Thoughts on the Alabama Game

This week’s write up won’t be as long as normal.  This Texas A&M team was never beating Alabama.  Sure, there was technically a chance but Alabama is still immensely talented coming off a 2 loss season.  All Nick Saban does after a 2 loss season is win a national championship.  There’s a good chance this Alabama team doesn’t lose a game all year.  Texas A&M losing to Bama on Saturday will be like 13 other teams this season.

Still, you wish the Aggies could have been more competitive.  There was a fleeting moment when the score was 14-14 and it looked like the Aggies might compete.  Saban quickly squashed that.  Going into halftime the game was pretty much done.

Defense:

Normally I start with the offense but I’m going to start with the defense this week.  I’m not going to do unit breakdowns like I normally do either.

Nick Saban and his staff did an outstanding job of understating the strength and weakness of the Aggie defense.  As we know it’s a strong unit up front but suspect to the pass.  It’s better against the pass than in years past but it’s still got a ways to go.  There are still holes in this secondary. 

Alabama basically used the run to not only set up the pass but set up deep balls.  It was a marvelous job of coaching.  For the most part the Aggie defense bottled up the run.  Bama rushed 28 times for 109 yards and two scores.  That’s a little under 3.9 yards per carry.  That’s not a dominant effort for the Aggies but Alabama has a solid offensive line and an NFL caliber running back in Najee Harris.  Their longest run was 16 yards and Harris himself never ran for more than 6 yards on a single carry.  That’s a decent enough job by our defense up front.

The Bama offense annihilated the Aggie team with deep balls.  Bama did a tremendous job of attacking the weakest people in the secondary.  They went after Myles Jones, Devin Morris, Jaylen Jones, and Keldrick Carper.  Jaylen Jones has plenty of talent but he’s a true freshman playing in his second game.  He wasn’t ready for the talent Alabama has.

Bama had three touchdown passes of 78, 87, and 63 yards.  Each time they just isolated one of their speed burners on a vulnerable Aggie secondary member and Mac Jones hit them in stride.  Credit to Bama for a great game plan and executing.

I thought the defensive line and linebackers did a pretty good job.  They gave the Bama offensive line a lot of trouble for much of the game.  The defensive line had a nice tip and catch interception that could have swayed the game but it didn’t matter in the end.  The linebackers executed most of their assignments but were just playing more talented guys.  Individually, Michael Clemons continues to look like a guy that can create pressure by himself.  There’s certainly some positives for the defense other than the deep touchdowns.

If there’s one gripe I have about this game it’s the lack of blitzes.  I think we blitzed once and that resulted in one of the long touchdown passes.  Maybe Elko was afraid they would get burned again.  Maybe he felt his defensive line was doing a decent enough job getting pressure.  Maybe he though it wouldn’t matter.  He was probably right.  More blitzes wouldn’t have mattered but it would have been nice to see the attempt jus to see what could happen.

While the defense wasn’t without fault in this game the reality is A&M was never winning this game. Bama is just too talented from a team standpoint as a whole and didn’t make mistakes.  You can’t do anything defensively if you can’t force Bama into making mistakes.  Lick your wounds and move on to Florida.

Offense:

Offensive Line:

I must give these guys credit as they seem to have developed beyond last season.  They’re still not that great but they’re a little more serviceable than last year.  Since A&M played from behind most of the game we really couldn’t focus on the running game to see if we could truly get it going.

When it comes to pass blocking they’re doing a better job of engaging defenders.  In years past they would flat out miss defenders.  These guys are getting pushed back but at least they’re slowing the opposing defense down just a little bit.  They still struggle with blitzes though.

This unit still has issues but for now I’m going to leave them alone.  They’ve improved to a degree.  They are who they are.  They’re not going to establish the run against strong SEC defenses.  All you can hope for is for them to give the quarterback some time to throw by engaging the defender while getting pushed back.

I’m dead serious.  Simply engaging the defender rather than miss the defender straight up is an improvement for this unit.  It’s the little things.

Running Backs:

Spiller couldn’t really get going despite 11 attempts for 25 yards.  Really not much to write about here.  The running game was just never going to be in a factor with the way this game played out.  It takes a while to establish the run against a team like Bama and you can’t do that playing behind the whole game.

Hopefully the run game materializes the rest of the season.  I do see some positives with Spiller and Smith getting hand offs.

Wide Receivers:

Ainias Smith became the first non-tight end to have a touchdown reception over 40 yards in SEC play during Jimbo’s tenure.  That was done solely on his athleticism.  He’s a hybrid receiver/running back so we still have no true wide receiver score a touchdown over 40 yards in the SEC over the past three seasons.  Meanwhile Bama had three long touchdown passes in one game.

Just once I’d love to see an Aggie receiver running deep due to busted coverage and get hit it in stride for a touchdown.  I’d be even happier if it was because the receiver is just so talented they can blow by coverage by themselves.  It still hasn’t happened under Jimbo’s watch.  Deep balls remain elusive for this offensive unit when another SEC team is on the schedule.

Ainias Smith was our best receiver on the day catching six balls for 123 yards and two touchdowns.  The dude is a baller.  Wydermyer was our next best pass catcher with 8 receptions for 82 yards. He almost added an amazing catch on the sidelines but couldn’t hold on.  It was good to see him come back after a bad performance against Vandy.

