The heat will be on Saturday night when No. 13 Miami visits No. 24 Texas A&M at College Station, Texas.
Texas A&M (1-1) is coming off a humbling home loss to a mid-major squad, falling 17-14 to Appalachian State last weekend.
That loss sent the Aggies tumbling from their previous ranking of No. 6 in the nation. It also left coach Jimbo Fisher contemplating a switch at quarterback after Haynes King led the offense to just seven points in the loss, not counting a special-teams touchdown.
LSU transfer Max Johnson and true freshman Conner Weigman are the options if Fisher is intent on making a change. Center Bryce Foster is expected to return Saturday.
Miami (2-0) moved up two spots in this week’s AP poll following a 30-7 home win over Southern Miss. The Hurricanes trailed 7-3 in the second quarter and led just 10-7 at halftime before running away with the victory.
The trip to College Station will be the first major test of the new coaching staff, led by Mario Cristobal.
“We want to play more polished and precise football,” Cristobal said.
When Fisher was at Florida State from 2010-17, his Seminoles played polished football against Miami, going 7-1 in head-to-head meetings.
Now, though, Fisher has some issues to address after Appalachian State dominated time of possession against Texas A&M, holding the ball for nearly 42 minutes to 18:31 for Miami.
The Aggies also lost the turnover battle 2-0, the first-down fight 22-9, and the total-yards contest 315-186.
If there’s a true strength for the Aggies, it’s kick returner Devon Achane, who scored last week on a 95-yard race downfield. Achane also ran one back 96 yards for a touchdown last year against Alabama, giving Miami a keen area of focus on special teams.
Asked about the Hurricanes, Fisher emphasized the challenge.
“They’re a great team,” he said. “Their quarterback (Tyler Van Dyke) is dynamic.”
Van Dyke, projected as a first-round NFL draft pick next year, is coming off a shaky first half against Southern Miss. He rallied in the second half and finished the game 21 of 30 for 255 yards, one touchdown and his first interception of the year.
“I missed throws that I never usually miss,” Van Dyke said. “I make those throws in practice all the time. My mechanics sometimes get a little bit too low.”
Van Dyke also was sacked four times, which he attributed to some issues on the offensive line labeled blocking “miscommunication.”
Miami running back Henry Parrish Jr. enters off two consecutive games of at least 100 yards. The Aggies are familiar with Parrish from his days at Ole Miss.
Miami’s top receiver is Xavier Restrepo, who operates out of the slot. He leads the team in catches (11) and receiving yards (172) and has averaged 15.6 per catch.
The Hurricanes also got back left tackle Zion Nelson and running back Jaylan Knighton from injury last week. Both were on play counts but could be full-go this week. Nelson is a possible high-round NFL talent, and Knighton led Miami in rushing yards (561) and total touchdowns (11) last year.
–Field Level Media
For the first time since 2007, the Appalachian State Mountaineers beat a team ranked inside the top 10 of Associated Press Poll.
Led by running back Camerun Peoples and a stingy defense, visiting App State upset No. 6 Texas A&M 17-14 in College Station, Texas, on Saturday.
The loss for the Aggies (1-1) marks just the second time since 2010 that they have lost at Kyle Field against a nonconference opponent. Entering Saturday, Texas A&M was 33-1 in home games against teams from outside the SEC or Big 12, and that lone loss was to eventual national champion Clemson in 2018. The backup quarterback on that Tigers team was current App State signal-caller Chase Brice, then a true freshman.
Brice commanded the Mountaineers (1-1) on several long drives, completing 15 of 30 passes for 134 yards and a touchdown. Brice’s backfield mate, Peoples, paced the offense with 112 rushing yards on 19 carries, including a 48-yard scamper that helped seal the win in the waning moments of the game.
“I’m so proud of our program … These players, they get all the credit,” App State coach Shawn Clark told ESPN. “I have a lot of confidence, in myself, in this team, in this program, that we’ll go play anybody, anywhere, any time. We came into College Station and beat the No. 6 team in the country. How cool is that?”
After ending the third quarter with the score tied, the Mountaineers took a three-point lead with 8:05 to play in the fourth quarter on a 29-yard field goal by Michael Hughes, which was the first of his career. That kick capped off a 16-play, 63-yard drive that chewed 9:15 off the clock.
Texas A&M responded with a nine-play, 45-yard drive, but missed badly on a 47-yard field-goal attempt from Caden Davis that would have tied the game with under five minutes to play. The Mountaineers got the ball back and ran off the rest of the clock, with Peoples rushing for a pair of first downs.
