Early Red Zone Woes for Texas A&M Football
The first drive of the game for the Aggie offense was looking great. Max seemed dialed in, Amari Daniels was running hard and finding holes, Moose took a short pass for a long gain, Evan got behind the Alabama defense on a perfectly placed ball by Max… Things were going well early on.
Once stepping foot inside the red zone, though, things became tough. The Aggies had a 3rd and 1 at the Alabama 19 that turned into a run for no gain by Le’Veon Moss. They faced a decision: this was a productive drive in a game that promised to be defensively-oriented. Do you kick the field goal here and be glad you took the points, or do you be aggressive and try to pick up the first, going for an early touchdown?
The Texas A&M football staff, of course, chose the latter—a fact that I think has been forgotten given how this game has been discussed. Now, it’s forgotten because it didn’t work; a factor that doubtless played into the later decision that is being so spotlighted at the moment. The Alabama defense came up and aggressively defended Jake Johnson on a route that the promising tight end ran behind the line of scrimmage, breaking up Max’s pass.
Alabama would go three-and-out on the possession they got from that spot, but, as I said, this early opportunity that resulted in zero points would hang heavily in the air throughout the rest of the afternoon. Had the Aggies chosen to kick the field goal at that point—provided they make the kick, of course—the calculus changes quite a bit in the late-game situation they faced later on. Might they try for the touchdown on 4th and goal from the 2 yard line, knowing Alabama is extremely backed up and lacking in any sort of run game success the whole day were the deficit 6 rather than 9? I don’t know. What I do know is that this set the tone for the day when it came to 4th down decisions as well as giving the Bama defense some early confidence.