COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) — No. 8 Texas A&M outlasted ninth-ranked Tennessee 45-38 in double overtime Saturday to improve to 6-0 for the first time since 1994 after starting the previous two seasons with five wins before losing.
“It’s great,” defensive end Myles Garrett said. “We finally got over the hump, the little 5-0 hill that we’ve been facing every year.”
Trevor Knight bulled in for a 1-yard touchdown in the second overtime, and Armani Watts intercepted Joshua Dobbs’ pass on the next play for Tennessee’s seventh turnover to end the game.
“The big takeaway from this was we were able to withstand some things, not play great but make enough plays to win the game without some of our better players being 100 percent,” coach Kevin Sumlin said.
The teams exchanged field goals in the first overtime.
Knight threw for 239 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 110 yards and three more scores.
The Volunteers (5-1, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) had rallied from double-digit deficits to win four of their last five games, including last week’s last-play victory over Georgia. They trailed by 21 points in the third quarter Saturday thanks to six turnovers before tying it on Alvin Kamara’s 18-yard touchdown reception with 41 seconds left.
“Proud of the resolve, but the turnovers didn’t give us an opportunity,” Tennessee coach Butch Jones said.
The seven turnovers were the most A&M had forced since 2005 and their five fumble recoveries were the most since 1997.
Texas A&M (6-0, 4-0) had a chance to win it in regulation, but Daniel LaCamera’s 38-yard field goal attempt sailed wide left.
The Aggies could have put this one away with less than 2 minutes remaining, but freshman Trayveon Williams had the ball knocked from his hands and out of the back of the end zone just before he crossed the goal line on a 71-yard run. Williams finished with 217 yards rushing, a school record for a true freshman.
Texas A&M was facing third-and-2 when Knight dashed 62 yards for a touchdown that pushed the lead to 35-21 with about three minutes left. Kamara’s 4-yard run about a minute later made it a one-score game.
The Aggies built a 21-7 lead in the first quarter after three fumbles by Tennessee. Knight threw touchdown passes of 13 and 2 yards and had a 7-yard TD run in the opening frame.
Saturday continued a trend of bad starts for the Volunteers, who have been outscored 62-17 in the first quarter this season.
Dobbs finished with 398 yards passing and a touchdown and Kamara stepped up with leading-rusher Jalen Hurd out, finishing with 161 yards receiving and a touchdown and 127 yards rushing and two more scores.
TENNESSEE: The Volunteers finally learned that they can’t give good teams such a big cushion and expect to come back again and again. They’ll have to find a way to get off to a better start and cure their turnover woes if they expect to compete with No. 1 Alabama next week.
TEXAS A&M: Texas A&M’s defense again showed it is the strength of this team by forcing the flurry of turnovers and pressuring Dobbs all day long. The offense needs to be more consistent for the Aggies to have a chance to topple Alabama in two weeks.
“We need to finish,” Sumlin said. “We’re a work in progress there.”
TENNESSEE: The Volunteers will certainly drop a few spots after the loss, but they might not fall too far after their late comeback and considering A&M is also a top-10 team.
TEXAS A&M: The Aggies will likely move up a place or two as one of the few remaining undefeated teams. They will certainly jump at least one spot after No. 6 Houston lost to Navy on Saturday.
Tennessee center Dylan Wiesman appeared to suffer a head injury making a block in the first quarter and did not return. Defensive tackle Danny O’Brien was put on a stretcher and carted off the field in the fourth quarter. Tennessee officials told CBS that he was moving all his extremities, but Jones refused to comment on injuries after the game.
Garrett returned after missing last week with a leg injury despite saying he was only about 65-70 percent healthy. He was scheduled to play on third downs only on Saturday, but insisted on playing every play of both overtimes.
“That tells you a lot about him,” Sumlin said. “He was really hurting.”
Garrett was asked just how much pain he was in during overtime.
“Not enough to quit on my team,” he said.
He finished with three tackles, including a sack that forced a fumble in the first quarter.
Jones was left searching for answers on how to solve his team’s turnover problem.
“We have to get it corrected and I’m dumbfounded because we spend so much time on ball security,” he said. “We may take 25 minutes a day and work on ball security because we have to get it corrected.”
TENNESSEE : The Volunteers host Alabama next Saturday.
TEXAS A&M : Texas A&M has a week off before traveling to face the top-ranked Crimson Tide on Oct. 22.