COLLEGE STATION — Keith Ford just calls it running hard. He doesn’t like going to the ground and he hears his coach preach it in every practice so he kept fighting.
The senior ran for 70 yards and two touchdowns for Texas A&M, including the game-winner in the fourth quarter, helping the Aggies score 17 unanswered points and come from behind to beat South Carolina 24-17 at home Saturday night.
“Even though we were down and we faced some adversity, we fought and showed composure,” Ford said. “We stayed as a team and we executed and we knew if we did that, we could get the win. It’s about facing that and getting through it.”
His first touchdown was a seven-yard run to tie the game early in the fourth quarter. But he was met at the goal line early and most of the A&M offensive helped him get in the end zone. The game-winner went for 17-yards up the middle. He was met by a trio of Gamecocks at the line but powered his way through.
“A tough, physical game like that is where guys like Keith Ford excel,” A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin said.
The defense recorded seven sacks in the game and forced South Carolina to go three-and-out on four straight possessions in the second half to help with the comeback. The Gamecocks had seven yards of offense in the fourth quarter.
Landis Durham has a pair sacks for the second straight game and leads the team with 5.5 on the year.
Freshman Kellen Mond had arguably the best game of his young career, completing 19-of-27 passes for 159 yards. But where the dual-threat quarterback really showed improvement was with his legs where he rushed for 95 yards and didn’t turn the ball over.
“The first thing he did well was protect the football,” Sumlin said. “He didn’t just throw the ball up in the middle of the field like he maybe did earlier in the year. Ball security was good, which gave us a chance.”
A&M gave up just 17 total yards to South Carolina in the first quarter, didn’t allow the Gamecocks to gain a first down, and forced four three-and-outs.
But it was the opposite story in the second quarter as the Aggies went three-and-out three times and South Carolina quarterback Jake Bentley threw a 45-yard touchdown to help the Gamecocks take a 10-7 halftime lead.
“We decided to dial up the pressure because it was working all game,” said A&M linebacker Otara Alaka, who finished with five tackles for loss and two sacks. “And we got the crowd in it and that was a really big help. We know we have some of the best fans in the nation so that was something that helped us.”
Daniel LaCamera ended the South Carolina run with a 46-yard field goal and the defense and Ford took over to give A&M its second straight SEC win.
Texas A&M begins a run of four straight games against teams currently ranked in the Top 25 when No. 1 Alabama comes to Kyle Field next Saturday at 7:15 p.m. The Aggies then travel to face No. 21 Florida before hosting No. 24 Mississippi State and No. 13 Auburn on Oct. 28 and Nov. 4, respectively.
Sumlin knows his team is young and he’s not making any excuses for the mistakes they’ve made. But after staying unbeaten in conference play with the most dominant college team of the last decade on deck, he’s happy to see the progression they’ve made.
“We’re getting great effort from all the guys,” he said. “They haven’t done everything right, but their effort has been phenomenal and as long as that continues, we’re always going to have a chance. Tonight was a product of their effort combined with their belief in who they are and what they’re about.
“We took another step.”