Texas A&M vs. Miami score, takeaways: No. 24 Aggies outlast No. 13 Canes for crucial bounce-back win

Texas A&M vs. Miami score, takeaways: No. 24 Aggies outlast No. 13 Canes for crucial bounce-back win

No. 24 Texas A&M outlasted No. 13 Miami on Saturday night in a sloppy but hard-fought game in front of the 12th Man at Kyle Field. The Aggies scored just seven points in the second half on the way to a 17-9 win as the Hurricanes settled for three field goals after being unable to find the end zone on multiple occasions. In doing so, Miami dropped its eighth straight nonconference game to a Power Five opponent.

Texas A&M, needing a bounce-back victory after last week’s shocking loss to Appalachian State, was in the midst of a quarterback switch from Haynes King to Max Johnson. The idea was to limit mistakes, and the Aggies remained turnover-free despite a sketchy situation late in the fourth quarter when Ainias Smith bobbled a punt but wrestled it away at the bottom of a pile. That allowed Texas A&M to drain critical time off of the clock and hold on for the victory.

Stud running back Devon Achane was the star of the night for the Aggies, rushing for 88 yards on 18 carries and scoring a critical 25-yard touchdown touchdown catch early in the third quarter to make a big statement coming out of the locker room.

A significant factor in the second half was Johnson’s ability as a runner. The LSU transfer, making his first start for Texas A&M, had 26 sack-adjusted yards rushing in the third quarter and took a ton of pressure off of Achane in the process. That loosened up Miami’s defense enough to keep the it honest while allowing some wiggle room for the rest of Texas A&M’s offensive weapons. Johnson, who isn’t as mobile as King but is a willing runner, added enough in the passing game, going 10 of 20 for 140 yards and the touchdown strike to Achane.

Special teams issues cost the Hurricanes more scoring opportunities and changed the complexity of their final drives in the fourth quarter. Texas A&M’s Albert Regis got up high on a field goal attempt by Miami’s Andres Borregales midway through the second quarter to block what would have been a 36-yard field goal to make it 10-6. That came one quarter after Canes returner Tyrique Stevenson attempted to pick up a bouncing punt only to get popped and muff it on the 28-yard line. Texas A&M moved 28 yards on three plays, and the drive culminated with a 1-yard touchdown run by LJ Johnson Jr.

Let’s dive into the biggest takeaways from the defensive battle in College Station.

Texas A&M’s secondary stepped up

Defensive backs Smoke Bouie and Denver Harris were two of four players who were suspended of violation of team rules prior to the game, which left the Aggies secondary thin. As if that wasn’t enough, star Demani Richardson and Brian George were both popped for targeting in the first half, ending their nights early. That left multiple unproven Aggies in the back end of a defense that was going up against a future NFL draft pick in Hurricanes starting quarterback Tyler Van Dyke.

It didn’t matter.

The Aggies gave up 51 passing yards to Van Dyke in the third quarter, which was huge considering the Aggies nursed a 17-3 lead for most of the frame. Van Dyke heated up a bit in the fourth quarter when coach Mario Cristobal got into desperation mode, but Texas A&M did enough in the fourth quarter to hang on when things got dicey.

The Aggies came in with the nation’s sixth-best pass defense and the No. 1 unit in the SEC (112.5 yards allowed per game). The fact that they were able to lock down Van Dyke with so many holes to fill is a massive compliment to the depth Fisher has built.

Cristobal’s game management was brutal

Cristobal has been a head coach long enough to see virtually every in-game situational imaginable, but he coached like he was on another planet on Saturday night. His team managed just three field goals in his four red zone trips, which included a 22-yarder on fourth-and-goal from the 4-yard line to make it 17-6 late in the third quarter. Yes, points were valuable, but there was nothing to suggest that Miami’s offense would be able to solve the Aggies’ defensive riddle at that point.

In the fourth quarter with the same score, Cristobal again opted for a field goal on fourth-and-4 from the 16-yard line. While that made it a one-score game, it was too late in the game for Miami to realistically reach the end zone — which it had not done all night — and get a 2-point conversion afterward.

The Hurricanes got the ball back with 7:06 to play and ran 3:57 off the clock, despite only gaining 17 yards on six plays. They had one last chance with 1:16 left, but the two-minute offense looked about as disjointed as a junior varsity team.

Johnson is the guy moving forward

There’s no doubt that Texas A&M’s offense is extremely limited. Achane and Smith were essentially the only reliable pieces for the entire night. Johnson was smart with the football, however, and that should be enough for him to keep the starting job moving forward.

He played a clean game without risky decisions, and that is a 180-degree change from the reckless play King showed in the previous two games. Can Johnson make Texas A&M a contender in the SEC West? There’s nothing to suggest that as of now, but at least he provided a foundation for Fisher to build off of moving forward. That is a major development for what was a reeling Aggie team.

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