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Photo by Brianna Paciorka, USA Today
Texas A&M Football

Learned, Loved, Loathed: Texas A&M 34, Tennessee 13

December 20, 2020

The Aggies (8-1) spotted Tennessee an early touchdown on Saturday but then went on to post an emphatic 34-13 Southeastern Conference football victory.

Quarterback Kellen Mond was sharp, the running game was powerful, and the pass rush was menacing in a 21-point win that really wasn’t even that close.

The victory extended to seven A&M’s winning streak, was their sixth straight double-digit margin of victory and enabled the No. 5 Aggies to remain in the College Football Playoff discussion.

What we learned

Hezekiah Jones can be a major factor: The junior receiver entered the game against Tennessee with just nine catches. He came close to doubling his total against the Volunteers. Jones led the Aggies with seven catches for 66 yards. Four of his catches resulted in first downs.

Brianna Paciorka, USA Today
Brian George had three tackles and an interception in Jones’ absence.

Myles Jones is vital to the defense: Jones is having an All-SEC caliber season. His value was apparent in his absence. He was sidelined with an ankle injury and replaced by Brian George, making his first A&M start. Tennessee attacked accordingly and passed for two touchdowns in the first half. George played better in the second half, but the defense isn’t as good without Jones. Fortunately, he’s not expected to miss the postseason.

Kellen Mond excels on the road: At one time, Mond was criticized for struggling in road games. That narrative has been put to rest. His effort against Tennessee was his third consecutive strong showing away from Kyle Field. Mond completed 26 of 32 passes for 281 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed for 59 yards and a touchdown. True, he threw an interception, but otherwise, he was almost flawless.

What I loved

The pass rush: Bobby Brown recorded a sack for the sixth consecutive game. DeMarvin Leal got a sack and forced a fumble. So did Tyree Johnson. Those three sacks resulted in 24 yards in losses.

Third down efficiency: The Aggies converted 10 of 14 third downs into first downs. That efficiency enabled the Aggies to control the football for three-fourths of the game. A&M’s time of possession was 44:09 compared to Tennessee’s 15:51.

Brian George’s interception: As far as the outcome was concerned, George’s pick in the end zone (he did a great job keeping his feet in bounds) didn’t matter. A&M’s 34-13 victory was already assured. But George had struggled in his first A&M start, so it was great to see him end the game on a high note. The reaction of his teammates, who swarmed around to congratulate him and escort him to the sideline, was a tremendous demonstration of unity.

What I loathed

Craig Bisacre/Texas A&M Athletics
The Aggies’ emphatic victory is their seventh consecutive win and the finishing touch on a resume that is deserving of CFP consideration.

National media dismissing A&M: The Aggies’ win over Tennessee clinched an 8-1 finish against all-Southeastern Conference competition. A&M’s win over Florida is the best win among all contenders, except Alabama and Clemson. Yet, Kirk Herbstreit, Joey Galloway, Heather Dinich, Joel Klatt, Dan Wolken and others continued to marginalize A&M as they have much of the season. They advocated Ohio State, Notre Dame and even Cincinnati for the playoff, despite A&M clearly has a better resume. Notre Dame’s win over Clemson was undoubtedly tainted because Clemson was without several key starters, including quarterback Trevor Lawrence. Back at full-strength, Clemson routed Notre Dame, 34-10. Ohio State struggled to beat the only two winning teams on its six-game schedule. Cincinnati barely escaped Tulsa.

Ainias Smith’s near-disaster: Remember in the season-opener when Smith fielded a punt in the end zone? It led to a safety against Vanderbilt. On Saturday, he made another questionable decision deep in A&Ms end of the field. With A&M holding a 24-13 lead early in the third quarter, Smith backed up to field a punt inside the 10-yard line. He slipped just before the football arrived. The ball almost hit his leg, which could’ve resulted in Tennessee recovering a fumble near the 1-yard line or perhaps in the end zone for a touchdown. Fortunately, the ball crept across the goal line for a touchback just ahead of the Volunteers’ coverage unit.

Missed scoring opportunities: Even though A&M has posted six consecutive victories by double-figure margins, detractors have criticized A&M for not winning convincingly enough. The Aggies could’ve used a lopsided rout to answer their critics. A 21-point win was emphatic, but the Aggies could’ve had much more. Three times the Aggies moved inside the Tennessee 10-yard line but failed to get touchdowns. They settled for two field goals and had an interception.

Discussion from...

Learned, Loved, Loathed: Texas A&M 34, Tennessee 13

9,537 Views | 3 Replies | Last: 1 yr ago by Slamn Sharpe
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I totally agree with you regarding the National Media.

Moving forward, the only thing we can do to change our perception nationally is to win. To be honest, if someone told me this past September that A&M would be the second best team in the SEC and finish #5 in the polls I would have questioned their sanity.

Yes, it's a disappointment. However, I've never been this stoked about the program, and I've been following A&M football since 1975.

Great article!
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I don't think Ainias slipped. He realized where he was and that he was about to screw up again, and made a last-second dive out of the way. Still got close to touching him, but it does show progress.
Slamn Sharpe
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Azariah said:

I don't think Ainias slipped. He realized where he was and that he was about to screw up again, and made a last-second dive out of the way. Still got close to touching him, but it does show progress.

This is what I saw.
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