Ag­gies roll, set up LSU clash

Sur­pris­ing Blaz­ers pro­vide lit­tle com­pe­ti­tion; at­ten­tion now turns to elu­sive win over Tigers

San Antonio Express-News (Sunday) - - Sports - By Brent Zw­erne­man STAFF WRITER

COL­LEGE STA­TION — Texas A&M has cleared the decks for its big­gest game of the year — its last one of the reg­u­lar sea­son.

The Ag­gies shoved aside Alabama-Birm­ing­ham 41-20 on Satur­day night at Kyle Field to make way for the big one, at least in their minds: play­ing host to No. 7 LSU on Thanks­giv­ing week­end.

A&M had sched­uled UAB, whose pro­gram was on hia­tus at the time, nearly three years ago with the no­tion the con­test would serve as a glori­fied scrimmage for the bal­ly­hooed LSU fi- nale.

The Blaz­ers, hav­ing won nine of their 10 games rolling into Kyle Field, had other in­ten­tions, but they were wiped out from the first play on. That’s when the Ag­gies’ Brian John­son knocked the ball out of the hands of the Blaz­ers’ An­dre Wil­son, and Larry Pryor re­turned the fum­ble 17 yards for a touch­down — nine sec­onds into the game.

UAB (9-2, 7-0 C-USA) wasn’t

ready to roll over just yet, and marched the ball 75 yards on 10 plays to tie the game on a 9-yard touch­down catch by Wil­son, mak­ing up for his early mis­cue. It turned out that was the Blaz­ers’ high-wa­ter mark, as the Ag­gies (7-4, 4-3 SEC) soon punched holes in their early buoy­ancy.

Later in the first quar­ter, A&M run­ning back Trayveon Wil­liams went right, and then went right again, scoot­ing to the edge and out­run­ning the Blaz­ers de­fense for a 9-yard touch­down, giv­ing the Ag­gies a lead they wouldn’t re­lin­quish.

Along the way, A&M’s Braden Mann of Cy-Fair set an NCAA record with his 14th punt of 60plus yards this sea­son, sur­pass­ing the mark he held with Wake For­est’s Ryan Plack­e­meier, who booted 13 of at least 60 yards in 2005.

Wil­liams, the SEC’s lead­ing rusher, fol­lowed up his 228 yards rush­ing a week prior in the Ag­gies’ vic­tory over Mis­sis­sippi with 167 against the Blaz­ers.

UAB en­tered the game among the na­tional lead­ers in a hand­ful of de­fen­sive cat­e­gories, in­clud­ing third in to­tal de­fense in al­low­ing 261 yards per game, but the Ag­gies had blasted by that to­tal in the third quar­ter, and fin­ished with 444.

The Ag­gies’ 24 points at half­time also equaled the amount the four pre­vi­ous schools from Texas that UAB had played — Rice, North Texas, UTEP and UTSA — had to­taled in their losses to the Blaz­ers. UAB had outscored those Lone Star state foes 142-24.

A&M added scores in the sec­ond half on a Seth Small 25-yard field goal and 25-yard and 20yard touch­down pass from Mond to tight end Jace Stern­berger. The Ag­gies led 34-7 early in the fourth quar­ter when A&M run­ning back Kwame Etwi fum­bled and the Blaz­ers re­cov­ered on the A&M 11-yard line, and then cap­i­tal­ized on an­other touch­down catch by Wil­son, this one from 10 yards out.

UAB kicker Nick Vo­gel had al­ready missed three field goals at the point — with one blocked by A&M de­fen­sive line­man Jay­den Peevy — be­fore Peevy col­lected an­other block on the ex­tra point, and A&M led 34-13 with a lit­tle more than 11 min­utes re­main­ing in the game. The Blaz­ers added an­other too-lit­tle, toolate touch­down on a 10-yard run by Spencer Brown with 4:44 re­main­ing, to give the game its fi­nal score.

The Ag­gies will now try to de­feat LSU for the first time in seven tries since en­ter­ing the SEC in 2012. Their in­abil­ity to do so was a rea­son Kevin Sum­lin was fired af­ter six sea­sons as A&M’s coach about this time last year. The Ag­gies then lured Jimbo Fisher from Florida State to make head­way against the pro­gram they con­sider their chief ri­val in the SEC West.

Fisher is a for­mer LSU of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor who was nearly hired by the Tigers on a cou­ple of oc­ca­sions be­fore opt­ing to stick with FSU a few years ago. He won a na­tional ti­tle in 2013 with the Semi­noles, in his fourth sea­son in Tal­la­has­see, Fla.

A&M also is try­ing to fin­ish with a win­ning record in SEC play for the first time since their ini­tial sea­son in the league six years ago, when it was 6-2, third in the SEC West be­hind na­tional cham­pion Alabama and LSU, and No. 5 na­tion­ally.

The Ag­gies have since tal­lied four league marks of 4-4 and one of 3-5 in 2014. A&M will play in its school-record 10th con­sec­u­tive bowl, with the Texas Bowl on Dec. 27 in NRG Sta­dium a pop­u­lar choice among post­sea­son prog­nos­ti­ca­tors.

A&M could push its way into a more prom­i­nent bowl, how­ever, with a vic­tory over LSU.

Bob Levey / Getty Im­ages

Texas A&M’s Trayveon Wil­liams cel­e­brates a 9-yard score in the first quar­ter Satur­day at Kyle Field.

Michael Wyke / As­so­ci­ated Press

Texas A&M quar­ter­back Kellen Mond runs past UAB’s Jamell Gar­cia-Wil­liams on Satur­day.

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