Ole Miss’ John Rhys Plumlee became only the second quarterback in 13 years to rush for 100 yards against Alabama earlier this season, possibly showing Texas A&M and Kellen Mond a way to attack the top-ranked Crimson Tide.
Plumlee rushed for 43 yards on nine carries in the first quarter to help the Rebels take a 10-7 lead. The true freshman continued to have success and finished with 109 yards on 25 carries as the Rebels outrushed Alabama 279-155. Ole Miss, though, couldn’t slow down Alabama’s high-powered offense as the Crimson Tide rolled to a 59-31 Southeastern Conference victory on Sept. 28.
The 6-foot-2, 192-pound Plumlee was sacked only once. He picked up positive yardage on all but one of the other carries, prompting Alabama (5-0, 2-0) to work extra on quarterback containment during the bye week in preparation for Saturday’s game against 24th-ranked A&M (3-2, 1-1) at Kyle Field.
“It’s obviously something we need to do better,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “It’s player awareness. We certainly try to do those things on a daily basis.”
The key to slowing down an elusive quarterback is playing with discipline, Saban said
“If you are a contain rusher, you’ve got to contain the quarterback,” Saban said. “So you can’t be coming underneath. You’ve got to keep the proper leverage on the guy, give us the opportunity to push the pocket in the middle, and that’s something that we definitely have focused on and we need to improve on.”
The only other quarterback to rush for 100 yards in the last 172 games against Saban-coached Alabama was Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray, who had 109 yards on 17 carries in a 45-34 loss to the Crimson Tide in last season’s College Football Playoff semifinals.
The 217-pound Mond almost was the first do it. Last year, he had 112 yards rushing on 12 carries at halftime but ended with 98 yards on 18 carries after being sacked four times in the second half of Alabama’s 45-23 victory.
“He played really well against us last year,” Saban said. “We have a lot of respect for him as a player. I think that his total understanding of what they’re trying to do has enhanced his performance to some degree.”
Mond threw an interception on the game’s second play to help Alabama take a 7-0 lead. The Aggies, because of Mond’s ability to run, trailed only 21-13 until Alabama scored 10 points in the last 69 seconds of the first half and cruised from there on Sept. 22, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
“Kellen Mond can do a lot,” Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa said. “He can throw the ball obviously, but I think he’s just as dangerous with his feet. The kid is fast. His ability to extend plays, I think as a defense that’s what’s the hardest thing is when you have the ability to extend plays, extend drives, keep the defense on the field, keep their offense off the field ... I mean you wear out the defense.”
Mond said he expects to run via draws or designed plays Saturday, not necessarily a heavy load’s worth but enough to keep Alabama aware of his running ability.
“Just keeping that defense on their toes, having them respect my ability to run, I think it’s going to be a big thing,” Mond said.
Mond is by far A&M’s most experienced runner. In 29 games he has 275 carries for 924 yards. A&M lost sophomore running back Jashaun Corbin to a season-ending injury, forcing A&M to use true freshman running back Isaiah Spiller and sophomore Jacob Kibodi. Mond started getting involved more in the running game in a 31-27 victory over Arkansas with 14 carries for 33 yards, losing 26 yards via sacks.
“He’s a quick guy,” Alabama senior defensive end Raekwon Davis said. “We definitely got to collapse the pocket and just take care of our boxes.”
Mond played well as a true freshman against Alabama in a 27-19 loss. He threw for 237 yards on 19-of-29 passing with a touchdown and an interception. He also rushed for 14 yards on 14 carries that included four sacks for 29 lost yards.
“Quarterback runs, although they’re sometimes limited, he actually hurt us last year in the game,” Saban said. “You always have to be concerned with him at quarterback.”
NOTES — Plumlee became only the 19th player to rush for 100 yards against Alabama since Saban took over as head coach in 2007. The list of quarterbacks who failed to rush for 100 against Alabama during that time frame include Florida’s Tim Tebow, Auburn’s Cam Newton, Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott and A&M’s Johnny Manziel. ... The Budweiser Clydesdales will be at Kyle Field from 3-4 p.m. Wednesday as part of the school’s celebration of 125 years of football. The horses will begin staging at 1 p.m. on the west side of Houston Street adjacent to Kyle Field. They will parade north on Houston Street until turning west on Joe Routt Boulevard and will stop at approximately 2:45 p.m. near the John David Crow statue at the intersection of Joe Routt and Gene Stallings Boulevard. The Clydesdales will be available for photos from 3-4. ... Former A&M All-America linebacker Dat Nguyen will sign autographs Saturday at the Go RVing exhibit from noon-1:30 p.m. at Go RVing’s designated tailgating areas near the intersection of Joe Routt Boulevard and Houston Street. ... The weekly radio show for A&M coach Jimbo Fisher will be from 7-8 p.m. on WTAW (1620 AM, 94.5 FM) live from Rudy’s Country Store and Bar-B-Q.