Photo via Mark Goodman, TexasHSFootball.com
A&M (8-5) continued a troubling Texas postseason trend, falling to Kansas State (9-4) in the 11th Advocare Texas Bowl 33-28 and joining a pool of Lone Star college teams that combined for a 1-4 bowl record. Surprisingly, the sole winner of a bowl game was Baylor – an athletic department entrenched in controversy throughout the season that had lost six consecutive before their Motel 6 Cactus Bowl victory against Boise State.
The coaching hot seat is warming steadily for coach Kevin Sumlin after the Aggies saw their third consecutive winning start cool into the steam tendrils of a losing latter half of the season. Losing the Texas Bowl didn’t help Sumlin’s cause; despite a hefty payout if he’s sacked, College Station murmurs of his firing are escalating to a dull roar. Next season won’t bring an easier task, even with a dearth of young talent: Eighteen seniors graduate this season, and next year’s class sees a Texas-high 26 recruits join the fold – eighth highest in the nation.
A&M entered the game with losses in three of their last four, going 0-4 against SEC opponents after starting undefeated. Kansas State defensively outworked the Aggies, forcing five offensive drops, two turnovers and allowed the Wildcats offense advantage on the time of possession. Coach Bill Snyder steadily wore down the uptempo spread through debilitating pressure from the defensive front, causing Trevor Knight to attempt short passes in favor of long bombs to Aggie receivers known for extending the field vertically.
The Texas Bowl’s opening drive began as a different story: Knight was 5-of-5 passing, leading a 10 play 75-yard drive that resulted in a Keith Ford scoring run. Wildcat quarterback Jesse Ertz regained the momentum by hitting Byron Pringle for a 79 yarder to tie the game even with less than five minutes remaining in the quarter. On the following possession, Knight under-threw an interception, effectively tossing the momentum into Kansas State’s favor.
KSU extended their lead to five after Ertz bulldozed his way into the endzone from the one-yard line – optimal field position that the quarterback set up a play earlier, when he raced for 20 yards to the red zone. A&M quickly retaliated with a Josh Reynold’s 15-yard touchdown grab. The San Antonio native was targeted a season-high 18 times in the games and his 12 receptions are a new Aggies Bowl record. The fade ball touchdown was the eighth consecutive score for Reynold – another Aggies record – and the junior finished the night with 154 yards and two touchdowns.
The Aggies had an opportunity to gain the lead, but Knight flung the rock away at fourth-and-8 with two minutes remaining, giving the Wildcats possession to run out the clock.
The KSU defense dictating pace was the difference maker, adjusting quickly to a swift tempo offense ranked 12th fastest in the FBS (21.7). The speed created problems throughout the duration of the year for A&M, allowing the defense to be on the field for more playtime; the unit had 200 more snaps defensively than the next SEC program, which seemed to hurt the Aggies in the latter stretches of the season and throughout the Bowl game. A&M suffered injuries on the defensive side of the ball, and lacked the depth to make up for their absences. A&M was missing defensive starters in safety Armani Watts and cornerback Priest Willis. Starting defensive tackle Zaycoven Henderson left the game with a lower leg injuries. KSU – conditioned to the spread offensive and dynamic ground game of the Big 12 – were able to force duo takeaways, a mark in line with their position as third best in the Power Five for turnover margin (+11).
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