OXFORD, Miss. — The fog that settled over the field at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on Saturday wasn’t thick enough to cover the ugly play, but there were enough bright spots for Texas A&M to help the Aggies pull out a pivotal 24-17 victory over Ole Miss.
A&M converted only 3 of 13 third downs as it passed for a season-low 172 yards against one of the nation’s worst pass defenses that was allowing 300 yards per game. A&M also gave up 250 yards rushing, the most allowed in Jimbo Fisher’s 20 games as head coach, and the Aggie secondary got lucky a couple times when Ole Miss couldn’t hit receivers for what would have been touchdowns.
That was just some of the ugliness, but A&M found a way to win the biggest game of the year. A&M had to win this one and it did, which is the bottom line. A&M basically made one more play than Ole Miss, which has to feel it gave this game away, because it did. But the Aggies also were good enough to take the gift.
A&M quarterback Kellen Mond threw two more interceptions, giving him six for the season. He also was sacked four more times and took too many hits, but he also made plays. Mond’s experience was huge with the game on the line.
A&M’s defense seemed poised to allow its second straight touchdown and trail by two scores midway through the third quarter when a blitzing Elijah Blades from his cornerback spot and defensive tackle Justin Madubuike teamed up to sack true freshman quarterback John Rhys Plumlee. Blades knocked the ball loose, and linebacker Buddy Johnson picked up the ball and rambled 62 yards for a touchdown. Instead of A&M trailing 21-10, it led 17-14.
Ole Miss never recovered from that. The Aggies tried to help the Rebels as Seth Small missed a 28-yard field goal, but A&M held on to start a pivotal four-game stretch with a victory.
It would be nice to think that A&M will breeze through Mississippi State, Texas-San Antonio and South Carolina in the next three games, building enough confidence to make a possible upset Georgia or LSU seem ... well ... at least possible. But the reality is the Aggie team you saw through the fog Saturday night is the same one you’ll see next week and the following week — a team that is going to have to fight for every win it gets.