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Texas A&M Football

Post Game Review: No. 19 Tennessee 20, Texas A&M 13

October 14, 2023
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It was, indeed, rocky.

Texas A&M was topped by No. 19 Tennessee, 20-13, in what was a shaky offensive showing from the Aggies on the road, extending the road loss to eight straight.

On the game’s opening drive, Tennessee gained its initial first down on a 10-yard pass to Chas Nimrod with Deuce Harmon in coverage. With Bryce Anderson sidelined, Josh DeBerry moved over to nickel, and Harmon filled in at corner opposite Tyreek Chappell. Joe Milton attempted to ignite the drive with a shot downfield and threw incomplete. Shemar Turner returned to his disruptive ways with a tackle for loss before the home team punted.

Texas A&M’s offense was gifted two penalties that propelled the Aggies forward 20 yards before Le’Veon Moss ran for 19. Gabe Jeudy-Lally used his helmet to break up a deep shot intended for Evan Stewart, but on third down, Noah Thomas came up big with an impressive sideline grab for a pickup of 29. Max Johnson took it into the checkboard endzone with a two-yard rushing touchdown, his first rushing score since 2021 with LSU.

Knoxville News Sentinel-USA TODAY NETWORK
Noah Thomas caught three passes for 75 yards.

Unfortunately, that would be A&M’s only touchdown of the day.

On the ensuing drive, Tennessee’s Jaylen Wright rushed up the middle for 15, while hurdling DeBerry. The Boston College transfer went down with what appeared to be a left knee injury but walked off on his own. Pressure came from A&M’s defensive front to surround Milton and force an incompletion. The Vols moved the chains with a 23-yard rush by Wright, and the following sequence included a pass broken up by Harmon, a false start and a 12-yard rush on third-and-14. With DeBerry back in action, the home squad went for it on fourth down, but Milton threw incomplete and handed the ball back.

However, A&M’s second offensive drive looked atrociously different.

On third down, Johnson got pummeled by Tennessee’s defense front to force A&M’s first three-and-out.

Jabari Small got his turn in the backfield with 2- and 7-yard gains. Milton took a shot through the air that Ramel Keyton could not hang on to, but Tennessee was granted a new set of downs with a roughing the passer penalty on Turner. The following Small rush gained nine, while the next one was stopped for no gain. On third-and-1, Small punched out an 11-yard rush, and Milton hit tight end Jacob Warren to make it 7-7.

Looking for an offensive answer, A&M put points on the board.

A pair of carries from Rueben Owens moved the sticks until Johnson found Stewart for his first reception of the game to end the first quarter.

Resuming action, Johnson was sacked for a loss of eight, and Owens was pushed back for a loss of one. Despite a lack of promise to start the third, more of Thomas’ heroics saved the march as the sophomore snagged a chain-moving 18 yards, and Ainias Smith followed suit with a shifty 20-yard gain to put the Aggies inside the redzone. It would be Smith’s only offensive touch of the day.

Knoxville News Sentinel-USA TODAY NETWORK
Tennessee has now won 13 straight games in Neyland Stadium.

Randy Bond knocked a 41-yarder through the uprights to make a 10-7 ballgame.

Penalties for 35 yards riddled the A&M’s defensive efforts as Demani Richardson and Harmon were called for pass interference, and Walter Nolen jumped offsides. Some action finally ensued until the Vols were called for a holding penalty to push them back. Short gains set up third-and-2, where Edgerrin Cooper flashed his elite ability to blitz as he has all season to prevent any yardage. A missed 51-yard field goal from Charles Campbell kept A&M ahead.

A sliding catch from Stewart was the only positive on the Aggies’ next march. A pair of four-yard gains led to Moss earning one, setting up a fourth-down situation for the Aggies. Johnson got tripped up on what should have been an easy gain of one as A&M turned it over on downs.

With Tennessee at their own 32, McKinnley Jackson bulldozed Milton back for a loss of seven. However, A&M gave the yardage right back as Wright ran a pair of 15-yard carries right up the middle. A holding call wounded Tenneesse, and Cooper showed out once again with a needed loss of three. On the next play, Milton rushed for four and ran right into Cooper, who looked to be injured on the play, but another holding penalty replayed the down.

Cooper would not return.

Without the veteran linebacker, A&M managed to prevent another gain.

Texas A&M kneeled out the remaining 45 seconds to send the game to halftime, 10-7.

The Aggies received the ball in the second half and kicked off another offensive three-and-out.

A catch by Nimrod was the only 10-yard play of Tennessee’s next possession. Short rushes could not convert, and on fourth down, Fadil Diggs came off the edge to stuff Milton and get A&M’s defense off the field.

TexAgs
Prior to Cooper’s injury, the linebacker posted four tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss.

However, Texas A&M could not capitalize on their next drive as a seven-yard rush by Moss was all yardage A&M found. Tennessee could only gain 19 yards before posting the game’s fourth punt in the span of six minutes, which was perfectly placed at A&M’s 1-yard line.

Three plays and no gain stalled Texas A&M’s offense, sending Constantinou back onto the field.

A 38-yard boot went awry as Dee Williams returned it for a score, 14-10. The Vols never trailed again.

