COLLEGE STATION (AP) — Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin certainly wasn’t happy that his team was tied with Western Carolina in the second quarter on Saturday night.
He was, however, encouraged by the way the Aggies responded after that.
Kyler Murray threw for 191 yards and three touchdowns and Texas A&M shook off a slow start to cruise to a 41-17 win over Western Carolina.
Western Carolina (6-4) scored two quick touchdowns to tie it at 14 in the second quarter before A&M (7-3) scored 20 straight points to make it 34-14 late in the third quarter.
“I don’t know that our guys panicked or anything like that,” Sumlin said.
Freshman Christian Kirk, who finished with 122 yards receiving, grabbed the go-ahead touchdown reception in that span and added another TD catch in the fourth quarter. Murray had touchdown passes of 26, 14 and 16 yards.
“We need to keep continuing to improve at that position,” Sumlin said of his quarterbacks. “Obviously being able to run the ball like we did helped them.”
It was Texas A&M’s 20th straight nonconference win, which is the longest streak in the FBS.
Troy Mitchell had 165 yards passing and a touchdown for the Catamounts and Detrez Newsome added 111 yards rushing and a score.
“I was proud of how we came out and didn’t let the atmosphere and the moment of playing at a school like Texas A&M overwhelm us … but when it got to it I think Texas A&M’s size and depth just overwhelmed us in the end,” Western Carolina coach Mark Speir said.
The Aggies bounced back from last week’s loss to Auburn and got a break from Southeastern Conference play by hosting this FCS team before wrapping up the regular season with games at Vanderbilt and No. 9 LSU.
“We’re going to have to continue to improve and bring our own energy on the road in the next two weeks,” Sumlin said.
Texas A&M’s Tra Carson had 109 yards rushing and a touchdown in the first half, but did not play after halftime. It was unclear if he was injured.
Western Carolina linebacker Damian Whitaker was ejected from the game in the third quarter when he threw a punch at A&M lineman Joseph Cheek during a scuffle after a play.
Murray found Damion Ratley three plays later on a 16-yard pass that he bobbled before reeling in for a touchdown to extend the lead to 31-14.
A 52-yard field goal by Taylor Bertolet made it 34-14 with less than a minute left in the third quarter.
The Catamounts scored for the first time since the second quarter when Logan Howard made a 24-yard field goal to cut the lead to 34-17 early in the fourth.
A&M punted on its first drive of the second half, but the Catamounts got a penalty for running into the kicker to give the Aggies a first down. A 47-yard field goal pushed the lead to 24-14.
Kirk broke two tackles on the way to the end zone on a 14-yard touchdown reception that put A&M on top 21-14 with about nine minutes left in the first half.
Texas A&M pushed its lead to 14-0 on a 26-yard reception by Jeremy Tabuyo early in the second quarter. Kirk gave A&M great field position on that drive with a 46-yard punt return.
Newsome ran straight up the middle for 65 yards on Western Carolina’s first play on the next possession. Mitchell found him on the next play for a 19-yard catch and run for a touchdown to cut the lead to 14-7.
Kirk fumbled the kickoff after that score and Avery Worsham picked it up and returned it 11 yards for a touchdown to tie it at 14.
“We had two freak plays,” Sumlin said. “That got 14 points back for them really on two plays the way I looked at it.”
Kyle Allen, who was benched in favor of Murray three games ago, took over early in the fourth quarter and was 6 of 6 for 88 yards and a touchdown.
Texas A&M was playing with two of its top receivers after Speedy Noil and Josh Reynolds were suspended for violating team rules. The team did not provide any other details on the suspensions, which were announced Saturday afternoon.
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