On New Year’s Eve in Jacksonville, Texas A&M turned a close game at halftime into a rout. The Aggies dominate in Gator Bowl win, as they finish the season with a 52-13 victory. After trailing 13-7 late in the second quarter, Texas A&M reeled off 45 consecutive points in the victory.
The Aggies used the ground game in the second half to get the win in their first Gator Bowl appearance in school history. Most notably, Trayveon Williams went nuts. In total, he ran for a school-record 236 yards and three scores. If this was his final game in Aggieland, it was a memorable one.
Back and Forth First Half
Coming in, this had all the makings of a shootout. Surprisingly, both teams combined for 132 points in their final regular season matchup. In fact, the first half had the makings of a back and forth game that would go into the fourth quarter. Unfortunately, for the Wolfpack, that would not come to fruition.
However, NC State played well in the first half. After quickly trailing 7-3, Ryan Finley brought his team into the lead in the second quarter. He connected with C.J. Riley from nine yards out to give NC State a 10-7 advantage. Christopher Dunn, then nailed a 49-yard field goal to cap off the 13-point run to give the Wolfpack a 13-7 advantage with 10:45 left in the first half.
Now, here is where the Aggies would start to take control. Williams ran in his first of three rushing scores of the night. This one was from two yards out to give Texas A&M a lead it would not relinquish. Then, as the first half was winding down, Kellen Mond connected with Kendrick Rogers for a six-yard scoring strike to give A&M a 21-13 lead going into the break.
Aggies take a bite out of the Wolfpack
Important to realize, the second half was certainly a high scoring affair as most expected. However, all of the scoring came from Texas A&M. The Aggies dominated the second half 31-0. Surprisingly, Finley and the Wolfpack just couldn’t get anything going. Outside of being outscored by that 31 point margin, A&M outgained the Wolfpack 247-108 in the second half.
With that being said, Finley drove his team down the field in their first second-half possession. But, facing a 3rd and three at the A&M 25-yard line is when disaster would indeed strike. Tyrel Dodson intercepted Finley and returned it 78 yards for a pick-six. That would prove to be the deepest penetration the Wolfpack would get in the second half.
Leading 28-13, Texas A&M went in for the kill. They went on a quick five play, 82-yard drive which was culminated by a Williams 17-yard score. In fact, the drive was all William as he carried five times for 82 yards and the score. Now, it looked daunting for the Wolfpack at 35-13. But, it only got worse. On the ensuing possession, the Wolfpack pinned the Aggies deep. They started the possession at their own seven-yard line. But, Williams needed just one play as he ran 93 yards for a touchdown to officially turn the Gator Bowl into a blowout.
Both squads ended the 2018 campaign at 9-4. For Texas A&M, this looks different. Under previous head coach Kevin Sumlin, the Aggies made a habit of starting strong and ending slowly. However, this season was different. Jimbo Fisher guided this team to four consecutive wins to end the 2018 season. The future looks extremely bright in College Station. Fisher is a transformative leader and has already improved recruiting in Aggieland. A&M has third-ranked recruiting class heading into the 2019 campaign after the early signing period. The Aggies host Texas State to start 2019 but will get tested early as they travel to Clemson in the second week of the season.
Despite a nine-win season, it was a sour ending to an otherwise successful season for NC State. Dave Doeren’s club had an opportunity to have a double-digit win season for only the second time in school history. On the negative side, the Wolfpack were not competitive against ranked opponents in 2018. They only faced two teams that were ranked. But, they were outscored by a total score of 93-20 in those games. NC State will be focused on replacing a four-year starter at quarterback as Finley played his final game on Monday night.