JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Trayveon Williams ran for 236 yards and three touchdowns, smashing a 30-year-old school record and carrying No. 21 Texas A&M to a 52-13 victory against NC State in the Gator Bowl on Monday night.
The Aggies (No. 19 CFP) ended 2018 with a four-game winning streak and broke a three-game postseason skid. It was the first bowl victory for most of Texas A&M’s roster, including Williams.
It also capped an impressive inaugural season for coach Jimbo Fisher in Aggieland.
Williams earned MVP honors, a potential final curtain call for his college career. The junior is expected to leave school early and enter the NFL draft.
No one could blame him after the way he closed out the season. Williams ran for 829 yards and eight scores during Texas A&M’s final four games, all wins. His performance against the Wolfpack gave him 1,760 yards for the season, topping Darren Lewis’ previous mark of 1,692 set in 1988.
Williams had 61 yards rushing in the first half and then got rolling in the third quarter. He carried five times for 82 yards on one drive, including a 17-yard touchdown run. He topped that with a 93-yard scoring run on Texas A&M’s ensuing drive.
His longest scamper broke the previous Gator Bowl record of 216 yards rushing set by Syracuse’s Floyd Little in 1966 against Tennessee.
Kellen Mond completed 14 of 26 passes for 140 yards, with a touchdown and an interception. Mond also ran five times for 85 yards and a score. Kendrick Rogers made a leaping, 6-yard catch in the back of the end zone to help Mond.
Little went right for the Wolfpack, which was trying to get to double-digit wins for the second time in school history.
Ryan Finley, a senior playing his final game, completed 19 of 32 passes for 139 yards. He threw a touchdown passes and two interceptions. Tyrel Dodson returned one of the picks 78 yards for a score early in the third quarter, a play that turned a close game into a two-touchdown advantage.
Finley also was sacked twice before getting pulled in the fourth quarter. Coach Dave Doeren clearly wanted to protect Finley, who’s expected to be an early round pick in the NFL draft in April.
It certainly didn’t help that NC State played without two of its best players, including the team’s leading tackler.
Receiver Kelvin Harmon, who leads the Atlantic Coast Conference with 1,186 yards receiving, and senior linebacker Germaine Pratt skipped the bowl to protect their NFL draft stocks.
It’s unlikely Pratt could have done enough to make a difference against Williams, who averaged 12.4 yards on 19 carries against a defense that allowed 109.1 yards a game all season.
NC State: The Wolfpack played in their fifth consecutive bowl game, but failed to get three straight postseason wins for the first time in school history. It was a disappointing finale after ending the regular season with three consecutive wins, but still proof that Doeren has the program headed in the right direction.
Texas A&M: The Aggies have one of the youngest rosters in the Southeastern Conference and have enough talent to challenge Alabama in the coming years.
The game drew 38,206, the bowl’s smallest crowd since 1952.
NC State will have to replace Finley, Harmon, Pratt and three starters on one of the nation’s best offensive lines.
Texas A&M has one of the county’s most challenging schedules in 2019, a slate that includes Alabama and road games against Clemson, Georgia and LSU.