Kellen Mond, Texas A&M Outlast LSU, Joe Burrow in 7-Overtime ThrillerNovember 25, 2018
The SEC regular season ended with the best game of the year. Texas A&M vs. LSU was an instant classic.
Led by quarterback Kellen Mond, the Aggies defeated LSU on Saturday night, 74-72, in a wild, seven-overtime finish that had more drama and twists than an HBO series. It also tied an FBS record for most overtimes.
Mond was amazing, especially late in the contest, passing for 287 yards and six scores while adding 42 rushing yards and another touchdown. Texas A&M running back Trayveon Williams added 198 rushing yards and two scores, while Quartney Davis, Jace Sternberger and Kendrick Rogers registered two touchdown receptions apiece.
Mond outdueled LSU quarterback Joe Burrow, who threw for 270 yards and three scores while also rushing 29 times for 100 yards and another three scores.
The matchup was relatively tame until early in the fourth quarter, when Devin White's strip of Williams and Michael Divinity Jr.'s subsequent 58-yard touchdown return to help tie the game at 24-24 appeared to change the tide in LSU's favor.
And Burrow's 14-yard touchdown pass to Foster Moreau with just under seven minutes appeared as though it would be the game-winner.
But Mond worked his magic in the clutch, getting the ball with just over a minute remaining and Texas A&M down seven. He promptly led the Aggies 78 yards in 12 plays, culminating in a 19-yard touchdown to Quartney Davis that—with the extra point—sent the game to overtime.
What followed was seven amazing, back-and-forth-overtimes, rife with clutch plays and remarkable moments, including Kendrick Rogers' 25-yard touchdown reception, which was easily one of the catches of the season.
But all good things must come to an end, and this game did so in the seventh overtime. Burrow ran for a 10-yard touchdown to open the period, though LSU couldn't convert the two-point conversion. But Mond hit Davis for 17 yards to tie the game and Rogers on the two-point conversion to finally end the marathon matchup.
Ed Orgeron Has LSU on the Rise Despite Tough Loss
It will be easy for LSU to focus on the negatives from Saturday night. The heartbreaking finish. The fact that the loss ended its (already slim) playoff hopes. The pretty questionable officiating.
And yes, LSU fans will be talking about the officiating from this game for years to come.
But the bigger picture after such an incredible game is that LSU is moving in the right direction under head coach Ed Orgeron. The Tigers dramatically outplayed expectations this season, losing to Florida and Texas A&M in tight fashion and arguably the best team in the country in Alabama.
Brighter days appear to be ahead for this program. Orgeron has led it to consecutive nine-win seasons—with a potential 10th in the bowl game this year—and the 247Sports composite rankings' No. 5 recruiting class in 2019 is on the way.
And Saturday night, in a way, was a microcosm of of LSU's season. There was more good than bad, and in the end the Tigers came up just a little short. But the Tigers shouldn't be derided for losing an all-time classic so much as Texas A&M should be praised for winning it.
On some nights, neither team deserves to lose, even if one team does. Such is sports. But nobody will forget what transpired Saturday night, and nobody will forget the unrelenting battle the LSU players showed.
Trayveon Williams' NFL Decision Will Dictate Aggies' 2019 Ceiling
Much of the conversation after Saturday's win for the Aggies will be the wild overtimes, Mond's huge game, a premature Gatorade bath, whether Texas A&M spiked the ball before the end of regulation and the officiating in general. And justifiably so.
But Williams had a huge game and was a big reason the contest went to overtime in the first place. The junior now has a major decision on his hands this offseason: Will he return for his senior season, or will he declare his eligibility for the 2019 NFL draft?
Jimbo Fisher, the Aggies and their fans will be hoping for the former. The star running back, who has rushed for 1,524 yards and 15 touchdowns this season, is probably a mid- to late-round pick if he declares. But replacing his production would be difficult for the Aggies.
Yes, Fisher has the nation's No. 2 recruiting class coming to College Station in 2019, per 247Sports' composite rankings. Yes, Mond, Davis and Rogers will return, among others, with junior tight end Sternberger also facing an interesting decision. But losing Williams would hurt.
Even Williams recognized the direction the program was moving after Saturday's wild game.
"This really sets and paves the way of the new direction this program is going," he said after the game, per Brent Zwerneman of the Houston Chronicle. "(Jimbo Fisher) is absolutely a great coach; words can't explain how excited and thankful we are for having him as head coach."
Sure, Aggies fans probably aren't thinking ahead that far. There's celebrating to be done early Sunday morning, after all. But Williams was Texas A&M's offensive MVP this season and arguably its best player, period. Losing him would be a major blow, no doubt, a fact that he reminded Aggies fans of with his excellent performance Saturday night, even if it got somewhat buried by the game's drama.
First, we all take a deep breath. After that, both teams are bowl-eligible and will await their opponents once the conference title games are concluded and the College Football Playoff committee sets the bowl matchups.