A&M got the ball back on their own 25, and Max Wright gained 20 with a powerful catch-and-run along the sideline. Johnson was sacked for a loss of eight before the quarterback threw a short pass to Owens, who gained 13. Thomas, again, saved the drive on third down with a 28-yard catch. Moose Muhammad got his first reception of the day for eight, but an incomplete pass sent out Bond to kick a 24-yard field goal, 14-13.

Dylan Sampson’s trio of rushes gained a new set of downs for Tennessee. On second down, Milton aired it out downfield to Nimrod, who failed to reel it in. A long rush from Wright came back on a holding call, and a quick rush capped off the third quarter.

Milton took it himself for 19 until he threw an interception in the endzone as Josh DeBerry made a play to get the ball back to the Ags.

As Johnson was sacked once again, Roman Harrison grabbed his facemask to move the visitors up 15 yards. More positive yardage came as Moss ran for nine on first down. Two no-gainers set up a huge third-and-10, and Johnson nailed Stewart to keep the drive alive.

Another massive third down came with 14 minutes left to play, which was a completion to #1 short of the line to gain. Randy Bond pushed a field goal from 50 yards out wide left.

A 14-yard gain was Tennessee's initial first down of the drive, and the Vols kept rolling. Also on the drive, Tennessee native Walter Nolen was carted off with what looked like a lower-body injury following one of White’s 10-plus yard rushes.

On first-and-25, Tennessee got five back but lost two thanks to a TFL by Taurean York. A 16-yard gain by Wright moved the Vols toward the goal line, but A&M held them to a field goal, 17-13.

TexAgs
Max Johnson threw two interceptions in critical moments against Tennessee.

Texas A&M had 3:48 on the clock and 75 yards to go with a win in sight.

The high-pressure drive began with two incomplete passes. Instead of waiting until fourth down to give the ball back, Johnson threw an interception to Gabe Jeudy-Lally. A gut punch but not a dagger. 

Tennessee attempted to deliver the final strike with a touchdown pass that was broken up by Chappell. Ultimately, A&M forced a field goal to keep it a one-possession game.

On their own 23-yard line with 2:25 to go, Max Johnson hit his brother, Jake, for a first down. A penalty pinned the Aggies back 10 yards, but Moss gained 19 and two for a new set of downs. Johnson missed Smith in coverage on second down and threw incomplete on third. The play of the game was set up at Tennessee’s 45 on fourth-and-10 and 34 seconds left. Kamal Hadden’s interception delivered the final blow in Knoxville.

RUMBLED: Tennessee’s Jaylen Wright proved resilient over what was normally a sturdy rush defense by A&M. Wright led the Vols on the ground with 136 yards on 19 carries. He was also the first running back of the season to gain more than 60 yards against A&M. Tennessee was going to win the game if they won it on the ground. The Vols did just that.

STUMBLED: Allowing 11 quarterback hurries, five tackles for loss and two sacks is absolutely inexcusable. Texas A&M’s offensive line let Max Johnson take hit after hit. The signal-caller was fighting for his life and looked consistently scared due to the ridiculous amount of blows he took. Already on QB2, Texas A&M’s offensive line needs to make changes, or Johnson may not make it through the season without injury.

TURNING POINT: This one went down to the wire, but the game was ultimately determined when Dee Williams returned Nik Constantinou’s 38-yard punt return for a touchdown. It gave A&M a 14-10 lead. Not to pile on, but short punts seemed to be a trend for Constantinou today as he averaged 32 yards a punt. Games are won in all three phases. A&M lost on special teams.

UNSUNG HERO: Noah Thomas’ efforts provided the Aggies with two drive-saving catches. The sophomore was properly utilized in Knoxville, posting three catches for 75 yards. Thomas is indeed a big-play threat, and his lack of receptions throughout the season could be questioned.

KEY STAT: That makes eight straight losses on the road for Texas A&M. What else is there to say?

Scoring Summary

First-quarter

A&M: 8:29 - Max Johnson 2-yard rushing touchdown. Drive: 7 plays, 80 yards. TOP 4:15. Texas A&M 7, Tennessee 0

TENN: 1:44 - Joe Milton 7-yard touchdown pass to Jacob Warren. Drive: 6 plays, 51 yards. TOP 2:10. Texas A&M 7, Tennessee 7

Second-quarter

A&M: 10:48 - Randy Bond 41-yard field goal. Drive: 11 plays, 51 yards. TOP: 5:56. Texas A&M 10, Tennessee 7

Third-quarter

TENN: 6:47 - Dee Williams 38-yard punt return for a touchdown. Texas A&M 10, Tennessee 14

A&M: 3:15 Randy Bond 24-yard field goal. Drive: 8 plays, 68 yards. TOP: 3:32. Texas A&M 13, Tennessee 14

Fourth-quarter

TENN: 3:48 Charles Campbell 31-yard field goal. Drive: 10 plays, 53 yards. TOP: 4:46. Texas A&M 13, Tennessee 17

TENN: 2:31 Charles Campbell 24-yard field goal. Drive: 4 plays, 0 yards. TOP: 0:54. Texas A&M 13, Tennessee 20

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Post Game Review: No. 19 Tennessee 20, Texas A&M 13

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