Lead by another impressive outing by Tua Tagovailoa and a ferocious pass rush, the Alabama Crimson Tide rolled the Aggies of Texas A&M Saturday 45-23.
The first SEC home game for the Tide saw Tua throw for 387 yards on 22 completions with four touchdowns and another on the ground. Alabama’s defense did its part to wreak havoc on Aggie QB Kellen Mond by producing seven sacks, 3.5 of which came from Isaiah Buggs.
“We did very good offensively,” coach Nick Saban said. “We were fortunate today to make a lot of big plays on offense. We scored a lot of points, but we really didn’t control the game. Defensively we did a good job on third down when we got to third down. I think the ability to pressure the quarterback is really important. We did a good job rushing with four guys.”
“It’s all about affecting the quarterback in many ways: sacks, big hits, batting down balls. Pressure is accountable to affecting the quarterback,” Isaiah Buggs said.
For all the good things the passing offense and defense did, the struggles came in the run game on both sides of the ball. In the first half alone the Tide gained just 41 yards on the ground compared to 142 by Texas A&M, 112 of which belonged to Mond.
“We didn’t do a very good job against the quarterback runs, which is a really important part of what we’re trying to do. They had a good plan against us,” Saban said. “That’s why they’re one of the best offenses in the league.”
The first half saw explosive plays on both sides of the ball beginning with a Mack Wilson interception on just the second play of the game to set up Tagovailoa and the Crimson Tide offense at the 30 yard line. Tua delivered on his first throw to DeVonta Smith for a diving catch in the endzone.
The Bryant-Denny Stadium crowd made an impact on the game as well. On the ensuing Aggie drive the crowd played into a delay of game penalty against Mond and company to set up a three-and-out sealed by the first sack by Buggs. Later in the first, the roar of the Tide faithful rattled Mond in the pocket as Buggs and Anfernee Jennings teamed up for a crucial 3rd & 16 sack.
“ I think [the crowd noise] was important, especially early in the game. The crowd was great, the atmosphere was great and I think our players appreciate that,” Saban said.
With Christian Miller and Mack Wilson each making impactful third down stops to hold the Aggies to long field goals, Tagovailoa and the Crimson Tide offense put together two impressive drives that resulted in touchdowns to tight end Hale Hentges. The first of these drives saw Tua go 4-4 with 69 yards and a clutch third down run to keep the six play 75-yard drive alive.
The first half was closed by a 47-yard field goal from Joseph Bulovas off the heels of a Patrick Surtain interception in single coverage on a deep post route.
The run game recovered in the second half for Alabama as they began to wrap the game up. The Crimson Tide finished the game with 109 yards on the ground and pushed the Aggies down to 130, however, coach Nick Saban still was not pleased with the fourth quarter performance.
“We made some mental errors at the end of the game that we need to get corrected,” Saban said. “We have a good team, but our team needs to do a lot of things to improve.”
Coach Saban believes his offense “certainly ranks up there with one of the best” he has had at Alabama, but knows there is more to playing offense than just scoring points.
“If we were ‘the best we ever had’, we would be able to control the game, control the line of scrimmage, finish the game and run the ball when we need to run it. We may throw it as well as we ever had, but that’s not all there is to it.”
The Crimson Tide will have the chance to improve its ball control offense as they host the Louisiana Rajin’ Cajuns next Saturday at 11 a.m.
(Photo courtesy of Hannah Saad and The Crimson White)