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Photo by Jamie Maury, TexAgs
Texas A&M Football

Post Game Review: Texas A&M 38, Abilene Christian 10

November 18, 2023
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See ya next year, Kyle.

Under the direction of interim head coach Elijah Robinson, Texas A&M (7-4) closed its 2023 home schedule with a 31-10 victory vs. Abilene Christian (5-6) on Saturday.

Perhaps the most exciting takeaway was the all-Maroon uniforms returning for the first time since A&M donned alternate Maroon threads vs. Mississippi State in 2017.

A rather sleepy occasion lacked fireworks from the outset.

Maverick McIvor’s 10-yard completion to Blayne Taylor opened the game, but beyond that, A&M’s defense clamped down to force three straight incompletions and ACU’s first punt.

It was the first of three straight ACU drives that ended in Grant Nickel’s boots. During that stretch, ACU ran 10 plays for 23 yards. The largest gain came on a 12-yard pass to Hut Graham on a third-and-14.

Defensive standouts during that stretch included Deuce Harmon’s two pass breakups and a Fadil Diggs TFL.

On A&M’s second offensive snap, Jaylen Henderson was hit by Reese Young. Cirby Coheley scooped up what was officially ruled a fumble and rumbled 51 yards for the game’s first touchdown.

Jamie Maury, TexAgs
Jaylen Henderson finished with 260 yards and two touchdowns through the air.

A&M’s ensuing drive had the Ags facing third-and-5, and Henderson hit his roommate Jahdae Walker for a 40-yard chunk play to the ACU 40. He then connected with Ainias Smith for 18 to move into the redzone.

Two plays later, A&M evened the score on Rueben Owens’ seven-yard touchdown run.

The Aggies followed the touchdown march with a trio of three-and-outs. During that span, Nik Constantinou had a season-long 54-yard punt, a 42-yarder and a 52-yard boot that was fair caught at the ACU 7.

The Wildcats finally crossed the 50 on their fourth drive thanks to the tough running of Jay’Veon Sunday (including a 17-yard scamper). However, a hold derailed that possession, which ultimately ended with Kyle Ramsey’s 54-yard field goal attempt sailing wide left.

With the offense scuffling and struggling to capitalize, A&M’s defense nearly forced a turnover deep in ACU territory, but Sunday recovered his own fumble. On third-and-2, McKinnley Jackson and Isaiah Raikes formed a Maroon wall to stop Jordon Vaughn and force another punt.

Taking over at midfield, A&M’s offense finally took the lead for good.

Even still, the go-ahead march was uninspiring other than Owens’ 28-yard run as A&M settled for a Randy Bond 34-yard field goal.

After yet another three-and-out pitched by D.J. Durkin’s defense, Henderson scrambled for 10 to convert a key third-and-9.

That conversion ignited the offense as Henderson floated a 13-yard fade pass over the shoulder of a 6-foot-6 Noah Thomas for a touchdown to cap a systematic, up-tempo 10-play, 75-yard drive.

After another quick defensive showing, the Aggies attempted to run the two-minute offense but sputtered once more near midfield. Only an 18-yard completion to Muhsin Muhammad III stood out, and yes, Muhammad was wearing long sleeves.

Owens took four straight handoffs to open the third quarter, moving the sticks twice in the process before Henderson’s two-yard keeper moved A&M into ACU territory. The Aggie signal caller then unloaded a 49-yard bomb to Muhammad to put A&M up 24-7.

Jamie Maury, TexAgs
Ahead of Saturday’s game, Muhammad posted just 159 yards.

Muhammad finished with four catches for 104 yards.

On a third-and-7, McIvor and Tristan Golightly hooked up for 26 yards, but the Wildcats punted from just inside Aggie territory.

The Henderson-Muhammad duo picked up immediately with a 38-yard gain to the 50 that featured a one-handed, leaping snag and a hurdle. Any excitement from the highlight reel play quickly faded as Henderson was dropped for a sack on third-and-7 to bring on Constantinou once more.

McIvor notched completions of 13, 10 and 16 yards to move ACU near midfield. Even after a personal foul put the Wildcats in first-and-25, McIvor and Taylor connected for 17 before Sunday ran for 10 to move the chains. ACU covered 15 more on another McIvor-to-Taylor pass down to the A&M 22.

Opening the fourth quarter, McIvor threw incomplete before Taurean York picked up A&M’s first sack of the day. On fourth-and-11 at the Aggie 23, Ramsey hit a 40-yard field goal.

After an A&M three-and-out, Constantinou’s punt was nearly blocked as he side-stepped rushers before lining a 25-yarder to the ACU 43. Once again, the Aggie defense held firm as the Wildcats failed to pick up a first down.

