Rapid Reaction: Shocker! A&M tops Bama, shakes up SEC and CFP
Alabama’s bid for back-to-back national championships took a massive hit at one of the loudest stadiums in college football.
The Crimson Tide rallied from a couple of 2-touchdown deficits to take a late lead but Texas A&M responded and Seth Small hit a 28-field goal as time expired to lead the Aggies to a shocker against the Crimson Tide on Saturday at Kyle Field in College Station.
The result shook up not only the SEC West race but also the College Football Playoff picture.
A&M quarterback Zach Calzada hit Ainias Smith for a 25-yard touchdown with 3:00 left; the extra point by Small tied the score at 38-38. Calzada took a hit on the knee and was helped off the field but came back in the next series.
Calzada then led the Aggies to the winning field goal.
Bryce Young hit Jameson Williams for a 5-yard score with 5:00 left (Young found Williams for the 2-point conversion as well) to put Alabama ahead for the first time since the first quarter. The Crimson Tide drove 82 yards for the score including a pair of 3rd-down conversions. Williams also had a 32-yard reception on the play before his TD catch, in which Bama went to a hurry-up and Texas A&M completely failed to put a defender on the receiver.
Young threw for 3 TDs for Alabama, ranked No. 1 all season in the Associated Press poll, and the Crimson Tide tightened up the game in the second half.
Calzada, starting for the injured Haynes King, outdueled Young in the first half, going 13-of-14 183 yards, 2 TDs and an INT. But the Aggies offense stalled in the second half until the final 2 drives.
Will Reichard’s second field goal of the game, from 26 yards, brought Bama within 31-27 with 14:09 remaining, and his 22-yarder with 8:48 left reduced the deficit to a single point.
Young hit Williams for a 29-yard TD with 7:30 left in the third quarter as Bama drove 75 yards in just 2:34 to draw within 31-24.
Back-to-back special teams plays provided excitement earlier in the third quarter.
Alabama’s Ja’Corey Brooks blocked Nik Constantinou’s punt and King Mwikuta fell on the ball for the score just before it rolled out of the end zone to bring the Crimson Tide within 24-17.
But A&M’s Devon Achane ran back the enduing kickoff 96 yards for a score and a 31-17 lead, restoring the 2-TD advantage for the Aggies.
A&M running back Isaiah Spiller provided a memorable highlight late in the first half with a 15-yard touchdown run, busting through the middle, then rolling on top of Bama’s Brian Branch and stretching the ball into the end zone just before his elbow hit the ground. The TD with 2:09 left in the second quarter gave the Aggies a stunning 24-10 lead. Alabama had allowed just 19 first-half points total in its first 5 games combined.
With the Aggies leading 17-7, Bama defensive back DeMarco Hellams intercepted Calzada in the second quarter. Brian Robinson ran for 24 yards to get Bama inside the 20-yard line but DB Leon O’Neal sacked Young on 3rd down and Bama settled for Reichard’s 38-yard field goal to draw within 17-10.
Trailing 17-7 after one quarter, Alabama drove deep into Aggies territory until Demani Richardson intercepted Young in the end zone. The Tide only had 3 turnovers all season coming in, but that INT meant that they coughed up the ball on consecutive drives.
A&M struck for a touchdown in the first quarter as Calzada hit tight end Jalen Wydermyer on back-to-back plays, a 34-yard completion and a 27-yard score.
The Aggies defense then created an opportunity on the next drive when a bad handoff exchange between Young and running back Robinson led to a fumble, which O’Neal scooped up for A&M’s first fumble recovery of the season. That led to a 6-yard touchdown pass on play action from Calzada to Ainias Smith, capping a 7-play, 41-yard drive for a 17-7 Aggies lead.
On their first offensive drive, the Crimson Tide went 65 yards in 10 plays, capped by Young’s swing pass to running back Roydell Williams, who had plenty of space up the left sideline for a 20-yard touchdown and a 7-3 lead.
The Crimson Tide defense got bad news on the very first drive. Texas A&M drove for a field goal to take a 3-0 lead, but the real bummer for Bama was losing sophomore defensive back Malachi Moore, who was ejected for a targeting call after a hit on Calzada.
Alabama coach Nick Saban had expressed concern last week about how good Texas A&M’s defensive line is and indeed the Aggies pressured Young often, sacking him 4 times. Young’s elusiveness prevented several other sacks.
Going into the game, former Saban assistants were 0-24 against the Crimson Tide coach. But Jimbo Fisher finally broke that streak and the Aggies ended Bama’s 19-game winning streak.