Jimbo Fisher delivers the spanking he promised to give Nick Saban and Alabama | Toppmeyer
COLLEGE STATION, Texas – Jubilant Texas A&M fans poured over the walls from every corner of Kyle Field.
They stood arm in arm, swaying and singing and celebrating the toppling of college football's reigning national champion.
Aggies quarterback Zach Calzada took a victory ride on the shoulders of some of the crowd of 106,815 who had boisterously supported Calzada’s herculean effort to lead Texas A&M to a 41-38 victory over No. 1 Alabama on Saturday night.
In the most unpredictable fashion, Aggies coach Jimbo Fisher delivered on his preseason promise to lay a spanking on the greatest college football coach of all time.
Seth Small's 28-yard field goal as time expired snapped Alabama's 19-game winning streak and sent college football spinning on its head.
"Obviously a very disappointing loss. I think everybody needs to remember how they feel and not forget it," Alabama coach Nick Saban said.
The Aggies (4-2, 1-2 SEC) won't soon forget this.
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When Fisher vowed “to beat (Saban’s) ass” during his May appearance at the Houston Touchdown Club, it hardly seemed like an outlandish pledge. The Aggies were coming off of a nine-win season and profiled as a College Football Playoff contender.
But then the season started, and the Aggies showed signs of being a fraud. Starting quarterback Haynes King went down with a lower leg fracture in Week 2. The offense cratered. The Aggies lost to Arkansas and Mississippi State.
That’s what made this upset so shocking – although perhaps not for Saban, who dubbed this “a trap game” for Alabama (5-1, 2-1) during his radio show this week.
“I thought we would have a really tough game here,” Saban said afterward.
Still, how was this the same Texas A&M team that had failed to gain 300 yards in three of its first five games? How did Calzada go from ranking 12th in the SEC in completion percentage entering Saturday to completing his first 10 passes against Alabama and then fueling a fourth-quarter rally?
Fisher became the first former Saban assistant to beat his former boss. Saban had been 24-0 against his former assistants.
It’s fitting that Fisher accomplished the feat, given that he’s the most accomplished of Saban’s former assistants, having won a national championship at Florida State.
Alabama had two turnovers and the teams swapped special teams touchdowns, but otherwise, nothing felt particularly fluky about this result.
The Aggies physically whipped the Tide throughout the first half en route to a 24-10 halftime lead, much like Florida did in the final three quarters in a 31-29 loss to Alabama three weeks ago.
A&M absorbed Alabama’s rally and responded.
“It shows you what you’re capable of," Fisher said of the victory.
The last of Calzada’s three touchdowns was a 25-yard strike to Ainias Smith to tie the game at 38 with three minutes remaining. Calzada completed two passes on second-and-long plays on the ensuing drive to set up the game-winning field goal.
Alabama quarterback Bryce Young entered Saturday as a Heisman Trophy hopeful. He got outplayed by a guy who opened the season as a backup.
For the first time this season, Young looked unsettled, at times. That was partly due to the constant pressure he faced. The Aggies sacked Young four times. Defensive end Michael Clemons led the assault.
Alabama’s defense was undermanned without injured linebackers Christopher Allen (likely out of the season) and Drew Sanders (out for the game), and the situation worsened when defensive back Malachi Moore was ejected for targeting on the third play of the game.
The Crimson Tide were frequently out of position on defense. Calzada took advantage. He duped four Alabama defenders with a second-quarter play-action fake that resulted in an easy 6-yard scoring toss to Smith. That came after Calzada’s 27-yard touchdown to Jalen Wydermyer, one of the Aggies’ top talents who somehow slipped unnoticed behind Alabama’s defensive backs.
Underdogs are prone to folding when the heavyweight punches them in the mouth.
The Aggies didn’t.
They absorbed Alabama’s best punch throughout much of the second half, and then they reached for the paddle to apply an improbable whupping to college football’s king.
Blake Toppmeyer is an SEC Columnist for the USA TODAY Network. Email him at BToppmeyer@gannett.com and follow him on Twitter @btoppmeyer. If you enjoy Blake’s coverage, consider a digital subscription that will allow you access to all of it.