The key in App State’s victory was its ability to control possession, grind out drives and keep the Aggies’ offense off the field. The Mountaineers more than doubled the amount of plays ran compared to the Aggies — 80 to 38 — and had the football for more than half the game, clocking its possession time at 41:29. The Mountaineers converted 9-of-20 third-down tries and 3-of-4 attempts on fourth down.
Also crucial was App State’s defense holding A&M to 2-of-8 on third-down attempts, and the Mountaineers taking away two Aggie fumbles. The App State defense allowed only one touchdown, as A&M’s second score was a 95-yard kickoff return by Devon Achane.
Aggies quarterback Haynes King completed 13 of 20 passes for just 97 yards.
It was the second road upset of the day for the Sun Belt, as Marshall beat No. 8 Notre Dame in South Bend, 26-21.
–Field Level Media
Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher said his sixth-ranked Aggies are playing a very good football team in their season opener on Saturday.
That might be true, seeing as how Sam Houston won the spring 2021 FCS championship and was the top seed for last year’s FCS tournament that was ultimately won by North Dakota State.
But if Texas A&M is in a competitive game at any point in the second half against the Bearkats, it won’t be seen as a good sign and probably shouldn’t be. Even if Sam Houston is good enough to play for a national title in FCS, a Top 10 team that plays in the Southeastern Conference shouldn’t experience a game’s worth of difficulty against an opponent with 22 fewer scholarships.
“You’d better play a heck of a game,” Fisher said. “So we’ve got to be ready to play that way.”
One thing that should help the Aggies play well is the return of their starting quarterback, Haynes King, who broke his leg in the first quarter of their second game last season at Colorado. King threw for 292 yards and two touchdowns in their season-opening rout of Kent State.
Fisher said King earned the start with his work in training camp, fairly bristling at the notion that he shouldn’t lose his job to injury.
“He’s not the only one that had to earn the starting position,” Fisher said. “Everybody on the team had to come back and win the starting job. We only talk about the quarterback. Every position is up for grabs, every day, every game.
“If you’re not performing and doing the things you have to do, everybody can be replaced. We want to make a big deal about the quarterback, but it happens everywhere else. Nothing’s entitled to you.”
King beat out LSU transfer Max Johnson and Conner Weigman for the job. Fisher said all three candidates performed well and that he would feel comfortable with any one of them on the field.
Texas A&M is coming off an 8-4 season that saw it stun No. 1 Alabama, but the Aggies weren’t able to play in the Gator Bowl because of COVID-19 issues.
Meanwhile, Sam Houston went 11-1 last year, losing 42-19 to Montana State in the FCS quarterfinals to end a 22-game winning streak dating back to 2019. The Bearkats won’t have a playoff appearance of any kind this year no matter what happens, as they are transitioning to the FBS ranks and will join Conference USA in 2023.
Sam Houston will have a new starter at quarterback, although Jordan Yates isn’t a neophyte by any means. He started six games last year at Georgia Tech, completing nearly 60 percent of his 153 passes for 908 yards, with six touchdowns and three interceptions, and threw for 203 yards in a loss to Clemson.
“I’m looking forward to experiencing the atmosphere,” defensive lineman Markel Perry said when asked about the trip to College Station. “They say it’s pretty loud there. We acknowledged their talent; but, with the work we’ve put in, we’re pretty excited to go out there and show everybody how hard we worked.”
Texas A&M is 12-0 all-time against the Bearkats.
–Field Level Media
No. 25 Texas A&M on Wednesday announced it has opted against competing versus No. 17 Wake Forest in the Gator Bowl, citing a combination of COVID-19 issues as well as injuries.
Gator Bowl officials are seeking a replacement to face the Demon Deacons (10-3) on Dec. 31 in Jacksonville, Fla.
“We are disappointed that Texas A&M University and the Aggie fans will be unable to represent the Southeastern Conference in Jacksonville at this year’s TaxSlayer Gator Bowl game,” Gator Bowl chairman John Duce said in a statement. “However, the health and safety of the student-athletes, coaches and staff remains our primary concern.”
“It is unfortunate, but we just don’t have enough scholarship players available to field a team,” Aggies coach Jimbo Fisher said.
Texas A&M (8-4) began the season by winning seven of its first nine games. It has since dropped two of its last three, including a 27-24 decision to LSU on Nov. 27.
“It is heartbreaking for our players, coaches, staff and fans that we are not able to play in the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl,” Aggies athletic director Ross Bjork said. “Postseason football is the pinnacle of the season and when the opportunity is lost, it hurts on many levels. As we have learned in the last 21 months of this health challenge, the well-being and safety of our student-athletes is paramount.”
