COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Way back on Aug. 28, when Texas A&M’s promising season began, sophomore quarterback Kenny Hill completed two of his first three pass attempts for 25 yards against South Carolina.
Thursday night at Kyle Field, as the Aggies’ regular season came to an end, a different quarterback — freshman Kyle Allen — completed eight of his first 11 pass attempts against LSU, totaling only 23 yards.
Typically, that’s a sign the Aggies’ high-flying offense is just starting to heat up. Against the Tigers, their offense showed flashes. All too often, however, they sputtered.
Even before LSU made the trip to College Station, the matchup was set.
The Tigers boasted the top passing defense in the Southeastern Conference and the No. 6 secondary in the nation, allowing only 164 passing yards per game. Texas A&M was prepared to counter with the SEC’s top-ranked aerial attack, which averaged 321.2 passing yards.
But Allen couldn’t match Hill’s early-season productivity.
Hill had been a force for the Aggies prior to his suspension Nov. 1, throwing for 331.1 yards per game and 8.3 yards per attempt through eight contests.
Allen averaged 206.7 passing yards per contest and 6.7 yards per pass in three starts.
He ended his night 17-of-27 for 144 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
Allen’s first pass Saturday appeared to be a promising start for an Aggies squad that had lost four of its previous six games.
The play was simple: a 9-yard pass to junior running back Brandon Williams to set up a short second down-try.
The Scottsdale, Arizona, native completed two more passes on the drive for 7 yards. Allen proceeded to complete his next five attempts for 15 yards.
At halftime Saturday, Allen was averaging 2.9 yards per attempt against LSU.
Blanketed by cornerbacks Tre’Davious White and Jalen Collins, Texas A&M’s receiving corps struggled to find openings down field. Allen’s only two attempts of 10 yards or more sailed over his targets’ heads, leading Aggies offensive coordinator Jake Spavital to abandon the deep passing game early.
Freshman safety Jamal Adams flew from sideline-to-sideline, making three open-field tackles on A&M receivers in the first half alone. The rookie ended his night with eight tackles.
“They did a good job of tackling,” Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin said. “It was going to be that type of game… man-to-man. You’ve got to be able to compete against man-to-man.”
Sumlin said his squad made adjustments at halftime, including looking at different play selections.
The Aggies did come to life in the fourth quarter, though.
On second-and-8 on the Tigers’ 27-yard line, Allen fired a pass to Speedy Noil, who leapt over White for the score. Allen threw for more yards on the touchdown pass alone (27) than he had in the entire first half (23).
But on Texas A&M’s final drive, a controversial play ended their comeback hopes.
After LSU freshman defensive end Sione Teuhema appeared to jump offside, Allen launched a pass deep downfield, and LSU’s Collins came down with the ball for the interception.
“That was the play-call. If they jump, snap it,” Texas A&M offensive lineman Cedric Ogbuehi said. “He jumped, and he snapped it, and Kyle thought he had a free play. So he threw it up, and the refs didn’t call it.”
Despite Allen’s struggles, Sumlin said he was proud of his team for keeping the contest close. Allen threw for 121 yards in the second half.
“We didn’t make enough plays to win, but we did not quit,” Sumlin said. “If we had played that way in the first half, it might have been different.”