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Photo by Jamie Maury, TexAgs
Texas A&M Football

Imperfect but resilient, Aggies overcome mistakes to thump Kent State

September 5, 2021
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The first career start of Haynes King wrought comparisons to Aggie quarterbacks of yore.

On a third-and-10 in the second quarter, he danced away from pressure, juked a rusher, scrambled to his right, avoided another attempted tackle and angled back across the field for a 14-yard gain.

Such spectacular freelancing conjured thoughts of Johnny Manziel for the Kyle Field crowd of 97,339 — which included Manziel.

Later, there might have been memories of interception-prone Kyle Allen.

A&M’s 41-10 college football season-opening victory over Kent State was that kind of feast-or-famine game for King, a redshirt freshman who attempted just four passes in 2020.

At times Haynes was King Midas. Almost everything he touched seemed to turn to gold in an opening scoring drive. He completed all six of his passing attempts, the last of which resulted in a four-yard touchdown toss to Ainias Smith.

King was golden on third down, too. He completed passes to convert six of seven times on third down. Two of those resulted in touchdowns of 4 and 14 yards to Ainias Smith.

Jamie Maury, TexAgs
Fisher was encouraged by King’s ability to rebound after making mistakes.

However, sometimes Haynes was King Lear. He had three interceptions that killed promising A&M drives.

At least, though, his outing wasn’t the tragedy that Allen suffered through against Alabama in 2015 when his three interceptions were all returned for touchdowns.

A&M coach Jimbo Fisher pored over the stat sheet in a postgame press conference and was happy with what he saw from King’s performance — 22 completions, 33 attempts, 292 yards, 2 touchdowns, 3 interceptions.

Yes, Fisher was even happy with the interceptions … well, kind of.

“He overcame things. That’s how you measure things … I do,” Fisher said. “When things ain’t all perfect, your first time out there you can create a lot of doubt on yourself. He didn’t.

“I thought he handled the adversity extremely well. His demeanor didn’t change. He’s still throwing that ball between them hashes. A lot of times young guys, when they throw picks they don’t want to go back in the middle of the field. They don’t want to go back in that maze. It doesn’t bother him. He’s a competitor.”

The Aggies really didn’t need to put so much on the passing game to vanquish Kent State. The visitors from the MAC were gawd awful in run defense last season and didn’t figure to be vastly improved this year.

A&M could have relied heavily on running backs Isaiah Spiller and Devon Achane, who both exceeded 100 rushing yards but combined for fewer carries (29) than King’s passes.

But Fisher knows to beat Alabama and other powerhouses the sixth-ranked Aggies must add down-field passing to their powerful running game.

"We’re a balanced team,” Fisher said. “We’re coming to sling it. We ain’t coming here to run it. We’re going to make big plays. We’ve got guys who can get it down the field.”

“A lot of times young guys, when they throw picks they don’t want to go back in the middle of the field. They don’t want to go back in that maze. It doesn’t bother him. He’s a competitor.”
- Head coach Jimbo Fisher on
QB Haynes King

That they do. Caleb Chapman returned from the knee injury which prematurely ended his 2020 season and caught a 53-yard pass. He just missed another deep connection in which he might have been a victim of interference. The Kyle Field crowd certainly thought he was.

Smith also had a 27-yard catch. Tight end Jalen Wydermyer had an 18-yard grab.

Still, the Aggies likely could’ve secured the victory by halftime if they would have relied more heavily on their running game.

Instead, they held a mere 10-3 lead at halftime. And they were clinging to a 13-3 lead midway through the third quarter when Kent State drove 58 yards to the A&M 22-yard line.

There, quarterback Dustin Crum looked for an open receiver but found A&M safety Leon O’Neal. O’Neal, who had an interception in the first half, grabbed his second pick at the 15-yard line. He followed defensive end DeMarvin Leal and safety Demani Richardson 85 yards for the touchdown.

“(Number) Eight (Leal) got a big trunk. So I followed that eight,” O’Neal said. “I followed that big trunk all the way. Then I seen Demani and I’m like, ‘Oh I’m going to get in the end zone.’ I got excited. I was thinking, ‘This is fixing to happen.’”

A few minutes later, Achane broke off a 63-yard touchdown run. Then in the fourth quarter, King and Smith connected for their second touchdown pass. Achane would add another 1-yard touchdown run to complete the lopsided 41-10 victory.

Detractors will dismiss A&M’s victory as not dominant enough. They would say beating an opponent from a lesser conference should be easier for a highly-ranked team.

Well, it could have been much worse. No. 20 Washington fell to Montana on Saturday. No. 7 Iowa State barely escaped Northern Iowa. No. 2 Oklahoma struggled to hold off Tulane.

A&M covered a 29.5-point spread even though Kent State coach Sean Lewis twice opted to attempt short field goals in the waning minutes. Kicker Andrew Glass shanked them both.

So, A&M should come away with a solid victory and a good frame of mind.

“We’ve still got to clean it up,” Fisher said. “The good thing is we can. Some guys can’t get better. We can get a lot better.”

Discussion from...

Imperfect but resilient, Aggies overcome mistakes to thump Kent State

9,622 Views | 4 Replies | Last: 22 days ago by AG81
74OA
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AG
595 yards of offense in first game with new OL and QB, despite 5 turnovers. This offense will be more than fine.

No way defense should give up 226 rush yards (5 yard average) and 4 long runs. The three missing starters hurt.

With four more tune-up games to work out the kinks before 'Bama, I am very encouraged.

STATS
Cojack
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Got those newbs broke in, now let's go dominate
TAMU74
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AG
My wife and I were at the game and it played out almost exactly as I expected it to.
I thought the Aggies looked very good overall.
Great game to be at especially considering it was a 20th anniversary of the red white and blue game.
AG81
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AG
"He just missed another deep connection in which he might have been a victim of interference".

In what parallel universe is it true that Chapman "might have been a victim of interference"?? No one who saw it live or in replay can possibly argue the defender didn't maul Chapman well before the ball got there. The same ref who blew that call also had two targeting calls overruled on replay and also blew Achane's second touchdown. That guy was awful.
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