Associated Press

Snell No: Sputtering offense sees No. 13 Kentucky take first loss of season

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There was absolutely no secret about how Kentucky won its first games, rocketing from the realm of the unranked to No. 13 in the AP poll: play defense and run Benny Snell, Jr., over and over and over again. The junior entered Saturday night’s trip to College Station leading the SEC in rushes (115), yards (632) and touchdowns (8).

But one question remained: what would happen to Kentucky if Snell couldn’t get going?

We found out Saturday night, and it wasn’t pretty. With Snell limited to 60 yards on 13 carries, the Wildcats did not run a single play in Texas A&M until overtime, which was forced by a shocking 40-yard fumble return with four minutes left in the fourth quarter.

Kentucky accepted the ball to open the extra frame and gained eight yards on their first two plays, but quarterback Terry Wilson took a 5-yard sack on third down and Miles Butler‘s 43-yard field goal doinked off the cross bar. Snell did not touch the ball in the extra frame.

Texas A&M made no such mistake, feeding Trayveon Williams four straight times, including a soaring 14-yard touchdown run out to give Texas A&M a 20-14 overtime win over the previously unbeaten Wildcats.

The Wildcats actually jumped to a 7-0 lead in the first quarter after Wilson flipped the ball to Lynn Bowden, Jr., who raced 54 yards for a touchdown.

That was it for Kentucky’s offense for the night, though. The Wildcats (5-1, 3-1 SEC) punted 10 times and registering six three-and-outs, including three consecutive in the second half.

The Aggies (4-2, 2-1 SEC) dominated the ball for most of the night, and so it was really just a matter of time until they broke through to take the lead. After a 48-yard drive ended in a turnover on downs at the Kentucky 27 early in the second quarter, the Aggies notched the equalizer on a 3-yard Kellen Mond toss to Quartney Davis with 1:14 left in the first half, capping a 12-play, 70-yard drive.

Texas A&M threatened more without scoring in the second half, but one drive ended in a 40-yard Seth Small field goal that was no good, and another ended in a tipped interception by Kentucky’s Darius West.

After yet another Kentucky three-and-out, another Mond tipped pass worked out in A&M’s favor, as a deflection landed in the hands of tight end Jace Sternberger, who dashed 46 yards for a touchdown, handing the Aggies a 14-7 lead with 10:13 to play.

That 14-7 lead appeared like it would hold as Texas A&M took over with 7:47 to play until, facing a 3rd-and-1 from their own 43, Mond bobbled a rare snap from center, regained control only to fumble it again. West recovered the ball and raced it 40 yards for a touchdown, forging a shocking tie with 4:17 left.

An intentional grounding call on Mond to open the A&M drive essentially ended it before it began, and Kentucky, who appeared dead to rights two minutes ago, took over in a tie game at its own 9 with 2:07 to play.

Kentucky pushed all the way to its own 41, but the drive sputtered from there — with Wilson actually losing the ball in his own backfield before it was recovered by an offensive lineman — and a short Max Duffy punt, his 10th of the night, gave Texas A&M the ball at its own 41 with eight seconds left. A 15-yard Wilson burst allowed Mond to launch a Hail Mary as time expired from the Kentucky 44, but the rainbow landed incomplete.

Wilson finished the game 13-of-20 for 108 yards and a touchdown; 54 of those yards were gained on one pass, while the other 19 also went for 54.

Mond hit 18-of-29 yards for 226 yards with two touchdowns and two turnovers, while Williams carried 24 times for 138 yards and the game-winning score.

The win snapped a 7-game losing streak against ranked teams for Texas A&M. The Aggies’ last win came in 2016 over No. 9 Tennessee in double overtime.

No. 13 Kentucky and Texas A&M in a defensive struggle

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A pair of teams built on the running game have struggled to get their running backs going, and as a result No. 13 Kentucky and Texas A&M are knotted at 7-7 at the half in College Station.

Kentucky’s points came, essentially, through one play, a 54-yard flip pass from Terry Wilson to Lynn Bowden, Jr.,  at the 1:10 mark of the first quarter.

Texas A&M put together two good drives, a 48-yard push that ended when Jashuan Corbin was stuffed on a 4th-and-1 at the Kentucky 27, and a 12-play, 70-yard touchdown drive. Kentucky put the Aggies in a 3rd-and-goal situation from the 7, but Josh Allen was flagged for roughing the passer and Kellen Mond hit Quartney Davis for a 3-yard score with 1:14 left before the break.

