COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Coach Kevin Sumlin has so many good runners that the Texas A&M coach sometimes has trouble distributing carries between them.
On Saturday night he saw that Keith Ford was on a roll late. So he kept feeding him the ball, and it paid off as Ford ran for 70 yards and two touchdowns, including the go-ahead 17-yard score in the fourth quarter, to lift Texas A&M to a 24-17 win over South Carolina.
"There's games where guys are hot and a tough physical game like that, that's where Keith ford excels," Sumlin said.
True freshman Kellen Mond threw for 159 yards and ran for 95 to help the Aggies (4-1, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) rally for the victory. Sumlin likes the growth Mond has shown since taking over midway through Texas A&M's opener against UCLA when Nick Starkel suffered a season-ending injury.
"I think he moved around tonight and made something out of nothing even when the pocket collapsed," Sumlin said. "He's learning and his growth, you see it every week. It's not as fast as everybody wants, it's not as fast as he wants. But he is getting better just like this whole football team."
Texas A&M trailed by a touchdown entering the fourth quarter before Ford tied it up with a 7-yard run.
Mond looked to have scored two plays earlier, but Camron Buckley delivered a helmet-to-helmet hit while blocking on the play and it was called back. Buckley, who was called for a holding penalty earlier in the drive, was ejected for targeting after the play was reviewed.
Otaro Alaka sacked Jake Bentley on third down on South Carolina's next drive to force a punt.
Ford put the Aggies on top on their ensuing possession when he dragged three defenders into the end zone for that 17-yard touchdown, which made it 24-17.
"I just describe it as just running hard," he said. "I don't like going to the ground, so I was just fighting."
Bentley was sacked twice on South Carolina's next drive and the Aggies got the ball back and they used run after run to get the clock down to less than two minutes.
Bentley threw for 256 yards and two touchdowns for South Carolina (3-2, 1-2), but he was sacked seven times behind a line dealing with injuries that often didn't give him enough time to make plays.
"We're not going to make excuses," coach Will Muschamp said. "At the end of the day you've got to block the pass rushers."
Alaka led the way on defense for the Aggies, finishing with nine tackles, including five for losses and two sacks.
Bentley pushed South Carolina's lead to 17-7 when he connected with OrTre Smith on a 13-yard touchdown pass with about nine minutes left in the third quarter.
"We just have to find a way to score more points," Bentley said. "That's on all of us. We have to execute better."
The Aggies took a 7-0 lead on a 1-yard touchdown run by Trayveon Williams early in the second quarter. South Carolina tied it up when Bentley wriggled out of a would-be sack and found Shi Smith wide open on a 45-yard touchdown pass to tie it at 7-all with about 13 minutes left in the second quarter.
South Carolina receiver Terry Googer was carted off the field on a stretcher after a hit on a punt. But school officials said he was moving all of his extremities after arriving at the hospital and Muschamp said on the television broadcast at halftime that he was OK.
SOUTH CAROLINA: Bentley showed the ability to make throws when he had time on Saturday night. But the Gamecocks will need to protect him better for him to be successful as they continue SEC play.
TEXAS A&M: Mond took another step forward, but will have to make another jump next week if the Aggies hope to compete with the top-ranked Crimson Tide.
Sumlin was asked about his health after walking with a noticeable limp on Saturday. He said he had an injured ankle and that it happened at practice.
"I was trying to do too much this week," he said. "I found out that I'm 53 years old now and not 23 and our players are pretty good. I think my playing days are over."
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Mond came to Texas A&M as one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the nation, so running was certainly going to be a part of his game with the Aggies. However, all that scrambling and his penchant for not sliding at the end of those runs doesn't exactly thrill Sumlin.
"Of course it does," Sumlin repeated twice when asked if he worries about his 18-year-old quarterback scrambles. "There's always a concern when your quarterback takes off running to the middle, particularly between the hashes. He's learning to slide. He's learning to take care of the ball and that's all part of it."
SOUTH CAROLINA: Hosts Arkansas next Saturday.
TEXAS A&M: Hosts Alabama next Saturday night.