchdown pass to Josh Reynolds that gave the visitors plenty of hope at the midway mark.

On the flip side, Crimson Tide left tackle Cam Robinson won most of his reps against Aggies star pass rusher Myles Garrett (who appeared banged up) in a marquee matchup for the dozens of NFL scouts on hand. Quarterback Jalen Hurts looked good running the ball and hitting intermediate throws but made a freshman mistake when tossing an interception right to linebacker Claude George during the second quarter to halt a drive.

While a nice development for the A&M defense on the play, they did lose a key player in Donovan Wilson as the result of targeting on the interception return and the Aggies offense promptly threw a pick on their first play after the turnover to give the ball right back.

Alabama had several other chances to extend their lead in this one during the first half but couldn’t quite take advantage thanks to some miscues that Nick Saban will no doubt be looking to correct in the locker room. Maybe the late score was just enough for Texas A&M to think they can make this a game in the second half but it should be a fun finish in Tuscaloosa either way for this top 10 matchup.

Second-half dominance powers No. 10 A&M past No. 17 Arkansas, 45-24

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No. 10 Texas A&M grabbed a late touchdown run from quarterback Trevor Knight in the first half and shut down No. 17 Arkansas in the second half of a 45-24 victory in AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The Aggies shut down the Razorbacks in the second half and scored 28 points on offense to improve to 4-0 and head into October thinking about making a run at the SEC West title (and potentially for real this time).

With the game tied at 17-17, Arkansas put together a draining 89-yard drive on 19 plays, but it was the Texas A&M defense that held strong down by the goal line. Just as they had done twice in the first half, Texas A&M prevented Arkansas from punching the football across the goal line, this time with a fourth-down stand. Two plays later, Texas A&M quarterback Trevor Knight unloaded a deep ball to Josh Reynolds racing down the right sideline. The ball was placed perfectly for Reynolds and he let his speed take care of the rest on a 92-yard touchdown drive. It was quite the momentum swing and the Aggies did not look back.

Texas A&M scored a touchdown after forcing Arkansas to punt on the ensuing possession and took advantage of a short field from the 15-yard line after an Arkansas fumble. Trayveon Williams did the honors on the first touchdown with a 33-yard scamper and Christian Kirk got his hands on a pass from Knight after the Razorbacks’ fumble.

Four games into the season and there appears to be enough evidence to suggest this Texas A&M defense has improved, and that helps make Texas A&M a formidable player in the SEC West moving forward. Is it ready to take down Alabama? Probably not, but the Aggies have the look of the second-best team in the SEC behind the defending national champions. Arkansas still has the potential to play spoiler with anyone on their schedule though, including Alabama.

Knight was a machine for the Aggies, ending his night with 225 passing yards, two passing touchdowns, a game-high 157 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns. Arkansas quarterback passed for 371 yards and two scores, but took a beating all night.

Texas A&M is 4-0 for the third straight season under Kevin Sumlin. The last time Texas A&M went 4-0 in three straight seasons was 1939-1941. It is also the third straight undefeated September for Texas A&M, which was last achieved from 1997 through 1999. The hot seat talk has been nowhere to be heard in College Station this season.

Arkansas gets a likely breather next week when they return home to host Alcorn State. A home game against Alabama looms after that. Texas A&M will stay in SEC play next week when they head to South Carolina. The Gamecocks are coming off a 17-10 loss at Kentucky.