After the touchdown drive, Kentucky’s final three first half possessions all went three-and-out, and each trip was shorter than the last — seven yards, two yards and, finally, minus-2 yards. Benny Snell, Jr. has been limited to 23 yards on six carries, and Wilson has completed 7-of-12 passes for 77 yards, which means that, aside from the touchdown pass that wasn’t really a pass, Texas A&M limited him to 6-of-11 for 23 yards.

Mond hit 9-of-16 passes for 105 yards and a score.

Texas A&M will receive to open the second half.

Tua remains flawless as No. 1 Alabama slays No. 22 Texas A&M

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No. 1 Alabama and its Heisman candidate quarterback Tua Tagovailoa cruised through their first three games, but Saturday was supposed to be different. No. 22 Texas A&M was coming to Tuscaloosa, and for the first time this season, the defending national champions would face a team that would match them athlete for athlete, coach for coach, and dollar for dollar.

Or so we thought.

Texas A&M threw its best bunch at college football’s crimson bully, but in the end Alabama accepted that blow and landed a torrent of haymakers back, cruising to a 45-23 win that wasn’t as close as the final score.

The game opened with a quick interception by Alabama’s Mack Wilson and an even quicker touchdown pass, as Devonta Smith hauled in a 30-yard score one play later to give the Tide a lead just 50 seconds into the game.

The next sequence was the best for Texas A&M (2-2, 0-1 SEC): after Alabama downed a punt at the Texas A&M 1, the Aggies marched the length of the field to tie the game. The key play on a 54-yard quarterback draw by Kellen Mond, then a 15-yard strike to tight end Jace Sternberger. It was the first 99-yard drive surrendered by Alabama since Houston did it in 1997.

But, in typical Alabama (4-0, 2-0 SEC) fashion, the euphoria of legitimately challenging the Tide was short lived. Tagovailoa moved the Tide 75 yards in nine plays, scoring on a 1-yard keeper, to give Alabama a lead it would not relinquish.

Seth Small put the Aggies within 14-10 at the 8:50 mark of the second quarter, but Alabama put the game away with 17 points over the final half of the second frame: a 23-yard strike to Hale Henteges, a 6-yard toss to Henteges and a 47-yard Joseph Bulovas field goal to stake Alabama to a 31-13 lead.

Josh Jacobs scored on a 3-yard rush to push the lead to 38-13, and Henry Ruggs III took a ball 57 yards to the house to add the capper at the 2:01 mark of the third quarter.

Trayveon Williams added the final score of the day, a 1-yard rush, with 12:55 to play in the game.

Tagovailoa added to his Heisman resume with perhaps his best game yet: 22-of-30 for 387 yards and four touchdowns while adding another on the ground. Damien Harris and Najee Harris combined to run 15 times for 95 yards.

On the other end, Mond endured a number of sacks to still rush for a game-high 98 yards while throwing for 196 more, but the bulk of those were in garbage time, and two interceptions were backbreakers for the Aggies.

The win moved Nick Saban to 13-0 against his former assistants, though Jimbo Fisher‘s 22-point loss was ahead of Saban’s average margin of victory of 27 points.

Texas A&M making Alabama work, but Tide still in control at the half

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It started like any typical Alabama game. A Tide interception and a quick Tide touchdown, a one-play strike from Tua Tagovailoa to Devonta Smith from 30 yards out. But on Texas A&M’s third drive of the game, Alabama learned this wasn’t going to be like any opponent.

After taking over after a punt at its own 1-yard line, Texas A&M registered the first 99-yard drive by an Alabama opponent since Houston did so way back in 1997. The key play came on a 2nd-and-5 from their own own 31, when Kellen Mond took off on a draw and raced for a 54-yard gain. Two plays later, Mond hit tight end Jace Sternberger for a 15-yard touchdown. Tie game.

This is still Alabama, though. The Tide moved 75 yards in nine plays, and a 1-yard Tua keeper gave Alabama the lead again, and at the half the Crimson Tide leads, 31-13.

Tagovailoa has dazzled again, nailing 17-of-20 passes for 239 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions.

