No. 22 Texas A&M fended off a second-half comeback attempt by South Carolina on Saturday to win 26-23 in SEC play at Columbia, S.C.
Kellen Mond completed 25 of 37 passes for 353 yards and a touchdown to lead the Aggies (5-2, 3-1 SEC). His favorite target, Jace Sternberger, caught seven passes for 145 yards and a score.
Jake Bentley passed for 223 yards and three touchdowns and was intercepted once for the Gamecocks (3-3, 2-3). South Carolina was outgained 458-299.
Texas A&M had a 13-0 halftime lead, and none of the fans in a silenced stadium would have believed South Carolina could wind up playing its way back into the game.
Texas A&M controlled the first half in every area. The Aggies dominated the clock, possessing the ball 20:37 of the first 30 minutes, as well as the stat sheet. Texas A&M outgained South Carolina 255 yards to 102 after Bentley threw for just 46 yards on 6-of-17 passing.
The Gamecocks couldn’t move the ball in the first half, a combination of the Aggies’ 23rd-ranked defense, dropped passes on three key plays by South Carolina wide receivers and an interception thrown by Bentley.
The teams each punted on their first two possessions of the game, but on their third possession, a Ty’Son Williams 27-yard run moved the Gamecocks to the Texas A&M 16-yard line. Two Bentley passes fell incomplete, and then Charles Oliver’s interception in the end zone led to a touchback.
On the subsequent drive, Seth Small hit a 52-yard field goal to give the Aggies a 3-0 lead just before the end of the first quarter.
In the second quarter, the Aggies drove 94 yards in five plays, culminating in a 4-yard Mond-to-Sternberger touchdown, to put them up 10-0 with 4:19 left in the half, A 20-yard field goal by Small as the clock expired gave them the 13-0 halftime lead.
Small struck again from 32 yards early in the second half for a 16-0 lead, but Bentley — who was booed by the student section in the first half — led two quick scoring drives, finding Shi Smith for a 22-yard touchdown and Chavis Dawkins for a 33-yard touchdown in a span of 4:30 in the third quarter. The Gamecocks went for two on both plays and entered the fourth quarter tied at 16.
The Aggies’ ability to control the clock doomed the Gamecocks in the end, though.
Small hit a 39-yard field goal after a drive of 6:02 and the Aggies added a Trayveon Williams 3-yard touchdown run after a drive of 5:45.
Bentley hit Deebo Samuel on a 6-yard scoring pass with 48 seconds left but the Gamecocks couldn’t field the onside kick.
Bentley missed last week’s win over Missouri with a knee injury.
Texas A&M controlled possession for 41:29.
—Field Level Media