CECIL HURT: Alabama socially distances itself from Texas A&M with air assault
TUSCALOOSA | You could tell that things were different outside Bryant-Denny Stadium before the game started, of course. The masks. The absence of tailgating (and traffic, for that matter). The arrival of fall football in Tuscaloosa is usually a festival, but it was more like a family-and-friends reunion than anything more celebratory Saturday.
The moment that you knew 2020 was different, though, was on Alabama’s first offensive possession of its 52-24 win over Texas A&M. Mac Jones dropped back and launched a perfect deep ball to John Metchie III, who ran under it, made the catch and kept a two-step advantage on the chasing Aggie defensive back all the way to the end zone.
It was picturesque, and the crowd gave it all the approval it could. But had it been the usual 100,000 in attendance, you’d have heard them in Gordo.
There was more of that along the way, plus a quick flurry in the second quarter that gave Alabama fans more than enough to complain about. Yes, 2020 is different: But not even the bubonic plague, a Greek-letter hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico and a direct satellite strike would stop the despair when a team audaciously pulls even with Alabama in the second quarter. That’s especially true when there is a missed tackle and then an interception involved, Daniel Wright with one and Mac Jones with the other.
That flurry, though, was a far cry from consistently stopping Alabama. No one, not even the Russians at the height of the Cold War, had a more teeming stockpile of weaponry. Metchie was simply the beginning. The high-profile receivers, DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle, both had highlight catches. Najee Harris found the end zone twice. The offensive pressure on the Aggies was relentless. Every missed opportunity, from the missed field goal on their first drive to Wright’s somewhat-redemptive pick-six in the second quarter, made their mission to try and keep up more impossible.
Like Missouri the week before, Texas A&M kept trying and Nick Saban’s commitment to substitution created some opportunities. Saban did stick with starters into the fourth quarter this time around, giving Jones and Metchie a chance to bookend their opening touchdown with a 63-yarder with 5:33 to play.
As a result, it was hard to tell exactly what we knew after Game Two that we didn’t know after Week One.
We do know this. Things don’t get easier. The 10-game, no-cupcake SEC schedule assures that. Ole Miss could be hard-pressed to slow Alabama down, but every game in the six-game stretch that follows (before the finale at Arkansas) at least contains the seeds of a possible upset. Eventually, the “score more than they can score” strategy will be harder to execute. At least one would presume it will.
With all that praise for the offense, the Crimson Tide does need to apply some caulk here and there, where the defense is springing leaks. Saban knows this. His defense isn’t leaking like Texas A&M’s. In their last four visits to Tuscaloosa, the Aggies have allowed 189 points, more than 47 per game, and not all the Johnny Manziels in the world could overcome that.
The schedule is about to turn relentless for Alabama. Like it or not, Alabama’s offense will have to stay just as relentless.
Reach Cecil Hurt at email@example.com or via Twitter @cecilhurt