But Mond has held his own on the other end, rushing 12 times for a game-high 112 yards while throwing for 55 more. But two interceptions halted the Aggies’ momentum.

Trayveon Williams has rushed seven times for 30 yards, more than any Tide player. Alabama has collectively rushed just 12 times for 41 yards.

Alabama will receive to open the second half.

Kellen Mond’s comeback effort falls short as No. 2 Clemson holds off Texas A&M

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A furious Texas A&M comeback effort led by Kellen Mond fell just short, as No. 2 Clemson raced to an early lead and held on for a 28-26 win in College Station.

The Aggies moved the ball consistently throughout the night but saw four drives of 30-plus yards end in some form of disaster. A&M opened the game by moving 66 yards before a missed Daniel LaCamera field goal, and also saw a 30-yard march end in a missed field goal.

Then, with the Aggies trailing 14-6 midway through the third quarter, Mond converted a 3rd-and-11 at the Clemson 44 by rushing 23 yards, setting up a 1st-and-10 at the 21. But Mond cramped up after the run, forcing backup Nick Starkel into the game. Clelin Ferrell immediately sacked Starkel, forcing a fumble that was recovered by Clemson’s Justin Foster.

Two plays later, Clemson (2-0) quarterback Kelly Bryant hit Tee Higgins for a 50-yard completing, setting up a touchdown to give Clemson a 21-6 lead.

After that, Mond came alive. He found Camron Buckley for a 69-yard completion, setting up a 9-yard scoring strike to Kendrick Rodgers to pull the Aggies (1-1) within 21-13 at the 4:22 mark of the third quarter.

Clemson answered that score, keyed by a 40-yard strike from Bryant to Hunter Renfrow, moving 75 yards in eight plays to set up Travis Etienne‘s 1-yard plunge, giving Clemson a 28-13 lead with a minute remaining in the third quarter.

But Mond immediately led the Aggies back, needing only a handful of snaps to travel 75 yards. Mond hit Quartney Davis for a 14-yard touchdown grab, the first catch of any kind of his career, to bring the Aggies within 28-20 with 14:07 still to play.

The teams traded punts through the next three possessions until A&M moved in position to potentially tie the game, but Davis fumbled the ball through the end zone on a play that was ruled a fumble on the field and was impossible to overturn upon review.

That fumble gave Clemson the ball at its own 20 with 2:09 remaining, but the Tigers could not achieve a game-clinching first down, and Will Spiers‘s 22-yard punt handed the Aggies the ball at the Clemson 49 with 1:12 still to play.

Mond needed only 26 seconds to score, hitting Rodgers for a 10-yard gain, accepting a pass interference penalty on Clemson and then finding Rodgers again, this time for a 24-yard score.

Needing a two-point conversion to push the game into overtime, Mond was intercepted in the end zone.

Hunter Renfrow recovered the onside kick to clinch the win for Clemson. The win moves Clemson to 23-4 in one-score games in its last 27 such games.

In a losing effort, Mond was the star of the night, hitting 23-of-40 passes for 430 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions while also leading the Aggies’ ground efforts with 10 carries for 33 yards. Trayveon Williams rushed 17 times for 31 yards.

Clemson also failed to run the ball consistently, mustering 115 yards on 32 carries. Bryant was the Tigers’ leading rusher with 54 yards on 15 carries. Instead, Clemson (2-0) was carried by a handful of big plays in the passing game.

Trailing 3-0 in the first quarter, Bryant hit Amari Rodgers for a 64-yard gain, turning a 3rd-and-15 into a 1st-and-10 at the A&M 16. Bryant scored on a 1-yard dash four plays later to give Clemson a lead it would not relinquish through the first half.

After forcing an A&M punt, Clemson put freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence in the game, and the freshman immediately made the absolute most of his opportunity, finding Higgins for a snatch-and-dash 64-yard score.

Bryant got the bulk of the duties for Clemson, playing the entire second half and completing 12-of-17 passes for 205 yards and a touchdown. Lawrence was 5-of-9 for 93 yards and a score. Etienne led all Clemson running backs with eight carries for 44 yards and a touchdown.

The win pushed Dabo Swinney to a four-game winning streak in his personal rivalry with Jimbo Fisher. Swinney now owns the ledger, 6-5. The Aggies and Tigers will complete their home-and-home in Clemson in Week 2 of next season.