While I’m not really into moral victories what we saw on Saturday night at Kyle Field was not at all what I expected going in. Alabama was coming in having trucked their previous two SEC opponents 49-0 and 66-3. I didn’t expect the Aggies to even cover the 26.5 spread but they did more than that. While they came out flat at times they continued to get off the mat and trade punches with Bama. So much so that towards the end of the game it was the Aggies delivering the blows but it was too little and too late. It was a Moral Victory Saturday but moral victories only go so far in the SEC. The question remains how do the Aggies respond from this? Do they carry it over to Florida next Saturday or do they forget all about it?
Before I go any further I have to say my moment of the game was seeing Gene Stallings on the field with the 1967 team. The man is 82 years old and had a heart attack last weekend and was on a ventilator last week. I’m sure at some point last week someone asked him if he wanted to make the game and his response was, “Yeah, I’m going to be there. Why are you asking?” A Junction Boy at his finest.
Overall I thought the defense was TREMENDOUS but the offense still has a LONG ways to go. You know Alabama is going to score points and our defense held them to 27 points while our offense turned the ball over 3 times. The defense gave up a couple big plays that lead to touchdowns. Most notably was the 75 yard touchdown run after we went up 3-0. The other was to open the second half when we had Bama at 3rd and 4 on their opening drive and they completed a 30 yard pass to Calvin Ridley. Had we done a 3 and out on their opening drive to the second half then Kyle Field might have erupted. They weren’t perfect but they were pretty damn good against a damn good team.
Because of the defensive effort against Bama I think this is a 9-3 team right now IF they build on Saturday’s game. If that was a one-time effort then I still think it’s a 7-5 ball team. Part of why I think this is a 9-3 team is because the teams left on the schedule outside of Auburn don’t look good at all. If this defense shows up the rest of the way and our offense makes some improvement then Kevin Sumlin is going to be our coach again next season as he shouldn’t be fired if he wins 9 games. Insane to think we’re sitting here after the Bama game thinking this could be a 9 win football team. UCLA seems so far away right now.
Dissecting the offense is really strange because of the emotional component of the moral victory. It seems like the offense did pretty good but in reality it was pretty pedestrian. Sure, it was against Bama but we turned the ball over 3 times. 308 total yards of offense is pretty good but it seemed to come in spurts through the air. Mond passed for 237 yards but 127 of those came on 4 passes. He was pretty accurate at 19 of 29 and had some great scrambles so he kept drives alive but I still question the consistency of this offense to maintain drives and really contribute to winning games.
The kid is developing but my issue is with the coaching. I still contend Mazzone is simply a play picker. He doesn’t know how to call a series of plays or set anything up. Our best plays seem to be when the athleticism of our talent is able to make something happen. It’s not necessarily a consistent offensive scheme or game plan based on attacking the weakness of a defense. Mazzone isn’t terrible but I still think this is a haphazard scheme that is going to have a few stinkers in the second half of the season. I like Mond and how he’s developing but I don’t think Mazzone is a superior offensive playcaller. This offense can and should be better.
The other thing about coaching is our wide receivers. Christian Kirk we all know about but to me the clear number 2 receiver is Damion Ratley. I have to give Ratley mad props because he’s really developed this year but he’s not Josh Reynolds. Outside of Kirk and Ratley nobody is really doing anything throughout the game. I know the other guys are young but outside of raw physical talent I’ve not seen much out of the receivers as far as superior routes and getting separation. If we could get more consistent play from our receivers this offense could go. This goes back to what we saw out of Ricky Seals Jones and Speedy Noil. We don’t have consistency at receiver across the board when it’s supposedly a strength. It’s a lot of talk and much less action.
At running back this game I felt we should have used a lot of Keith Ford coming into this game. After the game I thought Trayveon had a lot more carries but he had 15 carries where Ford had 11 so they were pretty equal. Trayveon got 38 yards and Ford got 20 so Trayveon was definitely the better running back this game but not by much. Trayveon had some nice catches out of the backfield so looks like he was the right choice. I still prefer the idea of trying to establish the run with Ford between the tackles and then use Trayveon as the homerun threat but let’s face it against Bama there was no homeruns to be had.
As for the offensive line they’re doing okay but they’re not dominant by any stretch. If it wasn’t for Mond’s athleticism there would have been a lot more than the 4 sacks. We definitely couldn’t establish the run either. I know it’s Alabama but still would like to see our offensive line establish a bigger presence at the line of scrimmage. This is just a decent but not great offensive line. I was hoping more out of Jim Turner at this point but we’ll see what happens the rest of the season. There’s a LOT of improving to be done here.
