Stunning loss set up long, tense week for Texas A&M, Sumlin
COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) The Texas A&M Aggies are desperate to put their stunning loss to UCLA in their opener behind them when they host Nicholls State on Saturday.
They’ll have to do it with a new quarterback after Nick Starkel broke his ankle against the Bruins and is expected to be out for the rest of the season. Starkel was injured early in Sunday’s game and true freshman Kellen Mond struggled as the Aggies blew a 34-point, third-quarter lead in the 45-44 loss.
”I’m confident with how we’re going to bounce back,” receiver Christian Kirk said. ”The most important thing right now is putting it in the past and moving on. We’ve still got a long season ahead of us and there’s no time to dwell.”
It was a long week in College Station, with fresh questions about coach Kevin Sumlin’s future after the Aggies went 8-5 in each of the last three seasons after opening 5-0 each time. A member of the system’s board of regents called for his firing after the game and then Sumlin’s wife said a racist, threatening letter calling for Sumlin to go ”or else ” was delivered to their home.
Sumlin, who has three years and $15 million left on his contract, insists that he ignores any outside talk about him and his team.
”My focus is on what we can do to be better,” he said. ”I really don’t have time to get involved with things that are said about the program.”
Both Mond and Jake Hubenak will play on Saturday, but Sumlin wouldn’t say who will start. He noted that it will be important for the team to get a good look at both players in Saturday’s game and next week’s against Louisiana-Lafayette before the Aggies open Southeastern Conference play against Arkansas on Sept. 23.
Sumlin said he chose not to play Hubenak against UCLA because he wanted to try and get Mond in a rhythm.
”Kellen had been in the game and was in the flow to play,” Sumlin said. ”Kellen brought some other things to the table. He made first downs with his legs that some other guys probably couldn’t make. He made some freshman mistakes, but we were able to make some first downs and take some time off the clock and feel comfortable with that.”
Mond was just 3 of 17 for 27 yards, but ran for 54 yards on 14 carries. Kirk knows that he and the rest of the receivers need to do more to help the quarterbacks succeed.
”I was getting doubled the majority of the game and there’s opportunities for some of the young guys to step up,” he said. ”It was their first game. I’m sure there were some nerves going on and we’ve just got to get past that”
Since Sumlin took over in 2012, the Aggies have been known for their potent passing game. With inexperience at quarterback this season, it could be the running game that stars in this offense. Trayveon Williams and Keith Ford starred against the Bruins, combining for 317 yards rushing and five scores. Williams, who became the first true freshman in school history to rush for 1,000 yards last season, had 203 yards and two touchdowns and Ford added 114 yards and three scores.
LOOKING FOR NO. 4
Nicholls State is 3-27 in 30 meetings with FBS teams since 2000, and has dropped both of its games to teams from the SEC. The Colonels beat Rice in 2007, Arkansas State in 2011 and their last win over an FBS school came when they beat Western Michigan in 2013. Nicholls State had a tough time with Arkansas in 2014, falling 73-7 to the Razorbacks. But they gave Georgia a scare last season before the Bulldogs outlasted them 26-24.
The Aggies offered free tickets to Saturday’s game and next week’s game against Louisiana-Lafayette to all victims of Hurricane Harvey as well as first-responders and volunteers. The school is also selling T-shirts to help in the relief effort and the team is wearing a decal on its helmets to honor those affected by the storm.
”Texas A&M University has always stood ready to help when called upon, and the events in Texas and the gulf coast present another opportunity for us to lend a hand,” athletic director Scott Woodward said. ”We want to provide a brief reprieve to all of those affected by this tragedy, as well as extend an expression of gratitude to all of the first-responders and volunteers that are working so hard to help the region return to normalcy.”
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