Alabama beat Texas A&M 27-19 as the Crimson Tide was pushed for the first time in a month. Here is the report card:
Rushing Offense: B-
The Alabama rushing offense wasn’t anything like the force it has been in 2017 so far, yet the Crimson Tide still rushed for 232 yards and a couple of touchdowns. Interestingly, Nick Saban and Brian Daboll didn’t experiment much here, with all the running coming from the trio of Jalen Hurts, Bo Scarbrough, and Damien Harris.
If there is a blueprint for stopping Alabama rushing the ball it is what the Aggies threw out there on Saturday night. You have to spy Hurts with a linebacker (or safety) that is as fast as the ‘Bama quarterback, while stacking the box to stop the big runners inside. That worked for Texas A&M for the most part. Hurts had just 56 yards on 14 carries, a number significantly boosted by the one occasion where he beat his spy to the edge and picked up 38 yards. If you also take away Harris’ 75-yard touchdown bust then this is a much different story when it comes to the Crimson Tide’s rushing performance.
Passing Offense: C-
The passing offense offered little support to the Alabama run game. A Robert Foster fumble after a completed pass was the Crimson Tide’s first turnover in what feels like a decade, while Hurts was unable to connect on any deep throws. Calvin Ridley was good again – he had five catches for 68 yards – but the tight end play was almost non-existent, something that seems crazy given that the Aggies had not been able to cover a single tight end before this game.
When a defense is stacking the box in this way it is imperative that you hit a couple of shots downfield to make them sink back in their pressure. Alabama was unable to make this happen and as a result, the A&M pass rushers (who are very good by the way) had a trio of sacks, a couple of quarterback hurries, and totaled nine tackles for a loss. The passing game still needs plenty of work as the schedule gets tougher.
Rushing Defense: A
The Alabama rushing defense is decidedly up and down, but they caught Texas A&M on one of their better weeks. The Aggies had just 71 yards on the ground, yards they worked hard for when you consider that they ran the ball 40 times. That is an average of less than two yards per carry. Given that 15 of those carries went to Trayveon Williams – a running back that can score from anywhere on the field – you can see just how good of a performance this was by the front seven when it came to slowing down what the Aggies like to do the most. Seven tackles for a loss, a couple of forced fumbles, and a turnover on downs when trying to run the ball are the highlights from this half of the defense.
Passing Defense: B
The passing defense also did its job in this Alabama victory. Aggies quarterback Kellen Mond probably had a completion percentage that was higher than Nick Saban would have liked, but the ‘Bama pass rush was aggressive and Mond never looked like he was going to have time to unlock the Alabama defense unless he got the ball out quickly to his star receivers.
On the day Monday was 19-of-29 for 237 yards with a pick and a score. Christian Kirk is his go-to guy and one of the best slot receivers in the country (if not the best) was held to just 52 yards on four catches. Kirk was able to score a touchdown, but Alabama never truly let the Aggies passing game get into a rhythm. This was best shown by Alabama sacking Mond four times
Special Teams: F
J.K. Scott must be wondering exactly what he did wrong to have the kind of day that occurred on Saturday. Scott is the guy that takes the Crimson Tide’s long field goal shots, but he missed a 50 yarder in the first half. It is a long field goal shot by any standard, but missing gave the Aggies outstanding field position. Scott’s day only got worse from there as he had one punt blocked for a safety, while another traveled just 19 yards before going out of bounds.
When you add in that Alabama should have recovered a fumbled Christian kirk kickoff return after their first touchdown – at least three different Alabama players had a recovery shot – then you see just how bad a day it was for this unit.
Saban has been trying his best to stop his players believing their own hype, but there were some signs of complacency here that the head coach just won’t tolerate. If Alabama is to win the National Title this fall then games like this are needed to show exactly what needs to be improved. Even though this was relatively close throughout, it never felt like Alabama was really in any danger of losing. That is the sign of a good team, now it is Saban’s job to make them a great one.