Keith Ford ran for 70 yards and two touchdowns, including the go-ahead 17-yard score in the fourth quarter, to lift Texas A&M to a 24-17 win over South Carolina on Saturday night.
“There’s games where guys are hot and a tough physical game like that, that’s where Keith Ford excels,” coach Kevin Sumlin said.
Freshman Kellen Mond threw for 159 yards and ran for 95 to help the Aggies (4-1, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) rally for the victory.
Texas A&M trailed by a touchdown entering the fourth quarter before Ford tied it up with a 7-yard run.
Mond looked to have scored two plays earlier, but the Aggies’ Camron Buckley delivered a helmet-to-helmet hit while blocking on the play and it was called back. Buckley, who was called for a holding penalty earlier in the drive, was ejected for targeting after the play was reviewed.
Otaro Alaka sacked Jake Bentley on third down on South Carolina’s next drive to force a punt.
Ford put the Aggies on top on their ensuing possession when he dragged three defenders into the end zone for that 17-yard touchdown, which made it 24-17.
“I just describe it as just running hard,” he said. “I don’t like going to the ground, so I was just fighting.”
Bentley was sacked twice on South Carolina’s next drive and the Aggies got the ball back and they used run after run to get the clock down to less than two minutes.
Bentley threw for 256 yards and two touchdowns for South Carolina (3-2, 1-2), but he was sacked seven times behind a line dealing with injuries that often didn’t give him enough time to make plays.
“We’re not going to make excuses,” coach Will Muschamp said. “At the end of the day you’ve got to block the pass rushers.”
Alaka led the way on defense for the Aggies, finishing with nine tackles, including five for losses and two sacks.
“He’s as healthy as he’s been probably in the past two years,” Sumlin said. “He’s playing with great energy.”
Bentley pushed South Carolina’s lead to 17-7 when he connected with OrTre Smith on a 13-yard touchdown pass with about nine minutes left in the third quarter.
The Aggies took a 7-0 lead on a 1-yard touchdown run by Trayveon Williams early in the second quarter. South Carolina tied it up when Bentley wriggled out of a would-be sack and found Shi Smith wide open on a 45-yard touchdown pass to tie it at 7-all with about 13 minutes left in the second quarter.
The Gamecocks took a 10-7 lead on a 29-yard field goal by Parker White with about nine minutes left in the first half.
They had a chance to add to their lead when they were driving inside the 10-yard line late in the second quarter, but Bentley was sacked by Landis Durham, who caused a fumble which the Aggies recovered to end the drive.
South Carolina had a shot to take an early lead after recovering the ball after Christian Kirk fumbled a punt in the first quarter. But White’s 46-yard field goal attempt sailed wide left.
South Carolina receiver Terry Googer was carted off the field on a stretcher after a hit on a punt. But school officials said he was moving all of his extremities after arriving at the hospital and Muschamp said on the television broadcast at halftime that he was OK.
SOUTH CAROLINA: Bentley showed the ability to make throws when he had time on Saturday night. But the Gamecocks will need to protect him better for him to be successful as they continue SEC play.
TEXAS A&M: Mond took another step forward, but will have to make another jump next week if the Aggies hope to compete with the top-ranked Crimson Tide.
SOUTH CAROLINA: Hosts Arkansas next Saturday.
TEXAS A&M: Hosts Alabama next Saturday night.
TXAM—Tr.Williams 1 run (LaCamera kick), 14:45
SC—S.Smith 45 pass from Bentley (P.White kick), 12:45
SC—FG P.White 29, 9:12
SC—O.Smith 13 pass from Bentley (P.White kick), 9:24
TXAM—FG LaCamera 46, :59
TXAM—Ford 7 run (LaCamera kick), 12:27
TXAM—Ford 17 run (LaCamera kick), 7:42
Time of Possession
RUSHING—South Carolina, Ty.Williams 14-73, Turner 1-0, Dowdle 2-(minus 4), Bentley 9-(minus 46). Texas A&M, Mond 16-95, Ford 12-70, Tr.Williams 16-56, Bussey 3-12, Paul 1-6, (Team) 1-(minus 2).
PASSING—South Carolina, Bentley 17-30-0-256. Texas A&M, Mond 19-27-0-159.
RECEIVING—South Carolina, Hurst 6-76, Edwards 4-68, S.Smith 3-86, O.Smith 3-28, Ty.Williams 1-(minus 2). Texas A&M, Ratley 4-40, Kirk 4-13, Ausbon 3-43, Tr.Williams 3-22, Ford 2-10, Bussey 1-19, Buckley 1-11, Paul 1-1.
MISSED FIELD GOALS—South Carolina, P.White 46.