Spring football games are supposed to be show-off scrimmages, not contests that come down to the final seconds to determine intrasquad bragging rights.
Then again, Jimbo Fisher was supposed to bring a new attitude to Texas A&M, so why not a new tradition with Maroon and White games?
On a chilly Saturday at Kyle Field, the White team, led by quarterback Kellen Mond, beat the Maroon 30-24. The game ended on a pass breakup in the end zone as Maroon quarterback Nick Starkel was trying for a go-ahead touchdown. The contest had been tied, but with 39 seconds to play, Mond threw a swing pass to Kendrick Rogers for a short touchdown.
Starkel and Mond are vying for the starting job. But each had the opportunity to play late in the game when Fisher provided them with a pressure situation. Yes, there is some pressure in playing in a scrimmage in front of more than 48,000 fans, the most ever to see an A&M spring game.
“Guys made plays to win the game,” Fisher said, “instead of the other side not making plays and … winning by default.”
Fisher, who was hired in December to replace Kevin Sumlin, isn’t tasked with a complete rebuild. He inherited a team that lost only six starters, three each on offense and defense.
Fisher needs a steady starter at quarterback, glue-handed receivers, a consistent running attack, a defensive line that can dictate three-and-outs and a swarming secondary that can eliminate the big play.
In other words, Fisher wants what every other coach in the country desires.
There were glimpses of good play Saturday that A&M can build on through the summer and into August’s preseason training camp.
The highlights were heavy on offense:
Starkel completed 22 of his 36 attempts for 373 yards with two touchdowns.
Starkel’s most electric pass was to wideout Jhamon Ausbon, the sophomore who will be looked upon to replace the productivity of Christian Kirk, who left early for the NFL draft. Ausbon caught a 58-yarder in the first half. He totaled six catches for 124 yards.
Starkel finished his outing with a 65-yard touchdown to tight end Jace Sternberger, who, statistically, enjoyed the best day of anyone. Sternberger, a junior college transfer who enrolled in January, caught eight passes for 147 yards and two touchdowns. He earned most valuable player honors for the spring.
Mond finished strong. His numbers: 19 of 26 for 180 yards and three touchdowns. Rogers caught eight passes for 190 yards, and Camron Buckley had five receptions for 65.
Fisher said he’s not ready to name a starter between Starkel and Mond. Both were at the top of the depth chart last season.
There were defensive highlights, too.
The A&M defense garnered four sacks, split evenly between the Maroon and White squads. The tackles had a pair.
Daylon Mack, a former five-star prospect, had a solo sack on his first play when he stuffed Starkel. Mack, a senior-to-be, hasn’t lived up to his glorious recruiting ranking yet. But the slimmed-down defensive tackle, who has dealt with ballooning weight issues in his career, had five tackles in the game.
Kingsley Keke also trapped the quarterback.
Linebacker Buddy Johnson picked up a fumble and defensive back Donovan Wilson had an interception of Nick Starkel. And defensive back Donovan Wilson intercepted a pass.