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Rough year leads to Sumlin's exit

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Texas A&M vs. Auburn football

Texas A&M head football coach Kevin Sumlin talks to his staff through his headset during the first quarter Saturday.

For the entirety of A&M’s 2017 season, a cloud of uncertainty covered the program in regards to the future of head coach Kevin Sumlin. The Aggies had posted three consecutive 8-5 seasons.

In May, A&M athletics director Scott Woodward told reporters that Sumlin “has to win this year. He has to do better than he has done in the past.”

With the departure of graduate transfer quarterback Trevor Knight, redshirt freshman Nick Starkel, true freshman Kellen Mond and senior Jake Hubenak battled for the starting position through the entirety of fall camp.

Starkel would take the first snap for the Aggies at the Rose Bowl in a season-opening ranked matchup with UCLA. Kellen Mond entered the game late in the first half after Starkel suffered a fracture in his left foot. The Aggies allowed 34 consecutive points in the late third and fourth quarter to drop the contest 45-44.

The following week, A&M needed a career night from third-string running back Kendall Bussey (97 yards, 1 touchdown) to hold off Nicholls State. Mond was replaced in the fourth quarter by Hubenak, who completed 12 passes for 93 yards with what would later be revealed as a torn labrum.

After downing Louisiana-Lafayette 45-21 at Kyle Field, Mond starred against Arkansas at AT&T Stadium. The true freshman completed 14 passes for 216 yards and two touchdowns, while also rushing for 109 yards. The Aggies won 50-43, thanks to a 10-yard touchdown pass from Mond to receiver Christian Kirk, and an Armani Watts interception in overtime.

Senior running back Keith Ford stole the show in the Aggies’ 24-17 home win over South Carolina, rushing for 70 yards and two touchdowns. A 17-yard rumble in the fourth quarter would prove to be the game-winner.

The Aggies entered the Alabama game as 26½ point underdogs. A&M couldn’t piece together an upset, but stayed in the game in a 27-19 loss. 

The Aggies escaped The Swamp with a 19-17 win over Florida, thanks to four field goals from kicker Daniel LaCamera. Three of the four came consecutively in the fourth quarter, erasing a seven-point deficit. His 32-yarder with 58 seconds left would be the game-winning score.

The team's play after the bye week would change the trajectory of the program. The Aggies suffered consecutive losses from Mississippi State and No. 15 Auburn, both by double-digit deficits. 

Starkel, back from injury, saw action in the loss to the Bulldogs after Mond began the game with 56 yards on eight completions. Starkel finished with 133 yards and a touchdown and would take over the reins of the Aggie offense for the remainder of the season.

The Aggies moved past New Mexico 55-14, but posted just 63 yards, a season low at the time.

A trip to Oxford resulted in a 31-24 win over Ole Miss, but that didn’t quell the rumors related to Sumlin and his job.

A report from the Houston Chronicle surfaced days before the Aggies’ trip to LSU, stating that Sumlin would be fired regardless of the outcome of the Thanksgiving-week matchup.

With the weight of the news on the program, the Aggies dropped the regular season finale 45-21, collecting just 55 rushing yards.

The following day, Woodward announced the removal of Sumlin from his post. Special teams coordinator and tight ends coach Jeff Banks was named the interim head coach, and he led the Aggies through a 55-52 loss to Wake Forest in the 2018 Belk Bowl. Starkel threw for 499 yards and four touchdowns, including three to the NFL-bound Christian Kirk. 

On Dec. 4, Woodward announced that Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher would replace Sumlin as the next head coach of the Aggies. Fisher ended an eight-year tenure with the Seminoles, which included a national championship in 2013.

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