A lackluster 24-14 victory over Nicholls State Saturday night at Kyle Field left Aggie fans grumbling. Freshman quarterback Kellen Mond got the start but after two scores in the first quarter, A&M couldn’t muster anything, leading to senior Jake Hubenak coming in and leading the Aggies to a couple late scores to win.
It’s certainly easy to find things to criticize after struggling with such an inferior team, and questions abound, but we will continue to focus on what we know and what we can realistically hope for going forward.
Hubenak needs to start
This is not any kind of jab at Kellen Mond. He still has great potential and can be very good. But from a passing standpoint, he just isn’t quite ready. After a couple early scoring drives, he was unable to get the offense moving, and while there were a few dropped passes, ultimately the issues seemed to be coming from the quarterback. He didn’t see open receivers at times and he overthrew wide open receivers at other times.
After nearly waiting too long, the coaches finally inserted Jake Hubenak, and the difference was obvious. In four drives, Hubenak moved the ball all four times. Two scoring drives, one missed field goal (this after a fluky play in which his own offensive lineman sacked him, ruining a drive that had been going well), and one drive that saw A&M get down inside the 10 yard line but have a big play called back because of a questionable offensive pass interference penalty that put the Aggies in a 1st and 25 situation, leading to a punt.
Those four possessions came after four straight punts by the offense led by Mond, three of which were three and outs. The pace and efficiency of the offense improved dramatically with Hubenak in the game, even with running backs Keith Ford and Trayveon Williams on the bench with (hopefully) minor injuries.
Hubenak, I assume, will be given the task of leading this team from here on out.
Daylon Mack is back, baby!
After failing to record a tackle against UCLA, Mack had five tackles (career high is six) and two tackles for loss, tying a career high. There was a stretch in the middle of the game where he basically affected every single running play.
He did a good job of not only showing burst and quickness, which we’ve known he has, but also plugging up the middle and then getting off of the block to make the tackle as the running back hits the hole.
In the middle of a stacked defensive line, Mack playing at his best gives the Aggies the ability to rotate fresh defenders in all night long and never drop off in talent or production. An encouraging sign as the season starts shaping up.
Hangover game or sign of trouble?
Every fan agrees that the game didn’t go how it should have. A&M is vastly more talented and should beat a team like Nicholls by 40+ every time. So why didn’t they?
Well there are two possibilities. One is that this team just has too many holes, a weak offensive line, and bad coaches, and will be lucky to win four games. Many Aggie fans are taking that stance.
The other possibility is that the uninspired performance was a hangover from the devastating UCLA loss. After playing on the west coast on a Sunday, the Aggies had a short week and had to not only adjust to an abbreviated game-week schedule but also try to shake off the emotional effects of losing in such a dramatic, historic way, while also dealing with the fact that in that loss, their starting quarterback went down and arguably their best defender, Donovan Wilson, also went down.
It’s easy to scoff at as fans, but that’s a lot to deal with and we see hangovers like that happen all the time in sports. So this week will be very telling, in my opinion. The UCLA game is behind them now, and almost losing to a vastly inferior team serves as a wake up call. There is now clarity that wasn’t there the first two weeks: Jake Hubenak is the man at quarterback.
Give Hubenak all the starter’s reps this week, let the team rally around him, and basically reset the season. It’s the third starting quarterback of the year and it’s just week three, but put the first two weeks behind and start fresh.
So with that said, if A&M comes out and plays the way they should, they will win handily and Hubenak will rest in the fourth quarter while Mond gets reps the way he should: in garbage time.
If A&M struggles again and is in any kind of real battle in the fourth quarter, that would signal major problems.
Everything I said in those few preceding paragraphs is with the assumption that Hubenak does indeed start. It’s obvious he needs to. I have no inside information indicating he will, I’m just going with the assumption that since he’s clearly the best option, he will be the man.
What can we hope for?
For now, rather than looking at a long term projection, let’s just look at this week. The realistic hope here is that the Aggies come out looking like the same team that dominated UCLA in the first half. A&M needs to show that they have put the UCLA loss and the quarterback questions behind them and are ready to move forward and win games.
If the Ags manage to do that and come away with an inspired performance and a good-looking blowout win, we can then start talking about getting off to a hopeful 2-0 conference record. But the first order of business is playing a good game against an inferior team on Saturday.