One key play that didn’t matter in the grand scheme now but proves this offensive staff isn’t thinking 2-3 plays out is when we got the late pass to Buckley to the 1 yard line. We had no timeouts and there was about 40 seconds left on the clock. We’re done two scores. We call a run play that wasn’t successful and there’s another 20 seconds that ran off the clock. We scored on a Mond run the next play but it was down to 19 seconds. We should have ABSOLUTELY called a pass play with 40 seconds left if we’re thinking about what would be needed to win the game. At worst a roll out by Mond so he can throw the ball away to save clock. We were out of timeouts partially because we couldn’t get a play in on time in the THIRD quarter. There is NO reason where a timeout should ever be used because you’re late to get in a play in third quarter. But yet we’re not using the clock with any consideration for what’s going on in the game. It’s minor but it shouldn’t be. Thinking small is going to cost us in a game that we can actually win. It already did with UCLA.
Remember when I got off the Chavis train after Arkansas? Well, um, I’m checking departure times and locations because I’m SERIOUSLY thinking of getting back on. Outside of maybe 3-4 plays, that was an AWESOME defensive effort for 4 quarters against a great offense. I mean it was outstanding. Now, Bama did play into our strength of stopping the run as Bama ran twice as many times as they attempted to pass. Bama was hell bent on running the ball and we didn’t back down at all. We traded punches all night with Bama so kudos to the Chief and company.
If I have to give an MVP for this game it’s to the Front 6 of our defensive line and Otara Alaka and Tyrel Dodson. Those guys took shots from Bama all night and never backed down and traded punches for all 4 quarters. I mean that looked like real slobber knocker football and A&M stood their ground the whole damn game. We sacked Hurts 3 times which is pretty remarkable as it takes more than one guy to sack Hurts because of his scrambling ability. It takes linemen and linebackers keeping containment and basically corralling Hurts. Hurts still ran for 76 yards but the dude is an underrated runner so he’s going to get his. You take away Damien Harris’ 75 yard run and Harris and Scarbrough got about 100 yards on 28 carries. That’s freaking remarkable. Our defensive line and linebackers were just outstanding all game long.
As for everyone else it was pretty much Armani Watts and nobody else. Bama was attacking our front so the defensive backs and other linebackers didn’t get many opportunities but Watts was his usual self being all over the field making stops. He had 7 solo tackles which is pretty impressive. That is his specialty though of playing forward but he still showed up.
As for what else to say about this defense you saw it. Alabama walked into Kyle Field wanting to establish the run and we shut them down for the most part. Coming into the season outside of the defensive tackles I didn’t think we had the talent at defensive end to do what we did against Bama. Durham and Johnson at defensive end deserve major props for filling in for Garrett and Hall. These guys have really been the difference in this defense. Bama only converted 4 of 14 third downs which is also remarkable. That’s less than 30% which you can’t ask for much more.
If we can keep up what happened against Bama for four quarters there’s no doubt we can win 9 games. The Chief will basically save Sumlin’s job. I think at this point Chief just keeps the defense’s ears pinned back and utilize the strength of this defense which is the defensive line and the linebackers. I won’t call them the front 7 as outside Alaka and Dodson there’s not a clear third linebacker to me. Whatever you want to call it those 6 guys are pretty damn good. Not many teams can trade punches with Alabama for four quarters and keep delivering blows until the end of the game. Our defense did that on Saturday night and that’s pretty remarkable.
Special Teams had two big key moments. The first was LaCamera’s 52 yard field goal to get the first points on the board. That was nice shot to show Bama we came to play. The second was the punt block by the 12th Man. It was a short punt so it wasn’t difficult but glad we were able to get back there. We actually might have been better off letting them punt it out but if you can block the punt you block it. I just wish we tried more punt blocks since we’re not returning any. Our punt return team remains horrible.
Other than those things special teams was it’s usual not special self. Nothing of great memory.
Coming into the season I thought the Florida game would be a loss but was winnable. At this point I think we beat Florida. I really do. I think our defense brings the pressure and shuts the Florida offense down. I think our offense does enough big plays to score the needed points to walk out of The Swamp with a win. I’m not sure 20 points are scored in that game but I think A&M can win. Hell, I think A&M might actually blow Florida out so don’t be surprised by that. If I had to pick a score I’d say 23-9 Aggies.
That will put us at 6-2 because we’ll beat New Mexico and we’ll have games remaining against Miss St, Auburn, Ole Miss, and LSU. I think at worst we’ll split those which will put us at 8-4 on the season at minimum. Based on what I’ve seen I think there’s a strong chance we can beat every team but Auburn. Auburn is absolutely beatable at Kyle even though Sumlin has never done it. This could actually be a 10-2 team and be the second best team in the West. Crazy to think but based on what I saw on Saturday night it’s possible because I think the Aggie defense might have just figured things out.
Now, if we lose to Florida everything I just wrote is off the table as I think we’ll do our usual late season swoon. We’ll have a good idea of where things are headed with Sumlin by the end of the Florida game. It could be post Bama or post UCLA. I have no clue but I do think we win the game this weekend. Maybe we swoon after that but I don’t think so. This team fought too hard on Saturday to make me think they swoon one final time for Sumlin.