COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Nick Saban wants his players to know, he wants the fans to know and he wants the media to know that his team isn’t going to light up scoreboards every week.
“We’re not going to beat everybody 66-3,” he said.
That sentence ended a patented Saban rant that likened media coverage of his team to players being served rat poison. This, of course, came after his team didn’t dominate the way it had in recent weeks, albeit in a victory.
The offense wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t terribly efficient either, and when asked about his team’s three three-and-outs on its first four drives, Saban lit into the media for its praise of his team during a two-game stretch that saw it outscore conference opponents 125-3.
Alabama did enough offensively to lead the game by three touchdowns, but down the stretch it faltered just enough to allow Texas A&M to get back into the game.
The good came in the form of the running game, which accounted for 232 yards and 5.3 yards per rush. Running back Damien Harris continued his stellar season with 124 yards rushing, including a 75-yard touchdown. All told, the offense averaged 5.4 yards per play.
All of this against a Texas A&M defense that was designed to slow down the Crimson Tide’s vaunted running game, and especially limit Jalen Hurts’ runs.
“We knew they’d play us tough in the front seven, which they did,” Saban said. “They play eight-man fronts all the time and make it hard for you to run the ball. They play a lot of double sync, you probably don’t know what that is, the old Bear defense. They do a lot of stunting off the edges.
“I think we were well prepared for it. I don’t think we finished blocks. They kind of tried to take Jalen away by bringing somebody at him all the time. He doesn’t have much of an opportunity to be much of a runner in the game.”
The bad included an inconsistent passing game that missed opportunities for big plays. Hurts completed 13 of 22 passes for 123 yards and a touchdown. UA quarterbacks had been sacked just four times all season. Texas A&M registered three against Hurts.
Hurts completed passes to six different receivers, with Calvin Ridley leading the way with five receptions for 68 yards.
“We had some opportunities to make plays in the passing game,” Saban said. “Didn’t do it. That’s how you have to play. You have to throw the ball. We didn’t do it as effectively enough as we needed to. But we did what we had to do to win.”
In a weird way, though, players said the result could be good for the team. An “iron sharpens iron” kind of thing.
“Anytime you play an athletic team, a very physical team that plays with seven, eight guys in the box, it’s obvious they’re going to be hard to run against,” Harris said. “We needed this test.”
Reach Aaron Suttles at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 205-722-0229.