Jimbo Fisher finally picked up a marquee victory at Texas A&M in his third season as coach of the Aggies. No. 21 Texas A&M outlasted the No. 4 Florida Gators 41-38 on Saturday as Seth Small hit a 26-yard field goal with time expiring to send Kyle Field into a frenzy. It marked Fisher's first victory over a top-five foe since being hired by TAMU in 2018, and it brings a measure of redemption after the program's 52-24 loss against No. 2 Alabama last week cast the success of Fisher's tenure into question.
The loss is a gut-punch for Florida, which had a chance to win late. The Gators took possession with 4:30 remaining in a tied game and quickly moved the ball to midfield before Malik Davis fumbled. Texas A&M's DeMarvin Leal fell on it. From there, the Aggies used their newly found success in the running game to plunge toward field-goal range and a monumental victory.
The win is the Aggies' first over a top-five team at Kyle Field since 2002 and first since joining the SEC. Texas A&M quarterback Kellen Mond finished 25-of-35 passing for 338 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions as he continued to expose a Florida defense that has been the worst in the SEC through three games.
However, it was Isaiah Spiller who stood out as the difference in the game. The Aggies sophomore running back rushed 27 times for 174 yards and dominated the second half with a pair of touchdowns as his team rallied from a 28-17 deficit.
Florida quarterback Kyle Trask finished 23-of-32 passing for 312 yards and four touchdowns, but the Gators' passing game cooled in the second half as star tight end Kyle Pitts was limited due to a foot injury.
With four starters back on their offensive line and Spiller returning for his sophomore season, the Aggies looked like a team that would be able to run the football. They did so reasonably well in a season-opening win against Vanderbilt but largely fell flat on the ground against Alabama. But when the Aggies' passing game finally hit a snag early in the third quarter on Saturday, they turned to Spiller. He delivered in a major way.
With Texas A&M trailing 28-17 and struggling to stop the Florida offense, the Aggies handed the ball to Spiller to begin a drive midway through the third quarter. He picked up 13, 23, 13 and six yards on four consecutive plays. When he finally needed a breather, the Aggies simply handed the ball to Ainias Smith. He ticked off runs of 9, 5 and 6 yards to carry the Aggies into the red zone. Spiller finished off the drive with a 3-yard scoring run, thus setting the tone for the rest of the game.
Spiller put the Aggies on top 31-28 with 12:35 remaining as he scampered in from 19 yards. In total, Texas A&M ran 38 times for 205 yards with Spiller inflicting much of that damage.
Shaking up the standings
Florida's loss left Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee as the lone remaining undefeated teams in the SEC. But with the Bulldogs and Volunteers playing each other Saturday, that tally will drop to two by the end of the day. It's not a great sign for the league's depth. But it shouldn't be a total shock to see so many teams already nursing losses in just the fourth week of the season.
The Gators were not previously scheduled to play Texas A&M. But when the league moved to a 10-game, conference-only schedule, it added two league games to each team's schedule. The Gators lost easy wins against Eastern Washington, South Alabama, New Mexico State and Florida State from their schedule and added the Aggies and Arkansas instead.
Kyle Field 'packed'
Florida coach Dan Mullen told reporters after the game that Kyle Field was "packed." His assertion backed up images from the TV broadcast, which appeared to show dense groupings of fans throughout the 102,733-seat venue.
"Hopefully the administration allows us to pack The Swamp," Mullen said.
It will be interesting to see if the atmosphere at Texas A&M puts pressure on governors and university officials in other states to ease attendance restrictions that are in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has lifted attendance restrictions at sporting events in the state, but university officials have not committed to doing the same.