It worked once. Why not try it again?
It was responsible for maybe the biggest play to this point in the season. Why not dial it up on this crucial down?
A month earlier, Ryan Swope beat Ole Miss with his corner-route touchdown reception late in the fourth quarter in Oxford.
Now, with the Aggies on top of No. 1 Alabama in the fourth quarter in Tuscaloosa, Malcome Kennedy was about to run the same play.
“This time it was a three-by-one set, and they called my number,” Kennedy said.
You know the rest.
A wobbly but on-target pass from Johnny Manziel.
A slight bobble, but a catch by Kennedy,
29-17 Aggies, and A&M hangs on.
What makes it even more impressive is Kennedy beat Alabama’s Dee Milliner on the play. Milliner was a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award (for the nation’s top defensive back) and Bronko Nagurski Award (nation’s top defender). Milliner was taken in the first round--with the eighth overall pick--by the New York Jets in this April’s NFL Draft.
“I’ve always heard his name, and prior to that I’ve seen him very high in the draft (projections),” says Kennedy. “But it’s just another play. It just goes to show that anything can happen to anybody out there on the field.”
Late in the 2012 season, it didn’t matter who was covering Kennedy. The wideout from Cayuga was difficult to deal with down the stretch.
A close look at Kennedy’s numbers last year show a drastic improvement as the campaign continued. In the first seven contests, he only had nine receptions. In the last six games, 17. And it seemed those receptions were even bigger in the back half. He went for eight yards per catch in the first seven games, but averaged 12.5 over the last six. Both of Kennedy’s touchdowns came in the closing six contests. His best outing was the regular season finale against Missouri, when he caught seven passes for 110 yards on the night the Aggies notched their 10th victory.
Kennedy knew he’d finished 2012 on a high note, ranking fourth on the squad at season’s end with 26 receptions.
“By the end of the season I felt like I had caught enough jugs, caught enough tennis balls, went to enough 7 on 7’s, went to practice. I think all my stock I put into that year was finally beginning to show.”
Fast forward to 2013. Of the top six pass catchers a year ago, only Kennedy and Mike Evans return. But could the receiving corps be even better this fall?
“(We have) a lot of talent, and it’s great because it’s going to push the receivers who are already here to an even higher level. These young guys are just that good.”
Kennedy’s strong closing stretch means a label has been placed on him entering 2013. Many feel like he is set to be a ‘breakout’ player this fall.
“No choice but to be,” he says as his tone turns to dead serious. “I push myself, my teammates push me, my coaches push me. There’s always a certain point in time when an athlete has to reach a certain standard, and it’s my time.