Texas A&M and Ole Miss both look to backup QBs this week
COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) Both No. 10 Texas A&M and Mississippi will start backup quarterbacks on Saturday when they meet after Aggies starter Trevor Knight and Rebels starter Chad Kelly both suffered serious injuries last week.
The Aggies will go with Jake Hubenak, who threw for 222 yards with two touchdowns and an interception after taking over after Knight injured his shoulder in a loss to Mississippi State on Saturday that knocked Texas A&M out of the College Football Playoff top four.
''For the most part Jake was effective in second half,'' coach Kevin Sumlin said. ''Eleven for 17 for a guy who had to go find his helmet to get in the game. Go run into a game like that, down two touchdowns on road, to give us an opportunity at the end of the game says a lot about him but also says a lot about communication between him and the offensive staff at that time. That will continue to get better.''
It will be the second career start for Hubenak , who got his first in A&M's bowl game last season after both of the team's top quarterbacks transferred in December.
The quarterback situation for Mississippi is a lot less clear with coach Hugh Freeze refusing to name a starter this week in the wake of Kelly's season-ending knee injury.
Freeze did say that freshman Jason Pellerin , who filled in for Kelly after he was injured, would get most of the snaps in practice this week.
But he didn't rule out a variety of other options, including pulling the redshirt off highly touted recruit Shea Patterson or moving receiver Markell Pack or tight end Evan Engram to the position. Regardless of who gets the start, Freeze knows they won't be able to run the offense the same way they did with Kelly, who leads the SEC in yards passing a game.
''It would be crazy for us to expect to carry the whole playbook into this game,'' Freeze said.
Some believe starting Patterson would be the right move, but to Freeze playing him wouldn't be an easy decision so late in the season.
''You have to look at the whole scenario for what's best for individuals and what's best for the team and how many games are left, and if you want his first start to be in front of 115,000 at A&M or the first game next year,'' Freeze said. ''You want to set a kid up for success, we obviously believe he is a super talent, but those are all the kinds of things going on in your mind.''
Some things to know about Mississippi's game against Texas A&M:
Texas A&M WR/PR Christian Kirk has returned three punts for touchdowns in the past two games to give the sophomore five in his career. Kirk returned two against New Mexico State two weeks ago and a third one last week at Mississippi State. If he returns one on Saturday he will become the third player in FBS history and first since 2013 to have a punt return touchdown in three straight games. He's also one of Texas A&M's top receivers with 61 receptions for 591 yards and seven touchdowns.
BOWL STREAK IN JEOPARDY
With just four wins this season, the Rebels need to win two of their last three games to avoid ending a streak four straight bowl games. The last time they didn't qualify for a bowl game was in 2011, the year before Freeze took over.
Texas A&M's Trayveon Williams needs 196 yards rushing to become the first true freshman to rush for 1,000 yards. The mark is within reach with Williams averaging 89.33 yards a game. His best games came in consecutive weeks against Arkansas and Tennessee when he ran for 153 yards and a season-high 217.
IN THE BACKFIELD
The Aggies are second in the nation with 83 tackles for losses. The group is led by defensive end Myles Garrett and Daeshon Hall who have 9 1/2 tackles for losses each. Claude George has 8 1/2 and three players have six each. Garrett leads the team with four sacks this season and needs two more to become the sixth player in SEC history with 30 career sacks.
RUN DEFENSE WOES
Texas A&M is focused on improving its run defense after allowing 365 yards rushing last week. It has been a problem all season and the Aggies are tied for 90th in the country, allowing 197.4 yards rushing a game.
''Doing what you're supposed to do and executing, that was an issue,'' Sumlin said. ''Why that is and what happened, we talked about it as a staff and as a team. That has been addressed schematically. Been addressed with our players … we're moving on.''
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