By (Matthew Speakman)

Alabama’s defense was shutting down Texas A&M. Then, it wasn’t.

The Crimson Tide gave up 16 points in the second half, and allowed its first touchdown against an SEC opponent since the third quarter of the Texas A&M game last season. It wasn’t the same dominating performance Alabama fielded against Ole Miss and Vanderbilt, but it got the job done.

“We were very disappointed,” Evans said. “To be honest, me personally, I was very disappointed with our team and how we played and myself. All we can do right now is go back to the drawing board.”

Despite giving up two touchdowns in the second half of its 27-19 win, Alabama was opportunistic on defense. Texas A&M gained 308 yards, but The Crimson Tide forced three turnovers that proved to be a big factor in the game down the stretch. One of those was an interception by Minkah Fitzpatrick with 11:45 left in the fourth quarter. The Aggies were driving, and Fitzpatrick turned the momentum in Alabama’s favor.

Forcing turnovers has been a strength for this defense this season. They now have 13 takeaways in six games.

“They reap on turnovers every day, in every practice and really every play,” Payne said. “We try to make it happen for them.”

Texas A&M quarterback Kellen Mond committed two of those turnovers, but still was able to make Alabama pay at times. Alabama got pressure on multiple plays, but Mond made defenders miss and find receivers downfield. One play in particular stood out. On fourth down, Mond evaded two rushers and completed a pass to Christian Kirk while being taken down to cut Alabama’s lead to 14.

Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick said he was impressed by Mond’s ability to scramble. He said it reminded him of a guy on Alabama’s sideline.

“He has a lot of composure,” Fitzpatrick said. “He kind of reminds me of a young Jalen (Hurts). He just has that cool, calm, collected feel to him. He just does his job.”

Alabama’s defense was clearly frustrated with missed tackles in the backfield. The team had multiple opportunities to sack Mond, but he escaped and made plays. Although the Crimson Tide had four sacks, it clearly felt like it could’ve brought Mond down more.

“Really the No. 1 thing is to just get him down,” Evans said. “Sometimes we can kind of either overrun him or not wrap up as much and he kind of gets loose. The No. 1 thing is to just get the quarterback down.”

Despite struggling to sack Mond, Alabama had a couple of defensive lineman show out. Last week, the Crimson Tide lost Da’Shawn Hand to a knee injury. Alabama needed some of its other lineman to show up. Isaiah Buggs and Raekwon Davis did just that. Buggs had a career-best 10 total tackles. Davis had eight total tackles and one sack.

Both of them were key in shutting down Texas A&M’s run game, which only had 71 yards. Running backs Treyveon Williams and Keith Ford found little running room all night. Both had under 50 yards in the game.

“We wanted to stop the run,” head coach Nick Saban said. “Their two backs are the best backs that we’ve played against I think in tandem. I think we did a really good job of that. Raekwon (Davis) had to play more with Da’Shawn Hand out, because we had to move (Isaiah Buggs) to end and those two guys usually rotate. We had a lot of guys who had opportunities to play out there.”

Although Alabama’s defense struggled to slow down Mond and the Aggies’ offense late, the team made play when it needed to. Next week, the team will face Arkansas. Fitzpatrick believes the defense has things to fix, but continues to play better each week.

“We have a lot of things to improve on,” Fitzpatrick said. “A lot of small things and a lot of big things. We have improved definitely from last week and still have more improving to do.”

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Source:: The Crimson White Sports