Texas A&M football: Zach Calzada, what took you so long?
For 3 quarters, Zach Calzada played like hot garbage. He threw late. He threw behind receivers. He wasn’t making good decisions. The game was too fast for him.
But to be fair, he was thrust into a game on the road in a hostile environment. He came in for starter Haynes King, who injured his right leg on a first-quarter scramble and did not return.
From the time he entered the game iuntil early in the fourth quarter, Calzada gave no indication he was capable of rallying the Aggies from a 7-3 deficit. All appeared lost. Calzada had no rhythm, and neither did the Aggies’ offensive line. With no run game to rely on, it certainly seemed like Colorado’s lone touchdown would stand up.
But then the light bulb went on, just in time. As if flipping a switch, Calzada suddenly became the quarterback who challenged King for the starting job. He suddenly and mysteriously connected with receivers. He suddenly saw the field and made the proper decisions to run when the opportunity presented themselves.
In short, Calzada looked like a Power-5 starting quarterback — a really good one — for the last 15 minutes. When the pressure was really on, and the Aggies had to have their quarterback come through, Calzada did just that.
I mean, he was magnificent. It’s like he didn’t have time to stay nervous. He didn’t have time to overthink the situation. He didn’t have time to allow failure to enter his psyche. It was an amazing transformation. Calzada let the game come to him, and he reacted in a calm, collected manor. There was no longer time left not to.
Head coach Jimbo Fisher was impressed with the way Calzada was able to compose himself and show the character needed for a team to compete on the national level.
“Sometimes you get thrown in there, things get going too fast,” Fisher said. “I mean, he has guys open and he missed them. I call it flash read. I’ve been there, man, I played quarterback. It’s what I call flash reading. You see it, but you’re going through it too quick.
“And then finally, the more reps, it slows down and I think … he realized he had to do it. And there’s something to that, when you realize you’ve got to do it. You’re able to put two drives together and scramble, make throws and plays when you had to.”
Calzada’s game-winning touchdown pass in the corner of the end zone to Isaiah Spiller — his first receiving touchdown at Texas A&M – was on the money. The most impressive thing about it was that Spiller was the third option on the play, with Calzada calmly reading through his progressions before delivering a dime that took victory from the jaws of defeat.
“That throw he made to Spiller was a great play at the end, a great throw in a scramble to a third receiver on that route. That was the No. 3 receiver,” Fisher noted.
In the final 15 minutes, not counting the 3 kneel downs at the end of the game, Calzada converted 2 third-down plays with rushes of 4 and 12 yards and threw for another. He completed 7 of 13 passes for 111 yards and rushed twice for 16 yards (not including a 2-yard sack) in crunch time.
Prior to that? Do we really want to know? Does it matter anymore? It doesn’t, but for the sake of this writing and to illustrate the Jekyll/Hyde transformation, we’ll take a quick look. Over the first 3 quarters, Calzada was 11-for-25 for 72 yards. Yeah, that’s not good.
But that’s a distant memory now. The Aggies are undefeated and moving on from Colorado, a place where they haven’t had a whole lot of success over the years. It was just the second victory ever for Texas A&M over the Buffs outside of Kyle Field.
And while we’re at it, let’s not overlook the job the Aggies’ defense did on Colorado’s offense. It limited the Buffs to just 54 yards of total offense in the second half and set up the scenario for Calzada to blossom.
So breathe a sigh of relief, Aggieland, because if King’s injury is as serious as it appeared — he was on the sideline for the second half in a walking boot — Calzada is capable of getting the job done. Hopefully, moving forward, he won’t wait until the fourth quarter to do so.