COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) — Texas A&M senior safety Armani Watts at least recognizes the Aggies have a problem with putting together two halves. Doing something about it might be another issue, with SEC play set to start next weekend.
“We still have a lot of work to do this week, we can’t be content with what happened today,” Watts said after the Aggies overcame a halftime deficit to defeat Louisiana-Lafayette 45-21 at Kyle Field. “We just played with more emotion in the second half. You can’t play this game without emotion. We stuck with it and knew our offense would come through.”
The Ragin’ Cajuns (1-2) led 21-14 at halftime before the Aggies scored 31 consecutive points en route to the victory, one preserving embattled coach Kevin Sumlin’s job for at least another week.
“We just talked about that in the locker room, that we were like two different teams,” Sumlin said of the Aggies’ Jekyll and Hyde showing. “We’re a work in progress.”
After much of the first half went wrong for A&M, the third quarter went entirely right, as the Aggies (2-1) scored 17 points in that span to grab the lead for good.
“In the second half they made some adjustments, they put a lot of people in the box to stop the run,” Cajuns coach Mark Hudspeth said. “They were determined to make us throw the football to win the game, and we just didn’t have that offensive rhythm in the second half that we had in the first half.”
Freshman Aggies quarterback Kellen Mond, in beginning to live up to his preseason hype as a five-star prospect, collected a five-yard touchdown run and threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to fellow freshman Camron Buckley in the decisive third quarter.
“He’s gotten better,” Sumlin said of Mond. “He’s more comfortable, and he’s more assertive.”
Sumlin is on the hot seat after the Aggies have lost six consecutive games to Power Five opponents, dating to last season and including A&M blowing a 34-point lead against UCLA in this year’s season opener. The Aggies have responded with two consecutive victories, but also needed to break open a 14-14 tie against Nicholls State last week before prevailing 24-14.
In addition, Sumlin dealt with one more thing he didn’t anticipate on Saturday: walk-on freshman receiver Will Gunnell flipping off the crowd as the Aggies headed up the tunnel to the locker room at halftime.
“I was made aware of it at halftime and we dealt with it at halftime,” Sumlin said. “He didn’t return to the field. He’s embarrassed, and we’ll handle whatever disciplinary action this week with him (internally).”
Gunnell apologized afterward via Twitter, dubbing it an “ill-advised gesture” and “in no way aimed at the fans.”
“I was raised better and this brief moment will haunt me for the rest of my life,” Gunnell wrote.
Gunnell is the older brother of touted Houston-area quarterback Grant Gunnell, one of the nation’s top-rated prospects in the class of 2019 who’s already verbally pledged to Texas A&M.
Texas A&M: Despite their comeback the Aggies appear far from ready for Southeastern Conference play, after trailing the Cajuns by a touchdown at halftime. Keep in mind this is a Louisiana team that gave up 66 points in a loss at Tulsa a week prior. It’s been trial by fire for freshman quarterback Kellen Mond, but the experience of playing all four quarters on Saturday should help him greatly with the start of SEC play.
Louisiana-Lafayette: Despite blowing the second-half lead the Cajuns should be buoyed by their overall showing on the road against an SEC foe, even if the Aggies don’t appear to be much of a power this season. Junior quarterback Jordan Davis is a warrior — he twisted his knee in the first half, limped for some time but kept playing. The Cajuns need him for Sun Belt play.
TEXAS A&M: The Aggies outgained the Cajuns 353-82 yards in the second half, when they outscored Louisiana-Lafayette 31-0. A&M rushed for 201 yards in the second half, after having minus-22 rushing yards at halftime. The Aggies forced five turnovers, including two interceptions by safety Armani Watts.
LOUISIANA-LAFAYETTE: The Cajuns rushed for only 22 yards in the second half, as A&M forced hobbled quarterback Jordan Davis to try and pass over the final two quarters. Louisiana-Lafayette was 0-for-6 on third-down conversions in the third and fourth quarters, as A&M scored 31 unanswered points.
TEXAS A&M: Sophomore starting running back Trayveon Williams didn’t play with an injured ankle, but coach Kevin Sumlin said he should be ready to go for the Aggies’ SEC opener against Arkansas next weekend.
LOUISIANA-LAFAYETTE: Junior quarterback Jordan Davis twisted his leg in the first half on a play along the sidelines, but pressed on throughout the game, although coach Mark Hudspeth said the slight injury impacted Davis’s ability to plant his leg on throws.
TEXAS A&M: The Aggies open SEC play against Arkansas in AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, on Sept. 23, and will try and make it six in a row against the Razorbacks. Arkansas still leads the overall series 41-29-3.
LOUISIANA-LAFAYETTE: The Cajuns return home to open Sun Belt play against Louisiana-Monroe on Sept. 23, following consecutive road losses to Tulsa and A&M. Louisiana-Lafayette opened its season with a 51-48 home win over Southeastern Louisiana.
“They got the momentum, and once we gave it away it was hard to get it back.”
Coach Mark Hudspeth on the Cajuns’ halftime lead turning into a blowout the other way.
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