Vanderbilt came into Saturday night’s game at Texas A&M as a 30-point underdog, with an offensive line decimated by opt-outs and a true freshman starting at quarterback. This had “disaster” written all over it, only Ken Seals had other ideas.
Vanderbilt took the opening kickoff and early on, the offense looked a bit better than expected. Redshirt sophomore running back Ja’Veon Marlow converted a 3rd and 8 on a 21-yard run on the Commodores’ third play, and true freshman Ken Seals hit Cam Johnson for a 14-year completion on another third down to get Vanderbilt into field goal range for Pierson Cooke, who got Vanderbilt on the board first with a 33-yard field goal.
A three-and-out for each team followed, but on Texas A&M’s second possession, Ainias Smith knifed through Vanderbilt’s defense for a 25-yard touchdown run to give the Aggies a 7-3 lead in the first quarter. But Vanderbilt would cut the Aggie lead in half prior to halftime when Ainias Smith made up for his earlier work by attempting to take a punt out of the end zone, picking up a block in the back from a teammate which gave Vanderbilt two points and the ball back. 7-5 was the score going into the half — the second SEC game of the day to have that bizarre halftime score.
But it seemed that Texas A&M came out of the second half in no mood to get bogged down into a slugfest with Vanderbilt. Isaiah Spiller took the first play of the second half 57 yards, setting up a Kellen Mond touchdown pass to Caleb Chapman two plays later to extend the Aggies’ lead to 14-5. Meanwhile, the Commodores’ first drive of the second half showed promise before Seals threw his first career interception deep in A&M territory (promptly followed by a cut to the sideline where Seals appeared to be getting on to a receiver for running the wrong route.)
But the Commodores would quickly catch another break when Kellen Mond fumbled at the end of a 12-yard run and Jaylen Mahoney recovered, giving the Commodores the ball on the A&M side of the 50 once again. Seals saved the ensuing drive twice by converting third downs on passes to Amir Abdur-Rahman and, on a 3rd and 5, hit Abdur-Rahman in the back of the end zone for his first career touchdown, cutting the Aggies’ lead to 14-12 with 2:45 left in the third quarter.
Yup, that works. On the move, perfect spot, TD Abdur-Rahman. pic.twitter.com/y2T8HbF8YS— Justin Hershey (@justinhershey26) September 27, 2020
Texas A&M answered with an 8-play, 68-yard drive keyed by a 30-yard run by Isaiah Spiller, but the Aggies stalled out in the red zone and settled for a 25-yard Seth Small field goal to extend the lead to 17-12. A three-and-out by Vanderbilt gave Texas A&M another chance to put the game away, but Jalen Preston fumbled inside Vanderbilt territory and Daevion Davis recovered — the Commodores’ third recovery of an Aggie fumble on the night.
Vanderbilt converted a 4th-and-2 at the A&M 50 and got the ball down to the Aggies’ 20-yard line, aided by a personal foul penalty on the Aggies’ Bobby Brown. But then, Seals picked a bad time to take his first sack of the night and on third and 17 threw an interception on a tipped ball.
Texas A&M would give Vanderbilt another chance with a fumble on a 4th and 1 in Vanderbilt territory, but the ensuing Vanderbilt drive went nowhere and the Aggies took over again with 3:53 left in the game. A&M would run out the clock from there, punctuated by a silly unsportsmanlike conduct penalty called against Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason.
The final score was 17-12. Ken Seals finished the first game of his college career 20-of-29 passing for 150 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions; the Aggies outgained the Commodores 363 to 255. Vanderbilt will return to action next Saturday against LSU.