Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin treated his freshman quarterback with kid gloves late in a 50-43 overtime win against Arkansas at AT&T Stadium.
With the Aggies trailing 43-40 and in the red zone a conservative offense took over. Even with the ball at the 30-yard line with less than a minute remaining, the Aggies ran up the middle and settled for a game-tying field goal at the buzzer.
It was a pragmatic move by Sumlin. He trusted his kicker and felt good about his chances head into overtime, that’s when he would let the freshman try and make a big play.
And Kellen Mond delivered with a 10-yard strike to Christian Kirk in the first overtime. On the ensuing possession the A&M defense forced a turnover and Sumlin, for one week at least, could breath a little bit easier.
“So the play that we ran in OT to win it was the same play that I scored on last week. It's just a basic high-low corner route,” Kirk said. “The guy — the defender on me slipped inside, Kellen saw it, and, you know, it was just execution. It was a great throw by him, and just had to make the catch in a big-time time like that.”
Mond has been thrust into the spotlight after an embarrassing Week 1 loss for Texas A&M against UCLA. In that game starting quarterback Nick Starkel was injured and UCLA stormed back for a memorable 34-point comeback.
The next two weeks had varying results. Mond was the winning quarterback against Nicholls State and Louisiana-Lafayette, but offensive consistency was lacking and he had yet to have the big-game moment.
That changed against Arkansas. Mond passed for 216 yards and ran for 109 more. He incorrectly had an 89-yard touchdown run called back after officials falsely called him out of bounds at the 79 — and if that had counted the Aggies might have won the game in regulation.
Overall, the Aggies are feeling a bit more comfortable about their quarterback situation heading into this week’s contest with South Carolina.
“Like Coach [Noel] Mazzone says, you just call the plays, you just got to execute the plays,” Aggie running back Keith Ford said. “Over the past weeks, since he started and everything since Nick got hurt, I saw a big maturity. He grew up a lot in the weeks. And just the communication got better, and he's more relaxed and he's more comfortable. So that's really what it is, is maturity.”