Texas A&M turned to its young wide receivers to help the Aggies earn a relatively pedestrian 17-12 win against Vanderbilt in a pandemic-delayed 2020 season opener on Saturday at Kyle Field.
Aggie quarterback Kellen Mond threw for 189 yards on 17-of-28 passing with one touchdown and no interceptions as he worked with a mostly inexperienced receiving corps. A&M entered the game with only three returning wide receivers, a trio who combined for just six catches for 61 yards last season. The group is missing its leader, Jhamon Ausbon, who opted to forgo his senior season to prepare for the NFL draft.
“I thought they made some big-time plays, a lot of it coming on third down and even in the quick game, passing game,” Mond said of his young receivers. “We had a couple of drops and a little bit of inconsistency with me, but for the most part I thought they did well. It’s a good win, but we’ve got to clean up a lot of stuff heading into next week.”
Despite a stagnant overall offense through the first half, A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher stuck with the passing game. His receivers were more productive in the second half, but running back Isaiah Spiller came up with big runs — for 24, 30 and 57 yards — when the Aggies needed it most.
Mond picked out his targets in traffic downfield with confidence but with mixed results. Sophomore Jalen Preston caught a pivotal third-down pass to move the chains on A&M’s final drive of the game to help the Aggies run out the clock.
Sophomore Caleb Chapman led the receivers with four catches for 40 yards, followed by Preston’s four catches for 39 yards. Chase Lane, a redshirt freshman, had three catches for 38 yards.
“It was a lot of guys’ first games, first catches, and at times it’s kind of hard to get those guys in a rhythm and kind of get them accustomed to what it’s going to be like on the field, but I thought they adapted well,” Mond said.
Freshman Demond Demas, a former five-star recruit, didn’t play.
Sophomore Ainias Smith earned three starts as a receiver last year before moving to running back at the end of last season. He ran for 51 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries Saturday and caught two passes for 27 yards.
Tight end Jalen Wydermyer, another sophomore, led the team in touchdown receptions as a freshman but had a quiet night with just two catches for 19 yards.
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