COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) — Nick Starkel threw for a career-high 416 yards and four touchdowns before sitting down at halftime as Texas A&M built a huge lead and cruised to a 55-14 win over New Mexico on Saturday night.
Starkel had appeared in each of the last two games, but was starting for the first time since Texas A&M’s opener against UCLA when he broke his left ankle in the third quarter. He threw TD passes of 60, 10, 1 and 36 yards before he was replaced by freshman Kellen Mond for the start of the third quarter with A&M (6-4) up 48-7.
Damion Ratley had two touchdown receptions and Christian Kirk had 120 yards receiving and a touchdown and added a 90-yard punt return score to help the Aggies snap a two-game skid.
“This gives us a lot of momentum,” Ratley said. “We knew we needed this, after coming off those two tough losses. We knew we needed to have a good game, and come in here and blow them out.”
Elijah Lilly had a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown for New Mexico (3-7), which lost its fifth straight.
The Aggies finished with 499 yards passing and New Mexico managed just 24.
“We couldn’t really cover them and couldn’t really tackle in space,” New Mexico coach Bob Davie said. “It was eye-opening for us and our players.”
Starkel didn’t waste any time getting going, connecting with Kirk on a 60-yard touchdown pass on the second play of the game. The kick failed to leave Texas A&M up 6-0.
“Nick is building every week and getting confidence back,” Kirk said. “I’m sure he’ll be better and better.”
The Aggies extended the lead to 13-0 when Jhamon Ausbon grabbed a 10-yard touchdown reception on their next drive.
Keith Ford’s 12-yard touchdown run capped a 97-yard drive to leave Texas A&M up 20-0 early in the second quarter.
Lilly looked to have returned the ensuing kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown. But Texas A&M challenged the call and it was brought back after a review revealed that Lilly’s knee hit the ground at the New Mexico 39-yard line.
Ratley caught a short pass and darted into the end zone for a 1-yard touchdown reception that pushed A&M’s lead to 27-0 with about 9 1/2 minutes left in the first half.
The Lobos punted on their next possession and Kirk returned it 90 yards for his sixth career punt return for a touchdown and first this season. Kirk dashed up the middle of the field and evaded two diving defenders before breaking outside and running down the sideline for the score.
Ratley made a nifty one-handed catch for a 36-yard touchdown later in the second quarter to make it 41-0.
Lamar Jordan threw an interception on New Mexico’s next possession to give the Aggies the ball back and Trayveon Williams cashed in on the miscue with a 7-yard TD run.
Lilly’s kickoff return cut the lead to 48-7 late in the second quarter. It was the second of his career and New Mexico’s first since he had one for 93 yards on Oct. 22, 2016.
The Lobos ended a streak of 46 straight possessions on the road without a touchdown on offense when Daryl Chestnut scored on a 3-yard run late in the third quarter to make it 48-14.
Mond connected with Camron Buckley on a 7-yard touchdown pass to extend the lead to 55-14 early in the fourth quarter.
NEW MEXICO: While the Lobos can’t be happy with their performance against the Aggies, the silver lining could be that they took care of the ball much better than they have recently. New Mexico entered the game with the third-most turnovers in the country with 25 after committing 11 combined in its previous two games, but lost the ball just once on Saturday.
TEXAS A&M: Starkel looked great against a lesser opponent on Saturday night, but the real test will be if he can replicate that success next week when the Aggies return to Southeastern Conference play.
NEW MEXICO: Hosts UNLV on Friday night.
TEXAS A&M: Visits Mississippi on Saturday.
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