COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) — Conner Weigman threw for 191 yards and a touchdown and Texas A&M overcame a sloppy and mistake-filled performance to snap a six-game skid with a 20-3 win over UMass Saturday.
Texas A&M (4-7) entered the game as 33 ½ point favorites against the Minutemen, who have won just one game this season. But the Aggies lost four fumbles and struggled to move the ball while playing without top running back Devon Achane and leading receiver Evan Stewart on a soggy and cold day.
“(The) kids played their hearts out and they play tough … and they did the things they had to do to win the game,” Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher said.
Weigman threw a touchdown pass in the second quarter to put A&M on top. The Aggies didn’t get in the end zone again until Le’Veon Moss scampered 12 yards for a touchdown with about five minutes remaining to stretch the lead to 20-3.
The school announced a paid attendance of more than 90,000, but the crowd in the cavernous stadium looked sparse from the start and morphed into a ghost town by the third quarter as light rain steadily fell.
Fisher insisted he didn’t notice how empty the stadium was in the second half, but denied that he was losing the fan base.
“We’re all disappointed, not where we want to be,” he said. “But they’ll be packed out of here next week I think for the things that go on when we play LSU.”
It was a far cry from the atmosphere when the Aggies opened the season ranked No. 6 in the country with designs on competing for a national title. They’ve not only tumbled out of the poll since then but won’t even make a bowl game this season, raising questions about the $75 million contract of Fisher.
Texas A&M offensive lineman Layden Robinson was asked if he was bothered by the thin crowd.
“Some of the stuff like that is expected, but we really don’t pay attention too much to the crowd,” he said. “We have to play the game no matter if there’s zero people in the stadium, just 1,000 people in the stadium, or if the stadium is fully packed.”
Saturday’s win is A&M’s first since Sept. 24 to end the school’s longest losing streak since 1972. It came as the Aggies took a break from the rigors of SEC play for a matchup with UMass (1-10), which is an independent team. Texas A&M will end this dreadful season next weekend with a visit from sixth-ranked LSU.
Texas A&M linebacker Edgerrin Cooper was relieved to finally get a win.
“It feels good slowly creeping out of the dark hole,” he said.
Kay’Ron Adams ran for 58 yards and Ellis Merriweather added 47 yards rushing for UMass, which lost its eighth consecutive game since a win over Stony Brook on Sept. 17.
Texas A&M extended the lead to 13-3 on a 35-yard field goal by Randy Bond with about eight minutes left in the third quarter. He missed from 45 yards early in the fourth quarter.
The Aggies got a 27-yard field goal to take a 3-0 lead in the first quarter. UMass tied it early in the second on a 25-yard field goal.
Texas A&M put together a nice drive after that, but Moose Muhammed fumbled after a 45-yard reception, and it was recovered by the Minutemen on their 14.
UMass couldn’t cash in on the error and had to punt four plays later.
The Aggies took the lead later in the second when Weigman connected with Noah Thomas on a 22-yard TD pass that made it 10-3.
Texas A&M had a shot to add to the lead late in the second, but Weigman fumbled as he pulled back his arm to throw in the wet weather. The Aggies recovered, but Bond’s 47-yard field goal attempt was short.
UMass: The Minutemen might have played their best game all season in staying close with the Aggies. They’ll hope to build on the performance next week to try and end their skid.
Texas A&M: The Aggies will have to play much better next week on both sides of the ball if they expect to compete with the Tigers.
With Achane out, Moss had the best game of his young career. The freshman had just 42 yards this season entering the game before carrying the ball 12 times for 78 yards Saturday.
He averaged 6.5 yards a carry with a long run of 23 yards.
UMass: Hosts Army Thursday.
Texas A&M: Hosts LSU next Saturday night.