Kellen Mond has come a long way since the second half of Texas A&M’s season opener against UCLA, and so have the Aggies.
Without that agonizing second half, which saw UCLA score 35 unanswered points in the last 20 minutes to pull out a 45-44 victory, Texas A&M would be undefeated and probably highly ranked going into Saturday’s home game against Alabama.
Without that second half, however, Mond might not have come along as far as he has. The freshman quarterback was thrown into action when starter Nick Starkel sustained a broken ankle against the Bruins. Mond played the entire second half and completed just 3 of 12 pass attempts for 27 yards while running for 55 yards on 15 carries.
Since then, he has been good on 58 percent of his passes for 781 yards with six touchdowns and two interceptions, while adding 197 rushing yards and another score. Last week against South Carolina, he completed 19 of 27 attempts for 159 passing yards and added 95 rushing yards on 16 carries.
Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin says his improvement mirrors that of the team. The Aggies have won four in a row since that disaster at UCLA.
“I think he’s progressed every week,” Sumlin said this week. “I think our team has progressed. The numbers say one thing with his progression, so you can see that, but he’s also getting some help from our receivers. They’re making some competitive plays that we did not make against UCLA and maybe earlier in the year.
“He’s continuing to grow and our team is continuing to grow and our offensive line, I think, is continuing to grow too.”
Alabama coach Nick Saban has seen that growth.
“This is by far, I think, the strongest team that we’ve played to this point all the way around,” Saban said. “This is certainly going to be a big challenge for us, and a division game on the road.”
Sumlin said the home crowd at Kyle Field helped Texas A&M rally in the fourth quarter to beat South Carolina. He’s hopeful that it be a factor against Alabama.
“We have to do our part. We have to give our crowd a reason to be enthusiastic, and we’ve done that,” Sumlin said. “Our defense, particularly here at home, really liked the energy that was in the stadium last Saturday. It helped them and I think it posed some issues for our opponent as far as communication.
“I did think it had an effect on the game last week and hopefully that will continue.”