Story Poster
Jimbo Fisher
Ainias Smith
Edgerrin Cooper
Texas A&M Football

A&M suffers back-breaker at No. 10 Ole Miss as road skid reaches nine

November 4, 2023

OXFORD, Miss. — It was a deflection. A graze. A glancing blow.

Yet, a narrowly touched field goal attempt hit Aggies everywhere like a punch to the gut. It knocked the win out of Texas A&M on Saturday in another frustrating football road trip.

Actually, Denatre Prince’s partial block of Randy Bond’s final play 46-yard field goal attempt only prevented the Aggies from tying Ole Miss.

And with A&M having found its offense in a resurgent second half, overtime might have been sufficient to end an eight-game losing streak in true road games.

Instead … Thud. Oof. Ole Miss 38, Texas A&M 35. The streak hits nine.

“It hurts,” said senior receiver Ainias Smith, who was one of the last to walk dejectedly off the playing surface at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. “That’s how I was feeling. I was feeling hurt. It was tough being able to see us getting so close and not being able to come through.”

So close. So far. A&M’s defense couldn’t hold a four-point lead. But in the final two minutes the offense moved well into field goal range for Bond, who just last week converted a 52-yarder in a win over South Carolina.

His kick was on line. But Prince swooped in off the right edge and got enough of a finger to force the kick to come up just short.

That’s been a common refrain in A&M road games over the last two-plus seasons. The Aggies often come close, but just can’t make the pivotal play when needed most.

“It hurts. That’s how I was feeling. I was feeling hurt. It was tough being able to see us getting so close and not being able to come through.”
- A&M WR Ainias Smith

It was a last-play incomplete pass at Alabama. It was the last minute touchdown pass by LSU. It was a touchdown via punt return by Tennessee. It was missed tackles and missed opportunities at Miami.

“We’ve got to find a way to help them make one more play and find a couple of inches and cure this problem,” Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher said.

All losses hurt. This one may have hurt Fisher more than the previous eight road blocks.

A victory over No. 10 Ole Miss (8-1, 5-1) could’ve salvaged what has been a disappointing campaign for the Aggies (5-4, 3-3). It also would’ve provided satisfaction to beat Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin, who routinely takes to social media to troll Fisher and the Aggies.

Of course, Fisher would never admit that after falling to Kiffin’s Rebels for the third time in three games.

“I have no problem with Lane,” Fisher said in a postgame press conference. “We’re coaching OUR guys. We’ve just got to win on the road. Win — period — for OUR football team and OUR kids, who are heartbroken in the locker room.”

The Aggies hearts were broken. Clearly, their spirit was not.

They didn’t have star receiver Evan Stewart, who was sidelined with a deep thigh bruise.

They were without starting cornerbacks Tyreek Chappell and Deuce Harmon. Their absence pressed true freshman Jayvon Thomas and little-used transfer Sam McCall into action.

They were without star defensive end Shemar Turner, who was ejected midway through the third quarter.

Jamie Maury, TexAgs
The Aggies scored 21 of their 35 points in the second half while outgaining the Rebels 323-219.

They lost leading rusher Le’Veon Moss to injury early in the second half.

Yet, they didn’t fold even when they fell behind 20-0 early in the second quarter. Well, for a moment the Aggies seemed to trail by 20. Ole Miss running back Ulysses Bentley ran 11 yards for what appeared to be a third touchdown.

But the play was wiped out by a holding penalty. Another holding penalty followed. Then an illegal touching infraction. Then a short gain.

Consequently, Ole Miss kicker Caden Davis, a transfer from A&M, was called to attempt a 41-yard field goal.

Instead, Turner blocked the kick. Jacoby Mathews scooped up the loose ball and raced 75 yards for a touchdown.

Suddenly, momentum shifted.

“You don’t know what play can change it,” Fisher said. “You’ve just got to keep playing. That was a great job by our special teams to get the block and set that up.

“Momentum can change that quick and it did for us. We’ve got to learn to finish it.”

They came so close.

After Mathew’s score, A&M’s offense, which had not scored a managed a second-half touchdown in the last four games, suddenly looked unstoppable.

“We had to keep fighting back,” Smith said. “You have to keep throwing punches. Yeah, you’re going to get hit, but you have to come back and hit them right back.”

Jamie Maury, TexAgs
Continuing to struggle away from home, the last time Texas A&M won on the road was Oct. 16, 2021, against Missouri.

The Aggies scored touchdowns on four of their next five possessions with the football. The one that failed was a Max Johnson interception on first-and-goal at the Ole Miss 5-yard line.

Otherwise, Johnson was exceptional. He passed for 305 yards. He engineered a drive for a Moss 13-yard touchdown run to end the first half.

He led A&M to 323 total yards in the second half.

Max connected with his bother, Jake, for a 28-yard touchdown pass. He completed a clutch pass to Smith to set up an Amari Daniels 1-yard touchdown run. Max scored on a 1-yard quarterback sneak to give A&M a 35-31 lead with just 4:34 remaining in the game.

The defense could not protect the lead, though. Ole Miss easily raced downfield to reclaim with 1:40 to go.

Again, the Aggies responded. Johnson completed a clutch pass to Jahdae Walker at midfield. He hit Walker again to the Ole Miss 31-yard line. He later passed to Smith at the 29.

A tie — maybe a win — was within reach. Until Prince reached out just enough to get a finger on Bond’s kick.

Deflection. Dejection.

“It’s a one-play, one-situation game,” Fisher said. “There’s a really good football team in there with a lot of character and a lot of heart. We’ve got to find a way to get one more (play).”

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