Mississippi State looks to slow Mond this week against A&M
By KRISTIE RIEKEN
Oct. 27, 2017
COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) — Mississippi State Dan Mullen looks at Texas A&M quarterback Kellen Mond and doesn't see a first-year player.
"He's a true freshman that has really developed to not be that anymore," Mullen said. "He's started a bunch of games. He's played a bunch."
Since taking over during Texas A&M's season-opening loss to UCLA after Nick Starkel was injured, the 18-year-old Mond has started six straight games, with his only loss coming to top-ranked Alabama. After struggling against UCLA as the Aggies squandered a 34-point third quarter lead in the 45-44 loss, Mond has steadily improved each week to lead this young team.
He's thrown for 1,225 yards with seven touchdowns and four interceptions and has added 318 yards rushing with three touchdowns. Next up for Mond and the Aggies (5-2, 3-1 SEC) are Mullen's Bulldogs (5-2, 2-2), who have won two in a row.
"What you've seen is a guy that's a tremendous athlete through his feet," Mullen said. "Early on, that's how he was used. I think now, being the starter for a bunch of weeks, you're seeing a guy that's more comfortable within the offense of throwing the football and managing the whole offense instead of relying more on being an athlete and getting himself adjusted to the game."
Mond is one of 18 true freshmen who have played for Texas A&M this season which ties a school record set in 2009.
"We've given plenty of opportunities to these guys and they've taken advantage of it," coach Kevin Sumlin said. "They've been put in some situations that have created some experience and confidence."
Some things to know when Mississippi State visits Texas A&M:
The home team has won the last four in a row in this series since Texas A&M won in Starkville in 2012. Mississippi State hasn't won in College Station since 6-0 victory on Nov. 1, 1913. Mullen noted how disconcerting it is when the fans sway during "The Aggie War Hymn."
"They can make you seasick rocking back and forth between the third and fourth quarters," he said. "That's unique to them ... there's over 100,000 people there on a Saturday night. It's a very hostile environment that you play in."
Mississippi State's two losses this season were on the road at Georgia and Auburn. Quarterback Nick Fitzgerald thinks the team has improved since then and that the Bulldogs will fare better on this road trip.
"Road games, we've kind of gotten out of character, gotten a lot of penalties and false starts," he said. "We've not been handling the environment very well. I think a lot's changed since those two games and now. Offensive line and the whole offense in general, is trying to click and move the ball."
SECOND HALF SUCCESS
Since their collapse at UCLA, the Aggies have rebounded to be dominant in the final 30 minutes. Texas A&M has outscored its opponents 123-54 in the second half of its last six games and 82-33 in the fourth quarter of those games. Texas A&M has outgained its opponents 1,391 yards to 891 yards and has piled up 80 first downs to just 36 by its opponents in that span.
The Aggies lead the SEC with 28 sacks this season and Mississippi State has allowed just three this season, fewest in the league.
"If you're not a big stat person it's hard to ignore those two stats this time of year," Sumlin said.
Mullen knows that they're in for a challenge in protecting Fitzgerald this week despite their success so far.
"Within their scheme and their style, what they do is they get you behind the chains," he said. "They get in the pass-rush mindset and mentality. They come after you."
Texas A&M returner/receiver Christian Kirk is getting close to a couple of milestones. He needs just 26 all-purpose yards to become the sixth player in school history and the first receiver to reach 4,000 all-purpose yards in his career. He's just eight catches shy of reaching 200 for his career, which would make him the third player in school history to do so.
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