Texas A&M Aggies still not physical enough to beat SEC West elite
Alabama is a special team, just not on special teams. That’s what we learned during its 41-23 thumping of Texas A&M Saturday, that the Crimson Tide can still dominate big games.
We’ve also learned that nothing has changed at Texas A&M. The Aggies can still generate big plays now and then in the passing game, but they simply can’t run the ball – or stop the run – against the elite teams in the SEC.
The only reason the Aggies were even able to hang around in this game was because Alabama gave up a blocked punt, fumbled away a punt return and yielded a 68-yard punt return by freshman Christian Kirk.
But otherwise, Bama was still Bama, stingy and aggressive on defense with a tough, downhill running game that wears down and punishes opponents.
A&M, like it has throughout Kevin Sumlin’s tenure, couldn’t go toe-to-toe with the likes of Alabama, LSU and Auburn at the line of scrimmage. And as talented as Kyle Allen is, he can’t improvise plays on the run the way Johnny Manziel did in beating the Tide in 2012.
The Aggies, who averaged 480 total yards in their first five games, managed only 312 against the Tide, including just 32 rushing yards on 25 carries. None of Tra Carson’s 13 carries went for more than 6 yards.
An aggressive Alabama pass rush netted six sacks and forced Allen to throw often into a talented Tide secondary. Two of his passes were picked off and returned for touchdowns. A third pass, from backup QB Kyler Murray, also was returned for a score. The first loss of the season was quite ugly.
As puzzling as Alabama’s home loss to Ole Miss seems now, the Tide knows how to win. Playing with a target on their chest – and often against an opponent that’s had an extra week to prepare – Nick Saban’s Bama teams often lose once during SEC play, but rarely twice.
On offense, the Tide had mixed results, accounting for only two touchdowns. Running back Derrick Henry amassed 236 yards on 32 carries, though the Aggies defense made 14 stops for negative yardage.
“The offense did a great job of controlling the ball,” Saban said after the game. “There were a lot of big plays in this game.”
Texas A&M made some of them — mostly on special teams. Alabama won the game on the line of scrimmage.
One of the biggest plays could have been Myles Garrett’s blocked punt, which gave the Aggies, already riding a wave of momentum, the ball with a chance to tie the game in the third quarter.
That’s when Alabama regained control, stopping the Aggies without a first down then driving for a field goal that restored a two-score lead.
Alabama’s been to this rodeo – contending for an SEC title. Texas A&M is still trying to get there.
To join the elite in the West, the Aggies are going to have to develop a running game that protects the ball and runs time off the clock against the established West Division power.