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Aggies do enough in second half to edge past Gators at The Swamp

October 15, 2017 GMT

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Texas A&M’s offense looked stuck in a swamp during the first half, but the legs of quarterback Kellen Mond and right foot of place-kicker Daniel LaCamera pulled the Aggies out of the quagmire, and they walked out of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium with an improbable 19-17 victory over Florida.

Mond made enough plays in the second half to breathe life into an offense that set up LaCamera for a trio of three-pointers in the fourth quarter. LaCamera’s last from 32 yards with 58 seconds left gave A&M (5-2, 3-1) its first lead in its first Southeastern Conference game at “The Swamp.”

Florida (3-3, 3-2) held A&M to 80 yards in the first half, but the Aggies got rolling in the second half behind Mond, who had 170 total yards in the final 30 minutes -- 28 more yards than Florida had as a team over that stretch.

“These guys have done a great job of just always playing, and it’s a team effort,” A&M coach Kevin Sumlin said. “These guys believe in each other.”

A&M’s defense and special teams more than did their part in the second half. Florida gained only one first down in the fourth quarter. A&M had to cover only 24 yards for its last field goal because All-American Christian Kirk had a 43-yard punt return.

″[Kicking away from Kirk] is supposed to be what happens,” Florida coach Jim McElwain said. “It didn’t and it came back to bite us.”

The Aggies were almost in field-goal range when they got the ball after Kirk’s return at the Florida 39. The Aggies picked up a pair of first downs, forcing Florida to use its time outs before LaCamera drilled the game-winner.

The Aggies, a field-goal underdog, were playing their first game in the fabled “The Swamp” since joining the SEC.

A&M was held to 263 yards, but got 127 of them in the telling fourth quarter.

Mond for the game was 8-of-24 passing for 180 yards with an interception and rushed for 52 yards on 15 carries with a score. The rest of the Aggies rushed for just 31 yards on 23 carries.

A&M had big plays in the passing game with seniors Damion Ratley (two catches, 72 yards) and Kirk (2-42).

Florida rushed for 242 yards led by running back Malik Davis who had 97 yards on 18 carries. Quarterback Feleipe Franks had 82 yards on nine carries, including a 79-yard scramper that helped Florida to its 17-10 lead.

A&M’s defense came up with five sacks and two interceptions, the last by sophomore linebacker Tyrel Dodson on Florida’s final play.

A&M on its first possession of the second half tied the game at 10 on Mond’s 9-yard run on third down. Florida gained the momentum back on the quarter’s final play as Franks ran 79 yards, zig-zagging his way through would-be tacklers to the 13. A penalty put the ball on the 6 and Florida opened the fourth quarter with a touchdown run by Dre Massey on the jet sweep.

A&M answered with a 43-yard field goal by LaCamera after having a touchdown wiped out by penalty. Kirk jump-started that possession with a 40-yard catch. The Aggies to the ball right back and added another field goal, this time from 25 yards with 7:37 left to pull within 17-16. The big play on the drive was a 42-yard catch by Ratley.

The Gators took a 10-3 halftime lead by converting a fourth-and-1 at the A&M 17. The Aggies initially thought they’d stuffed the run for no gain, but the play was whistled dead just before the snap. Referee Hubert Owens said play hadn’t resumed following Florida’s timeout.

Florida, given a reprieve, powered its way for a first down with Lamical Perine taking a short pitch and blasting into the right side for 2 yards.

Two play later, Perine went 15 yards, leaving three would-be tacklers behind to cap the seven-play, 55-yard drive.

The teams traded field goals before that with Florida’s Eddy Pineiro hitting a 29-yarder with 7:47 left in the first quarter and less than 6 minutes later LaCamera hit from 46 yards.