The Texas A&M Aggies earned their eighth win of the season Monday when they defeated the West Virginia Mountaineers, 45-37. The game was penalty-laden throughout, with both teams combining for 15 penalties. On top of that was an undercurrent of chippiness that manifested itself in numerous personal fouls and punches thrown -- by both players and a coach. Nonetheless, A&M played well on both sides of the ball, and will take some momentum into the offseason.
West Virginia led for large portions of the first half, but couldn't muster much offense in the second half. Quarterback Skylar Howard threw for 327 yards and two touchdowns. Kevin White made several big plays, and at one point in the third quarter was averaging 20 yards per catch. Nonetheless, WVU struggled to establish a running game, had several costly penalties, missed open receivers, and committed two turnovers. Those factors, many the result of A&M's defensive effort, erased nearly 350 yards in the air.
In the second half, A&M took control on both sides of the ball. A&M's offense is a known and respected quantity, and today they showed up. Freshman quarterback Kyle Allen looked like a calm veteran, throwing for 273 yards and four touchdowns. He also had a great run for a touchdown. Perhaps most impressively, A&M rushed for 235 yards when they had only been averaging 140 yards per game this season. That figure far surpasses the 162 yards rushing per game that WVU had allowed this season. The A&M offensive line dominated the WVU defensive front for the entire game, and Tra Carson ran for a career high 133 yards, and was punishing WVU's second- and third-level defenders regularly.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of A&M's performance came from its defense. The defense did give up 27 points in the first half, but bowed its necks in the second half and at moments played like the "Wrecking Crew" of yore. They held WVU to 5-of-19 on third down on the day, and many of Howard's errant throws were the result of pressure generated by the Aggie defensive front. Meanwhile, A&M's run defense, of all run defenses, showed up and held WVU to 126 yards rushing, and a large chunk of those yards came from Howard scrambles. WVU had been averaging nearly 190 yards rushing per game. Kudos to interim defensive coordinator Mark Hagen. He likely won't be the Aggies' next coordinator, but he certainly earned some street cred.
Texas A&M heads into the offseason with eight victories, and four straight bowl wins. October and November reports of Kevin Sumlin & Co.'s demise look to be premature. As The Lone Star State's recruiting competition heats up with the success of Texas, TCU, and Baylor, Texas A&M signaled their abilities today to continue being a factor going forward.