Thoughts on the Aggies taking down Bama

Consider the SEC West thoroughly shaken up, and the Tide rolled in maroon. 

After a two-game skid leaving many questioning Texas A&M’s validity as a program, the Aggies took down No. 1 Alabama in close fashion. The game is A&M’s first conference win as the team improves to 4-2 and the Crimson Tide fall to 5-1.

With significant improvements showing on both sides of the ball, here are five takeaways from the 41-38 upset win:

Jimbo Fisher: The Usurper

Before today, Alabama head coach Nick Saban held a 24-0 record over head coaches that were previously his assistants. Now, Saban and the No. 1 Crimson Tide have been dethroned by A&M coach Jimbo Fisher, making this record 24-1.

“It doesn’t mean anything to me. I don’t mean that in any disrespect,” Fisher said. “The thing that means something to me is our football team is learning to play against other good football teams and have success. It was inevitable. Somebody was going to do it in time. Hey, it happened to be us. That’s great. But that doesn’t mean anything to me because that’s not a goal that I’m trying to talk about or do.”

Further, this is Alabama’s first loss to an unranked team in 100 games, with the last instance coming in 2007.

A new look for the program

While A&M produced points on 3-of-5 of its opening drives this season, the Aggies fell silent in most of the season’s first halves. For a change of pace, A&M didn’t let up in the first half, scoring 24 points and holding a two-score lead on No.1 Alabama at halftime. The lead wavered in the second, narrowing to one of the closest games seen at Kyle Field in years, with A&M’s offense producing throughout.

“It goes back to what I say: Play the next play. Don’t worry about the scoreboard,” Fisher said. “I say that. I know that sounds crazy to people. Eliminate the scoreboard. The scoreboard will say what you want when you win your job more times than the other guys does. This game is tough, man. It’s a tough game when you play it that way.”

The Aggies had been held scoreless in six quarters through five games this season, but they scored a touchdown in every single quarter of the night’s contest. This offensive consistency marked a new level in the 2021 Aggies campaign, scoring nearly double the number of points the team had scored on a Power 5 opponent.

Calzada growing pains

Texas A&M redshirt sophomore quarterback Zach Calzada came out of the tunnel like fans at Kyle Field had never seen. Calzada opened the game going 10-for-10 for 123 yards and two touchdowns before throwing an interception, but he was unfazed. Finishing the half 13-14, Calzada played with a confidence that he had been critiqued for lacking in the week leading up to the game.

“To be put in situations he’s put in, things that are happening, and not with a full team around him, with three receivers missing, two linemen missing, backs, timing, people hurt everywhere, it’s hard to go in there, Fisher said. “When you’re expected to clean up ‑‑ you’ve got other young guys in there, all those linemen, they all had to do it. And they’re all growing up the more they play.”

But very proud of Zach. He’s a high‑character young man, man. It matters to him. It means something to him. And he’s gotten better each week he’s played. Each week he’s done something. And he’s preparing. He’s learning how to play the position of quarterback.

Calzada finished the game completing 21 passes in 31 attempts with 285 yards and three touchdowns. The 67.7 completion percentage in the game marked a season-high for the Georgia native and the poise Calzada played with was evident.

“I understand who he is. I understand his preparation. I understand the mistakes he made, he didn’t make on purpose and he’s learning,” Fisher said. “And more importantly, I hope he doesn’t read anything on today’s [social media]. I hope he shuts the old one off and I hope he shuts the new one off. You’ve got to live in the moment and understand what it is. He’s got to do the same thing he did next week.”

Comfortable Calzada, pressure on Young

Alabama quarterback Bryce Young entered the game having been the victim of pressure in the pocket, however, his stats had not taken a hit. At Kyle Field, though, Young was sacked four times, all in the first three quarters and these hits hurt the sophomore’s performance. Senior defensive end Tyree Johnson led the charge against the Crimson Tide offensive line, posting two sacks on the night, including one shortly after leaving the field with an apparent injury.

“Mostly, I was just focusing on my technique,” Johnson said. “Watched a lot of film. Watched their tendencies and all that. So I was just going out there with a game plan I had worked on, the pass rush moves that I worked on all week, and then just execute them.”

A&M’s young offensive line held up in a way that, much like Calzada’s performance, was unexpected and new for A&M fans in the 2021 season. Calzada was sacked zero times on the night, even though he entered the game leading the SEC in times sacked.

Special teams and more special teams

With eight minutes remaining in the third quarter, there was a palpable change in the atmosphere of Aggieland. As A&M set up to punt in a short-field situation, the Alabama special teams unit looked unblockable and easily swatted the punt, resulting in a Crimson Tide touchdown.

Those points brought the game within one score, but the Aggies immediately answered as sophomore running back Devon Achane returned the Alabama kickoff for a 96-yard touchdown. The return revitalized the second-biggest crowd in Texas A&M history: 106,815.

“It just gave us a lot of momentum,” Achane said It was a big opportunity for us. We were talking about it even before it happened. Like, when we was kicking out of the end zone, they wasn’t running in their spaces. So when they kicked the show in, the special teams made their blocks and just made it easy for me to just do my job.”

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