No. 1 Alabama won against No. 6 Texas A&M on Saturday, 33-14, in Tuscaloosa. The Tide had to deal with an apparent mid-game crisis, but they recovered and blew well past the Aggies to cruise to victory.
Alabama scored the first 13 points of the game, but first-half futility in the red zone let A&M hang around. The Aggies scored touchdowns on their last drive of the first half and opening drive of the second half to take a 14-13 lead, and they looked poised to mount a serious charge. That appearance turned out to be fleeting.
The Tide pulled back ahead on a Calvin Ridley touchdown a few minutes later, and defensive lineman Jonathan Allen scored his second takeaway touchdown of the year in the last minute of the third quarter. Quarterback Jalen Hurts piled on after that, and what had looked like a nail-biter wasn't any longer.
Bama's win might've come at a steep price. All-American senior safety Eddie Jackson left the field on a cart after a fourth-quarter punt return, suffering from some sort of lower-body injury. Jackson looked anguished on his way down the Bryant-Denny Stadium tunnel, and his status will be something for Tide fans to closely watch.
A&M gave this a good run, but Alabama wasn't ever in great danger.
The Aggies outplayed Alabama at the tail end of the second quarter and the beginning of the third. With halftime narrowly splitting two possessions, A&M mounted back-to-back touchdown drives of a combined 15 plays and 155 yards. Quarterback Trevor Knight looked brilliant, and A&M had a one-point lead with 28 minutes left in the game.
No one would've reasonably counted Bama out at that point, obviously. A 14-13 margin with that much time left is roughly a tie, and Alabama was getting the ball back. But it's worth mentioning that Alabama dominated the entire game outside those four minutes of A&M drives smack-dab in the middle. For the other 56 minutes, this was generally a slaughter.
Alabama out-gained A&M 129-25 in the first quarter, 174-125 in the second. The Aggies moved the ball better in the third quarter but still got outscored by six points then, with Allen's defensive touchdown serving as a tipping point.
The Tide were the more efficient team for almost the entire game, but their red-zone struggles disguised their brilliance for a while. Alabama's first three drives totaled 31 plays for 210 yards and ended inside A&M's 16-yard line, but they only translated to 13 points. Another drive stalled at the A&M 12 and became a missed field goal.
That red-zone defense is a credit to A&M, and we shouldn't discount it as a fluke. The Aggies are really good at not breaking, and they entered Saturday allowing 3.1 points per opposing trip inside their 40-yard line - the No. 7 mark out of 128 FBS teams. Good for them for being good at it.
But Alabama not scoring touchdowns on that many trips into the red zone? That's a fluke, and it might never happen again. The Tide came into Saturday ranked No. 1 in points per trip inside the 40, scoring 6.4 points on average. This isn't a team that makes a habit of coming up just short.
After Alabama struggled to punch across the goal line in the first half, the second half became about touchdowns, not field goals. The Tide got seven whenever they got inside the 40, except when they ran out the clock to end the day. The defense chipped in points like it always does, and things were back to normal.
That the dam would eventually break was easy to see coming. And when it did, the Tide rolled through it.