Rapid reaction: Alabama defense comes up big against Texas A&M
Here are some quick thoughts on Alabama’s 41-23 win against Texas A&M at Kyle Field on Saturday afternoon:
What it means: Last month’s loss to Ole Miss notwithstanding, Alabama may still be the team to beat in the SEC. The Crimson Tide has played as well as any team in the country since that Week 3 loss, and a win here helps as it tries to get back on schedule to potentially defend its SEC championship. As for Texas A&M, the Aggies must cope with another loss in a prime-time game against a top 10 team. At 5-1, there is still plenty of hope in the SEC West race.
What I liked:
- Alabama didn’t try to get too cute early in the game. They knew that their bread was buttered in the running game, and they stuck it to the Aggies by giving the ball to Derrick Henry, who had 153 yards rushing in the first quarter, which is the most by any FBS player this season.
- The Crimson Tide secondary had itself a day. CB Minkah Fitzpatrick and S Eddie Jackson had two interceptions each, with three of the four being returned for touchdowns. Both of Fitzpatrick’s were returned for scores, but it was Jackson who set a new Alabama record with 119 yards on interception returns.
- Texas A&M’s resiliency. Trailing by as much as 28-6 during the first half against a team that beat the Aggies 59-0 last year, it would have been easy for both the crowd and the players to get down on their chances. Instead, the Aggies rallied to score the game’s next two touchdowns and bring it within a manageable 28-20 deficit.
- Aggies freshman WR/KR Christian Kirk is really something else. His 68-yard punt return for a touchdown late in the second quarter was electric, and it rejuvenated a Kyle Field crowd that was down and out from early Alabama scores.
- Alabama QB Jacob Coker’s steady performance. The senior looked like a leader in this game, protecting the football, making high percentage throws and tucking the ball and running to earn the tough yardage to extend drives.
- The Crimson Tide defensive front was dominant. Not only were they in the backfield harassing Texas A&M quarterbacks for much of the day, but the Aggies running game, led by senior RB Tra Carson, was practically non-existent.
What I didn’t like:
- The Texas A&M run defense, or the lack thereof, in the first half. The Aggies had to know that Alabama would try to turn this into a grind-it-out type of effort, yet they had no answer for Derrick Henry and the Crimson Tide rushing attack.
- Cramping in mid-October, but such is football in Texas. With a kickoff temperature of 84 degrees, it was something mentioned on the broadcast as a potential concern. Alabama LB Reggie Ragland was one of a handful of players that appeared to be hindered by cramping or hydration issues.
- Kyle Allen’s interceptions. Not so much because of the decisions he made, but his execution on the throws. He threw three interceptions, and all were returned for touchdowns.
- Alabama’s special teams play. The Crimson Tide had all kinds of trouble on Saturday, highlighted by allowing a punt return for a touchdown, fumbling a punt return and allowing a punt block.
- Kevin Sumlin’s decision to kick a 36-yard field goal while trailing by 14 points with just under eight minutes remaining in the game. There just wasn’t enough time left to expect to get two more stops on defense as well as two scores on offense.
Who’s the man: Alabama RB Derrick Henry turned in a “grown man” performance when his team needed it most. He carried the ball 32 times for 236 yards and two touchdowns, including a 55-yard run in the first quarter.
Key play: This game was filled with big-time plays that could easily be identified as a “key” play, but I’ll pinpoint Alabama S Eddie Jackson’s 93-yard interception return for a touchdown in the second quarter. It took what looked to be a scoring drive for Texas A&M that could have potentially turned a 21-6 game into a one-possession game, and instead pushed the lead to three touchdowns.
What’s next: Alabama will host Tennessee in Week 8. The Vols will be coming off a Week 7 bye after defeating Georgia in Week 6. Meanwhile, Texas A&M will leave the state of Texas for the first time this season, travelling to play Ole Miss in Oxford.