Chase Lane was targeted 11 times but only caught 6 balls for 62 yards.  Some of the passes were uncatchable but at the same time he’s not regularly getting open.  The rest of the unit was basically the same.  Jalen Preston was targeted 5 times and only caught two balls for 27 yards.  He was the target of the interception returned for a touchdown and did nothing to fight for the ball or chase the defender down.

My biggest gripe with this unit for guys not named Smith and Wydermyer is they don’t fight for the ball.  They just don’t adjust and go after balls.  They basically only catch balls if they’re open and it’s a catchable ball.  Other than that, they’re not making much effort.

Demas saw some snaps and the stat sheet shows he was targeted once.  I guess Jimbo is bringing him along slowly but this dude needs to see snaps.  The other true freshman in Price and Muhammed ought to start seeing snaps as well.  I like this unit better than last year’s unit but it’s not by much at this point.  We need to find some guys that will fight for the football.

We’ve got issues with the offensive line and quarterback but these guys aren’t helping either.  At some point we need a true receiver to step up and be a threat the defense must worry about.  It’s not there right now.

Quarterback:

For the first time in Jimbo’s time at A&M I get to talk about two quarterbacks in a game. I feel like Lawrence in Office Space with a million dollars.

Kellen Mond did what Kellen Mond does.  He made some decent passes but he also missed a bunch of passes.  His receivers dropped a couple balls they should have caught.  Statistically he didn’t look bad.  He was 25 of 44 for 318 yards with 3 touchdowns and 1 interception.  The interception was a back breaker as it was a Pick 6 that took the score from 21-14 to 28-14 midway through the second half.  The Aggies would never stand a chance after that play.

A completion percentage of 56% isn’t terrible against Bama but it’s the way Mond does it.  He’ll throw a beautiful ball at times and an ugly pass the next.  He’s terribly inconsistent.  The offense never gained any true momentum.  He simply failed to make plays in the game much like he did all last season against better opponents.  He did nothing to put the team on his shoulders.  He’s a senior and it’s disappointing to watch.

If you stuck around for the whole game you saw Haynes King take the reins for the final offensive drive.  I wasn’t totally surprised to see King take the field over Calzada.  He’s a true freshman but I think his skill set is better served for what this team needs.  Calzada has a cannon but that doesn’t really help if the offensive line can’t block and receivers can’t get open.  King offers mobility.

King didn’t look that great passing but his running was outstanding.  I understand the game was out of reach and Bama was playing a couple backups but King was decisive in running the ball.  That’s what this offense needs.  A quarterback that WILL run.  Mond has the ability but just chooses not to.

King’s final play was an interception in the end zone but I don’t have a problem with it.  He had single coverage with Chase Lane and put the ball where Chase Lane could make a play on it.  Lane didn’t and the Bama defender did.  At some point you must take chances as a quarterback.  Especially with this team.

King doesn’t appear to have the arm that Mond or Calzada has but if he’s smart and accurate it’s more valuable.  Completions matter more than style.

It was a small sample set but I like what I saw out of King.  He appears to have some moxie and you need moxie at quarterback.  You need someone who’s willing to show the team he’s willing to take chances to make plays.  Mond should have developed that by now.

Special Teams:

Seth Small missed what should have been an easy field goal.  Our kick and punt returners fair caught everything.  None of it mattered.

Looking Forward:

I was shocked Jimbo put in King.  That was a HUGE sign he’s looking for something different.  Even if he didn’t want Mond in on that last series he could have put in Calzada.  That’s the safe play and minimizes controversy.

Calzada has been in this program since January of 2019.  That’s almost two seasons.  Jimbo decided to put in the guy who was playing at Longview High School this time last season.  No offense to Longview but it’s a far cry from Longview High School to Tuscaloosa, Alabama in less than 12 months. 

I think it’s pretty telling for what Jimbo sees playing out at quarterback the rest of the season.  I still believe Mond was the best option at quarterback for the last two seasons.  Starkel wasn’t the guy two seasons ago and Calzada didn’t get the back up reps against Bama on Saturday he wasn’t ready last season.

I do think it’s obvious Jimbo put Kellen Mond on notice.  If you’re going to continue to do the same things you’re not going to take snaps.  I’m totally good with that.

I also think by going with King that Jimbo has a better grasp of the offensive issues than we give him credit for. 

My personal belief is that Mond will start against Florida and struggle.  Florida will be up by two touchdowns at half.  King will start the second half and we’ll never look back.  We won’t beat Florida but I think King will do enough to hold on to the starting job.  King won’t be without his struggles as he’ll make plenty of mistakes but it’s time for a youth movement with Aggie football.

I’m just a little shocked Jimbo is willing to go to it so soon.  It’s good to see though as it’s warranted.

It’s time for a youth movement on the offensive side of Aggie football.  Jimbo’s recruited the talent so it’s time for them to all grow up together.  I’d much rather go 5-5 with the younger more talented guys gaining real experience.  I think we could pull off 7 wins if we do it sooner than later.

It’ll be a sacrifice worth making.  Let’s Make Aggie Football Great Again.

#MAFGA

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