Rapid Reaction: Alabama far from perfect, but still unbeaten after toppling Texas A&M
Alabama has been so brutally, unfairly dominant that when Texas A&M took a 3-0 lead Saturday, it represented the first deficit the Tide had faced since the second quarter of the season opener.
It lasted about as long, too.
Damien Harris erased it with a 75-yard touchdown run on the very next play, and No. 1 Alabama was off and running to a tougher-than-expected 27-19 victory over the host Aggies.
Considering the Tide had topped 40 points in each of their previous four games, Texas A&M held them in check.
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The Tide scored 17 points in the opening half — just the second time they failed to break 20 this season.
How did they respond?
By opening the third quarter with a methodical 9-play, 75-yard mix of runs and passes that ended with Jalen Hurts hitting Henry Ruggs III for an 8-yard walk-in score to make it 24-3.
The big play came much earlier, when Hurts hit Calvin Ridley for a 30-yard gain on 3rd-and-4. (Ridley later left with a leg injury and didn’t return.)
To that point, there was no evidence to suggest A&M was capable of mounting a comeback.
Kellen Mond didn’t play poorly by any stretch, but for most of the night he didn’t remind anyone of Johnny Manziel, either.
Safe rarely beats Alabama. Eventually, an A&M gamble paid dividends.
It came after the Tide’s first turnover of the season — Robert Foster fumbled — gave the Aggies possession at Alabama’s 36.
On 4th-and-9, Mond hit Damion Ratley on a crossing route for a 32-yard gain. First-and-goal at Alabama’s 3. The final yards were more challenging. A penalty pushed the Aggies back 5 yards. Runs went nowhere.
The Aggies needed some magic, and they got it when Mond scrambled, spun, a la Manziel, and threw to Christian Kirk, who somehow stayed in bounds while reeling in a ball 2 yards out of bounds for a touchdown to pull within 24-10.
— Trey Wallace (@TreyW_Radio) October 8, 2017
But that’s what it takes — a great play on both ends — to score against this Alabama team. And as exciting as that play was, repeating it proved problematic, though Mond again made a magnificent one in setting up A&M’s final touchdown in the final seconds.
Nick Saban will be happy with the victory — the Tide’s 27th consecutive in the regular season and 20th in the SEC — even though he’ll find myriad faults in the details.
There was another missed field goal. A 19-yard punt. There were times when Hurts tucked and run when he should have kept reading the route. He overthrew Foster on what would have been a long touchdown.
After the Aggies closed within 24-10, a defensive penalty on third down gave them a first down at Alabama’s 15. Minkah Fitzpatrick temporarily bailed them out, intercepting Mond at the 1. But after three plays netted no yards, Alabama surrendered a safety when Scott’s punt was blocked out of the end zone.
Close was the story of Texas A&M’s night.
After the two most dominant performances in the Saban era, the Tide looked more normal Saturday night.
Of course, their normal is still better than that most teams’ best.