COLLEGE STATION, Texas - No. 1 Alabama took care of business at Kyle Field on Saturday afternoon, taking down No. 24 Texas A&M 47-28.
After scoring first, the Aggies could not keep up with the Crimson Tide and made too many mistakes to keep the game close in the fourth quarter.
Here are the best and worst moments of the Saturday afternoon’s SEC matchup:
The Aggies started the game with one of their most impressive drives of the season. The 15-play, 75-yard drive lasted eight minutes and resulted in a quarterback sneak touchdown from Kellen Mond. The drive included an 11-yard run from freshman Isaiah Spiller, an 11-yard catch from junior Jhmaon Ausbon and 20 yards of rushing from Mond. It is the first time this season that Alabama has allowed on opponent to score an their opening drive.
Touchdown catch and run
Alabama responded with a nice drive of their own that went 73 yards on 10 plays. On third-and-7, quarterback Tua Tagovailoa found Jaylen Waddle in the flats five yards behind the line of scrimmage. Waddle juked and weaved to make five Aggie defenders miss and scored a touchdown that would tie the game at seven.
After the Aggies fumbled deep in their own territory, Alabama could not pounce on the opportunity. Tagovailoa threw his first interception of the season, as freshman safety Demani Richardson undercut the quarterback’s intended target in the end zone and returned the ball 16 yards. The interception saved the Aggies from being down by three touchdowns in the first half.
Alabama’s second possession of the second half ended in a 33-yard touchdown reception, as Tagovailoa found Henry Ruggs in the front left corner of the end zone. The pass was slightly underthrown to the wide open Ruggs, but the junior managed to turn and catch the ball over the Aggie defender and fall across the goal line for the score. The touchdown put the score at 34-13 midway through the third quarter.
Special teams tackle
On a first half kickoff, punter Braden Mann, who kicks off for the Aggies, was forced to make a tackle, as returner Henry Ruggs had found a lane through the coverage team. Mann also popped the ball out, and the Aggies thought they had regained possession. However, it was ruled that Ruggs was already down. Still, the Aggie punter showed nice form on the tackle. This was not the only score-saving special teams tackle Mann made during the game.
Late in the first quarter, junior wide receiver DeVonta Smith caught a pass 10 yards down field on a slant route and took it 47 yards for the Crimson Tide’s second touchdown of the day. Smith created separation from Debione Renfro right off the snap, and the junior cornerback could not catch up. A nice pass from Tagovailoa and Smith’s speed combined to give Alabama a seven-point lead.
On third-and-10 in the second quarter, wide receiver Quartney Davis came up with a big catch on the sideline to move the chains. The junior high-pointed a pass from Mond and managed to get one foot down while two Alabama defenders were bearing down on him. The drive resulted in an Aggie field goal.
Although it did not mean much to the result of the game, Mond did have a nice touchdown connection with freshman tight end Jalen Wydermyer in the fourth quarter. Mond moved up in the pocket to avoid pressure and threw a high ball to the back right corner of the end zone where only his 6-foot-5 tight end could reach it. It was a nice catch by Wydermyer for the final score of the game.
Special teams coverage
The Aggies were downright awful on special teams coverage throughout the game. Alabama returners averaged more than 30 yards on both kickoffs and punts, putting Texas A&M’s defense behind before the first snap of each drive. Punter Braden Mann was called upon to make multiple score-saving tackles Saturday afternoon. To make matters worse, Mann’s final punt of the day was blocked and returned for touchdown by the Crimson Tide. There were several factors that cost A&M a chance to win this game, but special teams mistakes might have been the most costly.
Mond missed two wide-open receivers on the Aggies’ third possession of the game, squandering a chance to tie the game. The first saw Quartney Davis open down the right sideline, and the junior would have caught an accurate pass right at the goal line for a touchdown. The second might have been even worse, as junior Kendrick Rogers was wide open in the middle of the field just short of the goal line after the defensive back fell down. Mond threw the ball well high and behind of the 6 foot, 4 inch receiver to miss another golden opportunity to tie the game. The Aggies were forced to settle for a field goal, putting the score at 14-10 early in the second quarter.
After Alabama scored a touchdown to go up 24-10 midway through the second quarter, the Aggies needed to respond. Instead, Spiller fumbled on the following Texas A&M possession and gave the ball back to Alabama just 26 yards from the goal line. Luckily for the Aggies, Tagovailoa threw an interception in the end zone to give the ball back.
After a questionable pass interference no-call late in the third quarter, junior wide receiver Kendrick Rogers seemed to make a comment to the referee. Whatever he said drew an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, costing the Aggies 15 yards. Texas A&M ended up punting, and Alabama scored on the following possession to go up 40-20 early in the fourth quarter. Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher acknowledged how big of an effect that penalty had on how the rest of the game went.
The Aggies converted just five of their 12 third-down opportunities Saturday afternoon. They faced several third-and-longs, and Mond seemed to be under pressure on most of them. Alabama sacked Mond five times, and to show comparison, the Tide only punted twice during the game.
One of the Aggies’ third quarter possessions resulted in a 25-yard touchdown connection between Mond and Wydermyer. It was likely one of the easiest touchdown throws Mond has had in his career, as there was not an Alabama defender within five yards of Wydermyer. Alabama head coach Nick Saban, who coaches the secondary, cannot have been happy with what he saw from his guys on that play.
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