October was an up and down month for the Aggies, but it finished with things trending positively. True freshman Kyler Murray led Texas A&M to a 35-28 win over South Carolina at Kyle Field on Saturday.
For Murray, this game wasn't his first action, but it was his first start and an opportunity to play extended minutes without wondering how long he would stay on the field. And he responded well.
Murray's numbers were good (379 total yards, 2 total touchdowns, and no turnovers) and he passed the eyeball test. He protected the ball, managed the offense, made good decisions, and appeared to be in control from start to finish. For a true freshman who probably felt like he waited an eternity for this moment, he stayed composed.
Murray's passing was accurate other than throwing a few uncatchable deep balls. His running was a key to the game, as he gashed South Carolina for 156 yards on 20 carries. He was only sacked once, and ran effective quarterback draws, zone reads, and scrambled when necessary on pass plays.
Four things really impressed me as I watched Kyler Murray in person:
- Accuracy on short and intermediate throws. Slants to Josh Reynolds and Ricky Seals-Jones produced several first downs, and quick screens to Christian Kirk and Speedy Noil produced others. Almost every pass was catchable and the ball had plenty of zip on it.
- Speed. We knew Murray had speed, but it hadn't really been on display since the season-opening win against Arizona State. But it was on display today. He appeared to be the fastest player on the field and it was clearly a game-changer to have that threat with the ball in his hands on every snap.
- Managing the game. Murray did a great job of managing the tempo for the Aggies throughout the game. In the first half, as the Aggies racked up nearly 400 yards of offense, Murray consistently pushed the tempo and kept the offense operating at a nice, quick tempo. He never seemed to have any issues getting the plays called and the formations lined up properly and all that goes with that. Then, with the Aggies clinging to a lead in the fourth quarter, Murray slowed the tempo down and not only managed the clock well between plays, but also smartly slid down in bounds on multiple runs to keep the clock moving. He showed a lot of savvy, which was impressive for a true freshman in his first start.
- Making the right calls. On numerous plays, Murray changed the play or changed the direction of the play based on how the Gamecocks defense aligned. The fact that he was able to do that has to be a good sign and should help him earn the trust of his teammates and coaches as the Aggies start to see different defensive adjustments in the coming weeks.
Overall, Aggies have to be encouraged by the performance from Murray. Any time your quarterback accounts for nearly 400 yards and doesn't turn the ball over, that's a good day.