Owens continued his personal productive day and eventually reached the 100-yard plateau with a 15-yard run to the ACU 39. It is the first 100-yard game of Owens’ young career, as he finished with 106 on 18 carries.

Keeping it on the ground, Henderson ran for 11 before a trio of David Bailey carries gave A&M first-and-goal at the 3. His fourth straight run punched the Ags into the endzone to assume a 31-10 edge with just over five minutes remaining.

With an all-walk-on kickoff team taking the field, Will Smoot and Alex Zettler stuffed returner Denver Holman at the ACU 16. Zettler recovered the loose ball, but officiating quickly ruled Holman down before the fumble.

A short ACU drive followed before Nickel punted for the ninth time with 2:40 to play. 

TexAgs
This is the seventh time this season the Aggies have eclipsed 400 yards.

Still looking for more, Henderson found Walker for 30 yards as the latter took an interception away from TJ Marshall. Behind the play, Chris Herpin drew a flag for roughing the passer as A&M moved to the ACU 18 on just one play.

Although Henderson appeared healthy, Marcel Reed entered the game immediately after to minimize any potential risk. Three plays later, Reed and Jaden Platt linked up for a 13-yard touchdown — a career first for both — as 56 seconds remained.

12th Man Sam Mathews registered the final tackle in his final home game as the clock hit zero.

The regular season wraps up next week at No. 13 LSU.

RUMBLED: As expected, Texas A&M’s defense dominated, holding ACU to 242 total yards and 12 first downs en route to keeping the Wildcat offense off the board. The Wildcats averaged just 4.1 yards per play on 59 snaps.

STUMBLED: Even facing a defense ranking 114th vs. the run in the FCS, the Aggie run game sputtered. A&M did not cross the century mark on the ground until the fourth quarter but finished with 175 total on the ground. The Ags accumulated just 79 first-half rushing yards. That included a 28-yard carry by Rueben Owens. In addition to creating little running room, the offensive front also struggled to protect Jaylen Henderson, who was sacked four times and hurried five.

TURNING POINT: After taking an early blow on the 51-yard scoop-and-score, the Aggies answered almost immediately with a 6-play, 75-yard drive that lasted less than three minutes. 

UNSUNG HERO: On Monday afternoon, interim head coach Elijah Robinson spoke of the importance of allowing the Aggies to have fun and play with “juice and energy.” After the week this football had to endure, Robinson’s Monday words translated to the Saturday scoreboard.

KEY STAT: Texas A&M honored 18 players during the pregame Senior Day festivities. Nik Constantinou, Earnest Crownover, Finn Dirstine, Derek Ferraro, McKinnley Jackson, Sam Mathews, Andrew Merrick, Layden Robinson, Chris Russell Jr., John Sabra. Ainias Smith, Will Smoot, Caleb Surber, Garrett Townsend, Kason Tullos, Max Wright, Blair Zepeda and Alex Zettler comprise the 2023 senior class.

Scoring Summary

First-quarter

ACU: 13:04 - Cirby Coheley fumble recovery returned for a 51-yard touchdown. Abilene Christian 7, Texas A&M 0.

A&M: 10:20 - Rueben Owens 7-yard rushing touchdown. Drive: 6 plays, 75 yards. TOP: 2:44. Texas A&M 7, Abilene Chrisitan 7.

Second-quarter

A&M: 7:59 - Randy Bond 34-yard field goal. Drive: 6 plays, 33 yards. TOP: 2:04. Texas A&M 10, Abilene Christian 7.

A&M: 3:26 - Jaylen Henderson 13-yard touchdown pass to Noah Thomas. Drive: 10 plays, 75 yards. TOP: 3:37. Texas A&M 17, Abilene Christian 7.

Third-quarter

A&M: 12:39 - Jaylen Henderson 49-yard touchdown pass to Muhsin Muhammad III. Drive: 6 plays, 74 yards. TOP: 2:14. Texas A&M 24, Abilene Christian 7.

Fourth-quarter

ACU: 14:06 - Kyle Ramsey 40-yard field goal. Drive: 13 plays, 67 yards. TOP: 7:02. Texas A&M 24, Abilene Christian 10.

A&M: 5:25 - David Bailey 3-yard rushing touchdown. Drive: 12 plays, 73 yards. TOP: 5:35. Texas A&M 31, Abilene Chrisitan 10.

A&M: 0:56 - Marcel Reed 13-yard touchdown pass to Jaden Platt. Drive: 4 plays, 63 yards. TOP: 1:33. Texas A&M 38, Abilene Christian 10.

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Post Game Review: Texas A&M 38, Abilene Christian 10

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