In addition, four Texas A&M underclassmen have declared for the NFL Draft and were skipping the game. The list includes guard Kenyon Green, defensive lineman DeMarvin Leal, running back Isaiah Spiller and tight end Jalen Wydermyer. Also, starting quarterback Zach Calzada, who starred in the upset of then-No. 1 Alabama in October, entered the transfer portal.
–Field Level Media
Texas A&M quarterback Zach Calzada is in the transfer portal, multiple outlets reported Monday.
The 6-foot-4 sophomore passed for 2,185 yards with 17 touchdowns and nine interceptions in 12 games for the Aggies this season.
On Oct. 9, Calzada threw for 285 yards and three touchdowns in a 41-38 upset of No. 1 Alabama.
According to 247Sports, his departure leaves walk-on Blake Bost as the only healthy quarterback available when No. 25 Texas A&M (8-4) faces No. 17 Wake Forest (10-3) in the Dec. 31 Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla.
Calzada appeared to bid farewell to Texas A&M in a couple of Twitter posts on Monday.
The first tweet has the caption “What a ride.” In the second, he writes: “I have THE MOST love for Texas A&M, my coach’s (sic), teammates, and anybody who has been a part of this process. From the bottom of my heart…Thank you to the 12th man.”
Calzada joins a growing list of QBs who are in the portal for 2022 — Spencer Rattler, Bo Nix, Kedon Slovis, Dillon Gabriel, Adrian Martinez, Myles Brennan, Harrison Bailey, Max Johnson and Jack Plummer among them.
–Field Level Media
Ole Miss’ embattled defense stepped up its game and shut down No. 11 Texas A&M on Saturday night, carrying the No. 15 Rebels past the Aggies 29-19 in Oxford, Miss.
Ranked 104th in total defense entering the game, the Rebels (8-2, 4-2 SEC) blanked Texas A&M in the first half and forced two second-half turnovers that produced 14 points.
Ole Miss held advantages of 408-91 in total yardage, 23-5 in first downs and led 15-0 in the first half.
Overall, Matt Corral (24-of-37) passed for 247 yards and a score to Dontario Drummond.
Jerrion Ealy churned out 152 yards on 24 carries, and Snoop Conner rushed for his team-leading 11th touchdown.
Texas A&M’s Zach Calzada went 24-of-41 for 237 yards with two interceptions. Devon Achane ran for 110 yards on 12 rushes with two TDs for the Aggies (7-3, 4-3).
After Caden Costa’s 33-yard field goal put the Rebels on the board, Ole Miss gambled on its next series.
Possessing the most fourth-down attempts and conversions in the nation (24-of-35), coach Lane Kiffin went for it on fourth-and-goal from the 2.
Corral found Drummond open over the middle for his seventh TD to make it 10-0 at 6:48, and Costa later tacked on a 32-yarder for a 13-0 advantage.
After the Aggies’ defense made a fourth-down stand at the 1 to force a turnover on downs late in the half, Isaiah Spiller was tackled in the end zone for a safety.
Texas A&M’s offense — which did not find the end zone in last week’s win over Auburn — sputtered again, punting on its first five possessions and surrendering the safety on the sixth.
Seth Small’s 30-yard field goal put the visitors on the board five minutes into the second half, and Achane’s 24-yard scoring run on the next series trimmed it to 15-10.
Early in the fourth, the Rebels failed on a fake field goal, and the Aggies made it 15-13 with Small’s second boot — a 43-yarder with 10:19 remaining.
With the Aggies at their own 12, Ashanti Cistrunk batted down Calzada’s pass. Then the defensive back pick off Calzada on the next play, and Conner’s ensuing 13-yard TD run made it 22-13 with 6:32 left.
A.J. Finley put the game away by stepping in front of Calzada’s pass and returning the interception 52 yards for a pick-six with only 4:50 on the clock.
Achane’s second TD rounded out the scoring.
–Field Level Media
Texas A&M’s defense scored the game’s only touchdown and Seth Small kicked four field goals as the No. 14 Aggies shut down No. 13 Auburn 20-3 on Saturday in SEC play at College Station, Texas.
The Aggies (7-2, 4-2 SEC) overwhelmed Auburn from the opening kickoff. The Tigers (6-3, 3-2) finished with just 226 yards and committed a turnover that enabled Texas A&M to take control of a close game early in the fourth quarter.
