Revisiting Previous Matchups Between Texas A&M Football and Alabama
Due to the transient nature of college football teams, an exercise such as this—returning to previous games between Texas A&M football and Alabama—may not be the most instructive thing in the world. But given the way both games transpired, I think there are very particular, educative takeaways that we can glean from these contests. Let’s take a look at these games.
Texas A&M football vs. Alabama: 2021 (41-38 Aggie Victory)
This was possibly the most unlikely outcome of any Aggie game I have watched in the past decade plus. I was fortunate enough to have tickets to several home games during this season, and just one week prior, my dad had visited from out of state to come to the Mississippi State game with me. I remember walking out of that game completely deflated after watching Calzada inexplicably take a game-losing safety to hand the Bulldogs a victory. In no way did I think we could beat Alabama.
For about four days, I mean. Because I tweeted this on Wednesday of that week:
At one point in the first half, Zach Calzada—Zach Calzada!—had ten completions on ten attempts. In fact, his first incompletion was an interception by DeMarco Hellams after a miscommunication between Calzada and Ainias. This leads to a big takeaway here: you (usually) need strong QB play if you’re going to beat Alabama. Zach ended the day 21/31 for 285 yards, with 3 TDs and 1 INT, recording a QBR of 92.2. Max has that in him—obviously, if Calzada can do it, so can Johnson—but he’ll need to keep playing within himself. We saw good Max in the first and second quarters against Arkansas, but he started pressing later on in the game and didn’t finish strongly.
Calzada did tail off in the second half a bit. Until the game-tying drive late in the fourth quarter, the Aggies had been shut out offensively since halftime (Achane’s memorable kick return being the only score up until that point). Calzada stepping up in that moment was huge; Max didn’t have a moment like that against Arkansas. Of course, the game was well in hand, and Aggie fans well know that Max Johnson can step up in a clutch situation when his team needs a score—the LSU game later in this same 2021 season showed that much. I have the confidence that Max is enough of a gamer to have a moment like this if necessary; that said, this is the best the Aggie defense has matched up against a Bama offense for quite some time, and if the offensive staff for Texas A&M football can get the run game going, there may not be quite so much on Johnson’s shoulders.
To that point, though, comparing the talent at receiver that Texas A&M football possessed in that game to now is very illuminating. Just take a look at this box score:
Only one true receiver in the top four here—obviously, Wydermyer played a huge role at the tight end position, but your four leaders in receiving yards are a WR, a TE, and two RBs. While I do expect Jake Johnson, Le’Veon Moss, and the other talents that the Aggies have at those positions to come up big in this one, I find it hard to believe that two or three out of Evan Stewart, Ainias Smith, Noah Thomas, and Jahdae Walker won’t make a big impact on this contest. Smith specifically has a penchant for showing up big against Alabama, which makes sense.
In summation: this was a less talented Aggie squad than the current one beating a more talented Alabama squad than the current one. They did so by executing at a high level early on offensively, and getting just enough from that side of the ball later on. There were high-level clutch moments in all phases of the game, from offense to defense to special teams. When mistakes were made, the players for this Texas A&M football squad did not give up or retreat, but came back and kept going.