Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin is still shuffling his offense as he tries to find the perfect combination of 11 players who won’t suffer through the lulls that have plagued the Aggies in their first two games.
A&M did win last Saturday night at Kyle Field. But it wasn’t an impressive rebound after the Aggies were shaken by UCLA’s 34-point comeback the week before at the Rose Bowl.
A 24-14 victory over Nicholls State, a team in the FCS, doesn’t inspire much confidence that issues exposed by the Bruins were fixed. Up next is Louisiana-Lafayette. Then SEC play starts Sept. 23 against Arkansas.
“Are we where we want to be right now? Not yet,” Sumlin said Tuesday at his weekly press conference. “Are there things we need to improve on? Yes.”
The Aggies’ weekly depth chart didn’t offer many clues. The starting quarterback will be either freshman Kellen Mond or senior Jake Hubenak.
But Sumlin offered an inkling as to what his plans might be for the Ragin’ Cajuns. High-scoring UL-L is 1-1 for the season with a win over Southeastern Louisiana and a loss last week at Tulsa.
If you want to know which players the Aggies may start on offense, look at the combination on the field during the fourth quarter against Nicholls State. That’s when the game was tied 14-14 until just under eight minutes to play. Then third-team tailback Kendall Bussey took a handoff from Hubenak, who’d been No. 2 on the depth chart, and scored a 2-yard touchdown.
A&M kicker Daniel LaCamera padded the lead to 10 with a 26-yard field goal with 18 seconds remaining in the game.
Sumlin declared Bussey the offensive player of the game. The redshirt sophomore rushed for 97 yards on 15 carries. A&M’s top two tailbacks — Trayveon Williams and Keith Ford — gained a collective 73 yards on 17 carries. Sumlin said both had suffered minor injuries in the game.
It’s unclear whether Bussey would start Saturday or if he’d even done enough to stretch a two-man tailback rotation into three.
“Me, I just got to get better every day,” said Bussey, who said he had contemplated transferring in the offseason. “This should only be the beginning for me, hopefully. I also have two guys in front of me who are just getting better. I want to make my presence felt and let the other guys on the team know I can contribute as well.”
Sumlin, while raving about Bussey, wasn’t so kind to the offensive linemen.
“You talk about positives and negatives,” Sumlin said. “Things start up front. We weren’t very good up front offensively. That affected our style of play. It affected a lot of different things.”
The only two spots on the starting line that haven’t changed are at right guard and tackle. But there still could be more scrambling.
“That’s our job,” Sumlin said. “We’ve had different combinations in our offensive line. This is the time of year for it.
“You’ll see a different combination this week, too, that’s what practice is for and these games are for. When (teams) throw stuff at you, you have to be able to prepare for the known, but also have base rules and be able to adjust to the unknown. … that’s going to happen every Saturday when you play.
“That combination up front, we’ve got the pieces, we’ve got to put them in the right place and play them and keep that communication open with those guys as they play.”
It’s still unclear who may start at quarterback for the rest of the season. Mond made his first career start, playing in the first half against Nicholls. After completing only three passes against UCLA, he was 12 of 21 for 105 yards. Hubenak was far more accurate, competing 12 of 15 for 93 yards.
Still, no matter who was in at quarterback, the offense stalled for much of the game, going more than 40 minutes between scores.
Louisiana-Lafayette at Texas A&M, 11 a.m., SEC Network, 1370