■ Kellen Mond ran for two touch­downs and threw for a third, help­ing Texas A&M pull away from Louisiana Mon­roe 48-10.

De­spite com­fort­able win, sec­ondary, O-line strug­gle at times

The Dallas Morning News - - Sportsday - Twit­ter: @Ben_Baby BEN BABY bbaby@dal­las­news.com

COL­LEGE STA­TION — By the time the clock ap­proached zeroes at Kyle Field, Texas A&M was prob­a­bly more than ready for Satur­day night’s game to be over.

As the in­juries piled up and the crowd trick­led down the long, con­crete ramp lead­ing out of the sta­dium, the Ag­gies had all but ce­mented their 48-10 non­con­fer­ence vic­tory against Louisiana-Mon­roe.

A&M’s fi­nal tuneup be­fore SEC play was one in which the Ag­gies could work out a few kinks be­fore the im­por­tant part of the sea­son be­gins. A&M did some of that against the Warhawks, but the per­for­mance also showed the Ag­gies need to ad­dress a few key ar­eas be­tween now and their game against top-ranked Alabama next Satur­day.

“We got a lot of room to work on some things,” A&M coach Jimbo Fisher said.

While A&M mostly rolled against ULM, the of­fen­sive line and sec­ondary strug­gled at times against the “group of five” pro­gram.

A&M had three touch­downs wiped off the board be­cause of hold­ing penal­ties. Two of the guilty par­ties were A&M’s sopho­more of­fen­sive tack­les, Dan Moore Jr. and Car­son Green.

“Against the peo­ple we’re get­ting ready to play, we can’t have those penal­ties, and those are very dis­ap­point­ing,” Fisher said.

A&M sopho­more quar­ter­back Kellen Mond was only hur­ried twice ac­cord­ing to the of­fi­cial box score, but he had to pick him­self off the floor more of­ten than that as he threw for 210 yards on 16-of-24 pass­ing.

The con­cerns sur­round­ing the Ag­gies’ front five were am­pli­fied in the fourth quar­ter, when ju­nior cen­ter Erik McCoy limped off the field while fa­vor­ing his left leg. A&M scored on the next play — a 20-yard touch­down pass from Mond to tight end Jace Stern­berger — but the Ag­gies had four sopho­mores on the of­fen­sive line.

For­tu­nately, A&M ap­peared to avoid a ma­jor in­jury to its top line­man. Af­ter the game, Fisher said McCoy likely suf­fered a slight knee sprain.

Com­ing into the sea­son, A&M’s line was one of the ar­eas of con­cern in Fisher’s first year. The other was A&M’s sec­ondary, which was next-to-last in the SEC last sea­son in pass de­fense ef­fi­ciency.

Last week against No. 2 Clem­son, the Ag­gies (2-1) al­lowed four passes of 40 yards or more. ULM (2-1) found sim­i­lar suc­cess against A&M. The Warhawks com­pleted four passes of 25 or more yards.

Those plays ac­counted for more than 43 per­cent of ULM’s of­fense. Two of the long passes from ULM quar­ter­back Caleb Evans helped the Warhawks score in the fi­nal sec­onds of the sec­ond quar­ter and cut A&M’s lead to 24-10 at half­time.

“We were go­ing out there, just go­ing through the mo­tions,” A&M ju­nior line­backer Tyrel Dod­son said of the de­fense in the first half. “We can’t do that. We have to cre­ate good habits.”

But A&M was as sharp as it needed to be. The Ag­gies es­tab­lished their run­ning game early be­hind ju­nior Trayveon Wil­liams, who ran for 128 yards and a touch­down.

By the time the stands cleared out, A&M had locked up the vic­tory and was ready to move on to next week’s game against Alabama, a team as good as any in the coun­try at ex­ploit­ing weak­nesses.

While the Ag­gies were pol­ish­ing off the Warhawks, the No. 1 Crim­son Tide were in the process of wal­lop­ing Mis­sis­sippi in a 62-7 vic­tory on the road. Next week, A&M will start SEC play, the por­tion of the sched­ule that will fully gauge Fisher’s suc­cess for as long as he’s work­ing in Col­lege Sta­tion.

Be­tween now and Fisher’s first SEC meet­ing against Nick Sa­ban, many will likely point out that Sa­ban has never lost to one of his for­mer as­sis­tants (Fisher worked un­der Sa­ban at LSU). The Ag­gies know they weren’t at their best against ULM on Satur­day night.

The last non­con­fer­ence game un­til Novem­ber showed A&M still has plenty to work on be­fore it be­gins the SEC por­tion of the sched­ule, one that will re­quire the Ag­gies to be as sharp as pos­si­ble if they want to show re­sound­ing progress in Fisher’s first sea­son.

“We’re not to where we need to be,” Fisher said. “But we’re grow­ing in that di­rec­tion.”

Sam Craft/The As­so­ci­ated Press

ULM quar­ter­back Caleb Evans (cen­ter) loses his hel­met as he is brought down by a group of Ag­gies. A&M, in its fi­nal tuneup be­fore open­ing SEC play against No. 1 Alabama, shut out the Warhawks in the sec­ond half and held them to 328 to­tal yards.

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