2020: Texas A&M Football 17, Vanderbilt 12
This was not the game that any fan of Texas A&M football wanted to see welcoming them back to College Football after a post-COVID-summer delay. The Aggies looked sluggish right from the get-go, and though you could tell the disparity in quality of athlete between the two teams, the Ags could never quite pull away. Neither was this a case of an underrated opponent giving a favorite some trouble: Vanderbilt finished 1-9 in their 10-game all-SEC schedule and were one of the worst teams in the nation statistically.
Mond’s stat line doesn’t look too out of character compared to the last two games we’ve looked at from him—he finished with 189 yards (6.8 YPA) on 60% completion with 1 TD and 0 INTs; however, per QBR, it was by far his worst performance of the three, notching a mere 18.3 (he had an 88.6 in 2019 and a 64.0 in 2018). This can likely be attributed to his three fumbles throughout the course of the game. The run game for the Aggies didn’t crack the 200-mark this time, going for only 183 yards on 27 carries (6.8 YPC). On the Vandy side, the Commodores had far more success running the ball than either of the two opponents we previously examined, going for 105 yards on 38 carries (2.8 YPC). Ken Seals, the Vandy QB, racked up 150 yards (5.2 YPA) on 69% completion.
This was a huge bummer for most Texas A&M football fans, especially with a trip to Alabama next on the docket. Of course, the Aggies were competitive in that one for a half before falling too far behind, but would not lose another game from that point on in the 2020 season. This coheres well with the point here: the Aggies usually both underperform and telegraph what end up being their season-long weaknesses in the opening games under Jimbo—in the case of the 2020 season, the weakness was a lack of big plays even when the defense dared them to take them. It didn’t end up hurting the Aggies all that much, however, given that their run game was so stellar in 2020, but most Aggie fans left this one really concerned.
2021: Texas A&M Football 41, Kent State 10
While both were big wins as far as the disparity in score, this one might be the opposite of the 2023 New Mexico game, at least in certain respects. The Aggies totaled 595 yards of offense against the Golden Flashes, but it never really felt like that Texas A&M football team was whupping up on them quite to the degree they should have been. To that point, one of the touchdowns the Aggies scored was a pick-six by Leon O’Neal, meaning the offense, despite almost gaining 600 yards, only mustered 34 points by themselves.
The offensive line seemed suspect at points during this contest—something that, with one notable exception—ended up being a bit of a theme the rest of the season, and the Aggie defense struggled against the high-octane Kent State attack. The Flashes ended up with 226 rushing yards (5.0 YPC) in an uncharacteristic defensive performance for what was a stellar 2021 A&M defense. Kent State QBs only combined for 110 yards on 30 attempts, however.
Haynes King threw for 292 yards (8.8 YPA) and 2 TDs, but also threw 3 INTs—something else that would prove to be a recurring issue for the former Aggie QB. Isaiah Spiller and Devon Achane tore up the Kent State defense on the ground, combining for 237 yards on 29 carries. Incredible individual stats by those two, but not a lot of Aggies walked away from this one feeling like Texas A&M football had merited their 6th overall ranking they entered the night with.