Once again, Alabama’s offense was a machine. Powered by a career-high passing day from quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, the Crimson Tide cranked out 524 total yards and 45 points against Texas A&M on Saturday in Bryant-Denny Stadium.
But even a dominate offensive performance was not without its flaws. There was one particular fault that stood out: the running game.
The Aggies limited Alabama to its lowest single-game rushing total since 2014, when the Crimson Tide only mustered 66 yards in a 14-13 win over Arkansas.
Alabama managed to get into the triple digits against Texas A&M, gaining 109 yards, but the rushing attack failed to produce on a regular basis. At halftime, Alabama had just 41 yards on the ground.
“We really didn’t control the game and control the line of scrimmage,” UA coach Nick Saban said. “We struggled to run the ball effectively with any consistency and that’s something that we need to work on.”
Leading up to the game, Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher emphasized that stopping Alabama’s run game was going to be a focal point for his defense. His game plan reflected that. The Aggies tried to shut down the Crimson Tide’s ground game by continually lining up with an extra defender in the box.
By sacrificing a defender who would normally be used in coverage against the passing attack, Texas A&M left itself vulnerable to big plays through the air. Alabama took advantage, gashing the Aggies with nine passes of more than 20 yards.
“It’s kind of like pick your poison,” running back Damien Harris said. “If you want to load the box, we’ll try to air the ball out and get the ball to the guys on the perimeter. If you want to play us with a five or six man box, we’re going to try to run the ball down your throat.”
Harris led Alabama in rushing with seven carries for 52 yards, most of which came on a 35-yard run in the third quarter. Fellow running back Najee Harris chipped in 43 yards on eight carries.
The main highlights of the Crimson Tide’s run game were two rushing scores from Tagovailoa and running back Josh Jacobs. Tagovailoa had a 1-yard run. Jacobs scored from 3 yards out.
An inability to run consistently didn’t stop Alabama from almost scoring 50 points for the fourth consecutive game, but it did hamper its ability to run the clock out in the fourth quarter. After receiving the Aggies’ kickoff with 7:36 left, the Crimson Tide only drained the clock of four and a half minutes. Texas A&M got another opportunity to trim the lead that it failed to cash in on.
“You’ve got to be able to finish the game,” Saban said. “They should never get the ball back at the end of the game. One of these days we’re going to be in a situation where a team goes two minutes and scores to win the game.”