Ag­gies get re­al­ity check be­fore Bama game

Warhawks put up a fight in first half be­fore falling be­hind

Houston Chronicle Sunday - - COLLEGE FOOTBALL - By Brent Zw­erne­man STAFF WRITER brent.zw­erne­man@chron.com twit­ter.com/brentzw­erne­man

COL­LEGE STA­TION — Texas A&M has cleared the decks for its bal­ly­hooed trip to Alabama, af­ter first driv­ing through LouisianaMon­roe — although the Ag­gies’ drives against the Warhawks at Kyle Field were a bit more bumpy than they had an­tic­i­pated in the first half.

The Ag­gies de­feated the Warhawks 48-10 on Satur­day night in set­ting the ta­ble for their South­east­ern Con­fer­ence opener against the Crim­son Tide next week­end. At times, how­ever, the Warhawks ap­peared bent on yank­ing the table­cloth out be­fore A&M could climb on a plane for Tuscaloosa later this week.

The Ag­gies led 24-10 at half­time, in a con­test that would have been closer at the time were it not for de­fen­sive tackle Day­lon Mack’s stretch and line­backer Tyrel Dod­son’s op­por­tune field place­ment.

With 1:21 left in the first half, Mack reached out while be­ing blocked on the line dur­ing a short ULM field goal at­tempt and got a hand on the ball, which car­omed right into the wait­ing hands of Dod­son on the out­side.

With­out hes­i­ta­tion, Dod­son turned and sprinted 78 yards un­touched for a touch­down, in lift­ing A&M to what ap­peared would be a 24-3 lead at the break. The Warhawks had other ideas, and marched 75 yards on five plays, a drive that was capped by a 2-yard touch­down pass from Caleb Evans to R.J. Turner.

“I was kind of sur­prised it came to me, but I was ready for it, with me be­ing ‘the scoop and score’ player,” Dod­son said, adding the Ag­gies reg­u­larly work on block­ing field goals in prac­tice.

“But it’s never come to me in prac­tice,” he said with a smile.

The pass plays that re­ally caught the Ag­gies’ col­lec­tive at­ten­tion, how­ever, oc­curred on suc­ces­sive plays ear­lier in the drive, when Warhawks re­ceivers hauled in tosses of 34 and 36 yards. A&M’s sec­ondary strug­gled at times in the first half, a cause for con­cern for first-year coach Jimbo Fisher with league play be­gin­ning in earnest.

“In the first half they gave us all kinds of prob­lems,” Fisher said. “We’ve got a lot of room to work on things.”

The Ag­gies were with­out two starters who wore med­i­cal boots on their left feet — kicker Daniel LaCam­era and re­ceiver Ken­drick Rogers. LaCam­era ap­par­ently twisted his an­kle on an at­tempt last week­end in the Ag­gies’ 28-26 home loss to No. 2 Clem­son.

Rogers had a ca­reer night with seven catches for 120 yards and two touch­downs against the Tigers. When he suf­fered his foot in­jury isn’t known. LaCam­era’s set­back ap­peared more se­ri­ous, con­sid­er­ing he was ac­com­pa­nied by a cart that helped keep the pres­sure off of his left leg.

“I think we have one of the best de­fenses in the na­tion,” A&M line­backer Tyrel Dod­son said. “We weren’t play­ing like it in the first half.”

Backup safety Keldrick Carper also missed the game with an undis­closed in­jury. In LaCam­era’s ab­sence, Fisher turned to schol­ar­ship kicker Seth Small of Katy. Small, in his first col­lege ac­tion, turned in a solid first three quar­ters be­fore the game was com­pletely out of reach. He made all four of his ex­tra-point at­tempts in that span, along with both of his field-goal at­tempts (40 and 36 yards) over the first three quar­ters.

“We had the ball nine times in the game and scored on seven of them,” A&M re­ceiver Jha­mon Aus­bon said. “But we still have things to clean up.”

The Ag­gies now turn their at­ten­tion to Alabama, and Fisher’s first en­counter with his former boss at LSU, Nick Sa­ban, with both men coach­ing in the same league. Last sea­son Fisher’s team at the time, Florida State of the ACC, opened the year with a 24-7 loss to Alabama in At­lanta.

Fisher served as Sa­ban’s of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor when both were at LSU for a few years fol­low­ing the turn of the cen­tury, in­clud­ing when LSU won a na­tional ti­tle in 2003.

The Ag­gies’ home crowd on Satur­day bid farewell to a team that will play five of its next six games away from Kyle Field. Af­ter vis­it­ing Tuscaloosa, the Ag­gies play their an­nual neu­tral-site game against Arkansas at AT&T Sta­dium in Ar­ling­ton.

Bob Levey / Getty Images

Texas A&M’s Trayveon Williams scoots past the Warhawks’ de­fense dur­ing the first half at Kyle Field on Satur­day.

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