Saying that Texas A&M “threatened” No. 1 Alabama on Saturday would be too much. The Aggies did annoy Alabama, though, and may have muttered some mean things under their breath.
For the first time this season, No. 1 Alabama had an opponent that pushed back a bit, but too much Tua Tagovailoa on offense and too many Crimson Tide sacks on defense were more than Texas A&M could overcome in a 45-23 loss to UA at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Tagovailoa completed 22 of 30 passes for a career-high 387 yards and four touchdowns as he played well into the third quarter for the first time this season. The Crimson Tide defense was officially credited with seven sacks but the pass rush disrupted A&M quarterback Kellen Mond and the Aggie offense on at least a half-dozen other plays.
On the other hand, Alabama was hit with nine penalties and did not score in the final 17 minutes.
“I’m not really mad, it’s nothing personal,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said after a curt, though hardly nuclear, reply to one reporter in the postgame press conference. “I’m just not pleased with the way we finished the game.”
The start was probably more enjoyable for Saban. The Crimson Tide’s Mack Wilson intercepted Mond’s first pass attempt and set up Alabama at the Aggie 30. Tagovailoa then found DeVonta Smith for a 30-yard touchdown on Alabama’s first play from scrimmage.
Instead of buckling under the sort of onslaught Alabama unleashed in its first three games, Texas A&M responded. A 54-yard run by Mond keyed a 99-yard touchdown drive that tied the score. Tagovailoa scored on a one-yard run to put UA back up 14-7 but an Aggie field goal cut the edge to 14-10 with eight minutes remaining in the half.
Tagovailoa kept firing away, to a new target. Tight end Hale Hentges, who had just one catch on the season, caught two touchdown passes in the quarter, covering 23 and six yards, and the Alabama lead was 31-13 at halftime.
Josh Jacobs and Henry Ruggs (on a 57-yard shuffle pass from Tagovailoa) capped Alabama’s scoring with third-quarter touchdowns.
The win pushed Alabama to 4-0 overall and 2-0 in the SEC. It also gave Saban a 13-0 record when coaching against his former assistants, and a second win against Jimbo Fisher.
“I’m unhappy that we didn’t play better and I have to coach better and we have to think better,” Fisher said after the game. “But I’m not discouraged. Far from discouraged. I’m actually encouraged.”
Reach Cecil Hurt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0225.