Texas A&M uppercuts No. 1 Alabama because it had one final second | Hurt

Cecil Hurt
The Tuscaloosa News

COLLEGE STATION, Texas — No one knew exactly what Nick Saban was talking about on his Thursday night radio show when he decided to become a philosopher. 

“You are a speck in time situated between the past and the future,” Saban mused in airtime usually reserved for explaining high center snaps to Pee Wee from Grand Bay. 

Alabama (5-1, 2-1 SEC)  had, as it often does, a chance to take control at the end. Perhaps this team isn’t big enough or good enough yet. 

Quarterback Bryce Younghad the worst first half of his young career. His protection wasn’t perfect but the end-zone interception throw to Jaleel Billingsley was unwise even if did require a juggling interception. Composure was what was needed at a raucous Kyle Field, but Alabama slipped to slip down the train. The weight doesn’t belong entirely on Young’s shoulder. The Aggie defense got significant pressure on Young. And if you are asking why a Heisman Trophy front-runner struggled and a guy you may never have heard of named Zach Calzada looked great, the answer is time. 

Things didn’t get better as the second half began. Thanks largely to running back Brian Robinson, Alabama did move into Aggie territory, but every pass attempt was hurried and harried. There was a sudden change of special teams touchdowns, a blocked punt by Alabama and a return of the ensuing kickoff by Texas A&M. Weirdly enough, those happened so quickly that the runback seemed less devastating to the Crimson Tide than a 6-minute Aggie drive would have been. 

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From that point, Alabama’s defense made Calzada move around, make hasty decisions and from the lovely chrysalis of the first half emerged the Zach Calzada we have seen before. The issue, again, was time. The 2020 Alabama team that won the national championship could score so quickly that it wasn’t gnawing away at its own opportunity, second by second. Two trips into the red zone ended up as Will Reichard field goals. The Crimson Tide margin for error thus never went entirely away. And the worm turned again. Calzada became Super Zach again, and Alabama, which had stifled the Aggies for the second half, couldn’t get either critical stop.

This is how Alabama’s losses under Saban have come, despite all the in-depth analysis about mobile quarterbacks or run-pass options. Alabama has, in every instance, created its own problems. Two turnovers and a kickoff return are problems. There becomes no margin for error, and when the defense does make errors, or the offense can’t consume time to help it (and Alabama’s final drive didn’t help a thing), there is a chance for the other team. Sometimes, like at Florida, that bullet gets dodged. But you can only dodge so many bullets. 

A lot went by the wayside Saturday night before Seth Small's 28-yard field goal as time expired. Jimbo Fisher finally ended the Saban assistant streak, which was wearing a little thin. No more No. 1 ranking. The usual formula is that a Saban-coached team bounces back, but this one will take a significant bounce.

Reach Cecil Hurt at cecil@tidesports.com or via Twitter @cecilhurt