The dream of a perfect season ends at the hands of Nick Saban and the Alabama defense as Texas A&M was unable to upend the nation’s top ranked team.
Way Too Many Mistakes
It was going to take a perfect game to beat Alabama. They weren’t perfect. The national narrative will likely be unkind to the Aggies this week, and some of that is deserved. It shouldn’t be forgotten that Alabama is a great football team, and they’ve made a lot of very good teams look pretty silly so far.
Alabama didn’t need any extra help to beat the Aggies, but they still got it. Some have already began the conspiracy talk, but regardless of how you felt about the officiating on Saturday, the Aggies certainly didn’t do themselves any favors.
A fumbled exchange resulted in a defensive touchdown for Alabama, but perhaps the most devastating gaffe was a roughing the passer call against Daeshon Hall on Alabama’s first possession of the second half.
The Aggies had a 14-13 lead at that point and were about to have the football back in the hands of Trevor Knight. Instead the Crimson Tide marched down the field for what would be the decisive go-ahead touchdown.
The Aggies broke even in the turnover margin and forced two fumbles, both recovered by the Tide. It just wasn’t their afternoon.
And then there’s the completely ridiculous enforcement of the targeting rule. Donovan Wilson was ejected at the end of the second half, while Alabama linebacker Mack Wilson was not. It’s a bad rule and needs to be changed. Period. To make matters worse, Wilson made helmet to helmet contact on back to back kickoffs.
Alabama Won the Battle in the Trenches
A 37 yard touchdown scamper by rookie quarterback Jalen Hurts all but put the game out of reach in the 4th quarter. That play was the icing on the cake of a nice rushing performance by Alabama. The Tide rushed 57 times for 287 yards, that’s a clip of 5.0 yards per carry. Conversely, A&M managed 114 yards rushing on 38 carries (3.0 yards per carry).
"The Tide rushed 57 times for 287 yards"
Tennessee managed just one yard per carry against the Tide last weekend. The Aggies had a lot of negative plays trying to beat the speedy Alabama defenders to the outside. Treyveon Williams, who had emerged as the main back over the past several weeks, was largely ineffective carrying just nine times for 23 yards.
It was Keith Ford who did an excellent job running north and south, who took the bulk of the rushing work. However, it was also Ford who was a part of the fumbled exchange that turned into an Alabama defensive touchdown.
Trevor Knight was Very Good
Knight finished the game 14 for 31 passing for 164 yards, 2 touchdowns, and an interception. Alabama dominated the time of possession (59.7 percent), so Knight didn’t have many opportunities. When he did he played well.
Knight ran the ball efficiently on third down and made good decisions with the football, both on the run-pass option and through the air. His biggest mistake was a bad read on an interception, throwing into what was effectively triple coverage.
Josh Dobbs (16 for 27 for 92 yards, no touchdowns) was bad last week and Alabama beat Tennessee by 39 points, including a pick six. Knight’s turnover did not result in any points and he commanded the offense well.
Knight did everything he could to keep the Aggies in the game, but ultimately there were way too many penalties mistakes to overcome. Knight was a huge plus today, not part of the problem.
Texas A&M Needs Playoff Help
A win against Alabama would have put the Aggies in the catbird seat, giving them control over their own destiny. Now they need all the help they can get. Alabama now has effectively a two game advantage in the SEC west with their head to head victory against the Aggies.
The Tide are off next week. Following the bye they’ll travel to Death Valley before finishing their season with three home games against Mississippi State, Chattanooga, and Auburn. Obviously, Texas A&M needs to win out, but they’ll also need to root for LSU and Auburn to upset the Tide. That’s a lot to ask for, but that’s why they play the games.
If that doesn’t happen, there is still an outside shot that an 11-1 Aggie team could sneak into the conversation. A blowout win on Thanksgiving day couldn’t hurt their chances.
***Stats from ESPN***