STARKVILLE, Miss. — Texas A&M’s first win at Davis Wade Stadium since 2012 started and ended with the defensive line Saturday.
The Aggie defensive front recorded six sacks, forced a fumble and brought pressure that resulted in an interception in the 28-14 win.
Defensive coordinator Mike Elko dialed up a three-man rush on most plays, leaving eight players to drop into coverage against Mississippi State's passing attack. With junior defensive tackle Bobby Brown out, Jayden Peevy anchored the middle of a three-man front, next to a rotating medley of ends.
Defensive end DeMarvin Leal had the biggest impact on the Bulldog passing game, recording a sack, a tackle for loss and three quarterback hurries in the game.
After trading punts in the first two drives of the game, Mississippi State (1-3) quarterback K.J. Costello felt the pressure of Leal while hurling a pass toward the end zone on second-and-6. The 35-yard pass fell short of the target and was picked off by cornerback Myles Jones.
In the second quarter, the Aggies (3-1) sacked Costello four times, all by different defenders. Linebacker Aaron Hansford got to the graduate transfer quarterback first for an 8-yard loss. With the punt team out on the next play, Aggie linebacker Chris Russell pushed into the backfield and got a hand on the ball, giving A&M a start on the State 1-yard line.
On the first play of the second quarter, A&M running back Spiller posted the Aggies first touchdown of the game on a 3-yard rumble through the middle. The score capped off a eight-play, 66 yard drive in which Spiller carried the ball seven times for 54 yards.
Spiller finished the first half with 92 rushing yards on 13 carries.
Leal picked up his first sack later in the second quarter, dropping Costello for a 7-yard loss. Brian Williams added one for a 6-yard loss later in the drive. Finally, Peevy joined the party as time wound down on the second-quarter clock with a 9-yard sack.
Mississippi State's defense was ultimately who broke the shutout early in the third. A slant pass from Mond, intended for Ainias Smith, bounced off the receiver’s helmet and into the arms of cornerback Emmanuel Forbes. The freshman returned it 60 yards for the score, marking the second pick-six Mond has thrown this season.
The senior quarterback bounced back in the next drive to two passes to wide receiver Chase Lane for a total of 70 yards, including a 51-yard pass and run by Lane to score.
Mond completed 13-of-23 passes for 139 yards and two passing touchdowns.
The defensive line stepped up again in the third, forcing a Costello fumble that led to a 6-yard pass from Mond to Ainias Smith in the end zone. Linebacker Buddy Johnson was first to the quarterback and knocked the ball loose, while Peevy scooped the ball and took it to the Mississippi State 8-yard line.
After the fumble Costello was replaced by freshman Will Rogers, who completed 15 of 18 passes for 120 yards and a touchdown. His lone score was a 32-yard pass to Malik Heath early in the fourth, completing an efficient 13-play, 89 yard drive.
Costello finished the day 15 for 22 for 99 yards and an interception.
A combination of freshman Devon Achane and Smith effectively ran out the clock, adding to an Aggie rush attack that posted 179 of A&M’s 318 yards in the game. Spiller, who finished the game with 114 yards on 18 carries and two touchdowns, exited the game in the fourth with extra tape on his left ankle and a noticeable limp.
Saturday marked A&M’s first win in Starkville since the 38-13 win in 2012.
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