The Tigers were trailing 9-3 early in the fourth quarter when Auburn quarterback Bo Nix made a huge mistake. While rolling out for a bootleg, he dropped the ball without being touched. Defensive end Micheal Clemons scooped it up on Auburn’s 24-yard line and raced untouched into the end zone and Ainias Smith caught Zach Calzada’s two-point conversion pass to make it 17-3 with 13:04 remaining.
Small’s 37-yard field goal with 3:15 remaining capped the scoring.
Calzada went 15-for-29 passing for 192 yards and no interceptions, as the Aggies were much more successful moving the ball on the ground. Isaiah Spiller rushed for 112 yards on 21 carries and Devon
Achane added 98 yards on 10 carries to lead a rushing attack that amassed 217 yards.
Nix was 20-for-41 passing for 153 yards with an interception. Tank Bigsby rushed for 69 yards on 15 carries, as the Tigers were held to 73 yards on 29 attempts, an average of 2.5 yards per carry.
Texas A&M and Auburn exchanged field goals in the first quarter, with Small connecting from 21 yards before Anders Carlson capped Auburn’s ensuing possession by hitting from 32 yards.
The Aggies failed to regain the lead with 3:15 left in the first half when Small missed a 42-yard field goal.
Auburn had a golden opportunity to take a lead to open the third quarter, but Carlson pushed a 33-yard field wide left with 9:16 left in the quarter.
The Aggies took advantage of the mistake to drive down the field and take a 6-3 lead on Small’s 29-yard field goal with 3:39 left in the quarter.
Small extended the lead to 9-3 with a 47-yard field goal less than two minutes into the fourth quarter.
–Field Level Media
No. 17 Texas A&M is preparing for Saturday’s home game with South Carolina amid rumors involving coach Jimbo Fisher and the impending head coaching vacancy at LSU.
Coach Ed Orgeron, who led the Tigers to the 2019-20 national title, will depart after as LSU’s coach at the end of the season.
After that announcement, rumors started to swirl that Fisher could be a candidate for the job at Baton Rouge, La. Fisher tried to shut down the whispers early this week.
“I love being here. This is the job I wanted,” Fisher said. “There is nothing going on there. I love A&M, and I plan on being here and fulfilling my whole contract.”
His deal was extended before this season, adding four years through the 2031 season. The contract includes an annual salary of $9 million starting Jan. 1 and will increase to $9.15 million on Jan. 1, 2023. In each of the following years, the base salary increases by $100,000 on Jan. 1.
The Aggies (5-2, 2-2 Southeastern Conference) will look to build on winning their past two games when they play the Gamecocks (4-3, 1-3).
Fisher’s team has defeated then-No. 1 Alabama and Missouri in consecutive weeks after losing two straight to Arkansas and Mississippi State to start the conference schedule.
The Aggies reportedly have ignored social media during their recent success.
“(Avoiding social media) eliminates clutter,” Fisher said. “It makes a big difference, and I think it has helped us.”
The Gamecocks are coming off a 21-20 home win last week against Vanderbilt in a game that featured 24-year-old graduate assistant Zeb Noland taking over at quarterback for South Carolina.
Noland, granted sixth year of eligibility after playing at Iowa State and North Dakota State, entered for South Carolina’s final possession and led a 75-yard touchdown drive, connecting with Xavier Legette on a 9-yard scoring pass with 37 seconds left.
“It’s surreal,” Noland said. “I told you guys, I thought I’d never put on the pads again. I wasn’t sure I’d ever get this opportunity again.”
Noland, who replaced injured Luke Doty (foot) against Vanderbilt, will start for the fourth time this season when South Carolina plays Texas A&M.
“He’s been getting plenty of reps in practice,” Gamecocks coach Shane Beamer said of Noland. “We work our first and second group on offense and defense equally, so they’ve got plenty of work in practice.”
The win over the Commodores snapped the Gamecocks’ nine-game SEC losing streak.
Vanderbilt scored its first points in an SEC game this season, but the South Carolina defense forced the Commodores into two turnovers and limited them to 312 yards of total offense.
The Gamecocks finished the game with a sack fumble caused by Kingsley Enagbare and a recovery from Jabari Ellis at the Vanderbilt 4-yard line.
Texas A&M’s offensive line appears ready for the challenge presented by South Carolina. The unit has allowed only one sack in the last two games and has also opened large holes for the Aggies’ running game, which amassed 283 yards last week against Missouri.
“The O-line did a great job,” Texas A&M junior running back Isaiah Spiller said. “They were blocking. It was just reading it, you know, hitting it, so that’s what I did.”
–Field Level Media