We. Beat. Bama.

We beat Bama.

Say it again – We.  Beat.  Bama.

One more time – WE.  BEAT.  BAMA!!!

Damn that feels good.  Before I go any further let me say this – That was an AWESOME win but it wasn’t a program defining win.  Not even close.  That was a win over the best team in the country and one step closer to getting on their level.  We still have two losses and don’t even control our own destiny in our division.  Program defining wins are the kind that launch you to a level of success you’ve never experienced before.  We did this 9 years ago.  This was not a program defining win.

Right now, this team is still behind the 2020 team.  Scary to think but it’s true.

Enjoy the win but let’s not get carried away on what it means for Aggie football.  As Jimbo said – We ain’t done yet.  Not even close.  We still need to get to a point where we control our own destiny for a national title.

I knew this win was possible.  However, I didn’t think it would happen after what I saw the last two weeks.  I’ve been consistent in saying this team is more talented than last season but lacking on experience.  I believed the lack of experience would continue to show against Bama. 

I’ve never been happier to be wrong.  The talent on this team showed up and showed out.  This team went toe to toe with the best team country simply because it had the talent.  It wasn’t even mistake free football.  They simply just executed for most of the night and had the talent to go toe to toe.  We swung first, they swung back, and when it mattered most we delivered the divisive blow.

The most impressive part of this game was we gave up 21 unanswered points late in the game to go down by a touchdown.  Bama was starting to exert their will and it sure felt like they were going to get the victory.  However, this Aggie team didn’t quit.  They kept swinging back.  We put together a solid drive to tie the game and then the Aggie defense made an amazing stand.  Even with that I thought we were headed to overtime.

The Aggie team had a few more punches and drove down into field goal range where Seth Small delivered the final blow as time expired.  The fans and stands exploded.

It’s one thing to go up on Alabama and hold a lead.  It’s something completely different to blow a lead only to claw back and take the lead at the last possible moment.  That takes grit and determination.  For 60 minutes against the best team in the country the Aggies not only never gave up but had enough confidence they could win.  We executed late like we did because of confidence.  It was an outstanding effort.

I’ve been to a lot of games at Kyle Field and that was an outstanding environment.  It’s going to sway some recruits without a doubt.  It showcased what Kyle can be and what this program is capable of.  While I’m not going to call this a program defining win it certainly was a program building boost.

After the last two games it sure seemed like something we’ve seen before.  We’ve routinely experienced a disappointing season after a good season and struggle to hold recruits.  2021 will likely turn out be a level of disappointment but we still might be able to salvage a good portion of this season.  While we don’t control our own destiny in the SEC West we can still be the third best team in the SEC and finish in the Top 10.  That’s a damn good season by most standards.

We beat Bama.

Let’s get to the game itself.

Offense:

Coaching:

I’ve been hard on Jimbo for not trying to win games we weren’t quite ready to win.  That’s how I felt about this game.  I knew we had the talent to win but I didn’t think we had the experience.  I thought Jimbo would lay up yet again.  Jimbo decided he wasn’t going to let experience get in the way of trying to win.

His play calling was tremendous.  It felt like we went a little stale in the second half but I feel that was a little more on execution than play calling.  Bama decided to sell out on the run and Calzada went cold for a little bit.  He missed on some passes and we just couldn’t get any momentum going.  Meanwhile when it mattered most we didn’t back down and went back on the attack.

I’m totally okay with the play calling as it’s hard to call a complete game.  Great staffs make adjustments and you have to adjust back.  When it mattered most we had the play calls and execution.

Statistically Bama won this game.  They won time of possession and outgained us by 150 yards.  What mattered most though was the score and we got that.  Jimbo and his staff deserve some MAJOR credit.  They called a game for a team short on experience but with enough talent to beat the best team in the country.  Just win, baby.  That’s exactly what we did.  Kudos to the coaching staff.

Quarterback:

Is it okay if I eat my crow with BBQ sauce?  I think BBQ sauce makes everything better.

Zach Calzada showed everyone why he was a four-star recruit and a ton of schools wanted him.  He showed why Jimbo Fisher said over the summer he’s got an NFL career ahead of him.  He proved every doubter wrong and I couldn’t be happier for him.

4th quarter Colorado game Zach Calzada showed up for three quarters.  The dude came out throwing perfect passes.  The line certainly gave him time but he was confident the whole game.  He knew the game plan and executed it wonderfully.

He made one mistake on the interception in the first half and was a little off in the third quarter.  When it mattered most in the 4th quarter he hit the passes he needed to.  It also helped that his receivers didn’t have any crucial drops.

I don’t know what the future holds for Zach Calzada but you sure hope this is the game that he can build on.  He certainly appears to have taken a major step.  I’m really hoping this is a Kellen Mond moment over Florida in 2020.  The other is a Trevor Knight leading OU over Bama in the 2014 Sugar Bowl and he ends up playing somewhere else.  That path is up to him because he’s got the keys to the kingdom right now.

For one night he showed everyone what he’s capable of.  I hope there’s more where that came from.

Running Backs:

I assumed coming into this game Bama would focus on shutting down our run.  They did.  Even despite that we had enough success on the ground.  Spiller had a pretty pedestrian 16 carries for 46 yards but his running helped set the tone early on and forced Bama into defending us a certain way.  His touchdown run was outstanding.  Because of Spiller’s efforts the Bama defense couldn’t quit focusing on the run which I think helped our middle receivers get open against their safeties.  Their safeties had to defend the run and the pass.

What these guys do through the air is outstanding.  Spiller and Achane are outstanding receivers either running a flare out or down the sidelines.  Achane and Spiller were a perfect 7 for 7 on targets for 87 yards.  These guys have a real knack for moving the chains and keeping the defense honest because there’s another element that must be defended.

In addition they’re also outstanding blockers when the blitz is coming.

Can’t say enough about these guys.

Offensive Line:

If I’m not mistaken this was the sixth combination of players we’ve used on the offensive line this season.  This was game six.  Six games and six different combinations.  Usually that’s not good.  It didn’t matter as this unit showed up in a big way.  These guys were outstanding.  Just flipping outstanding.

They created holes for the running backs in the first half and kept Calzada clean all night long.  They went up against NFL caliber defensive linemen and linebackers and imposed their will at times.  They seemed to get a bit stalemated in the second half but Bama was selling out for to the run.  They held their own all night long against one of the best defenses in the country.

They did an excellent job picking up the blitz which they’ve struggled with this season.  They seem to be figuring out playing with one another.

Just in case you don’t know their names and positions here they are:

Kenyon Green – Left Tackle
Blake Trainor – Left Guard
Bryce Foster – Center
Layden Robinson – Right Guard
Reuben Fatheree, Jr. – Right Tackle

What a game for those five guys.

I don’t now what combination we go back to once Jhamir Johnson is back from his suspension.  At this point I’d roll with these guys.  The five of these guys earned it so let’s just keep rolling with them.  You’re not supposed to lose your job over an injury but I have no problem losing your job to a suspension.  Blake Trainor deserves to stay in the starting lineup.

I would make one switch in moving Fatheree to left tackle and Kenyon Green back to right tackle.  I think Fatheree is a better pass blocker at left tackle and Green the better blocking tackle.  Having Green and Layden Robinson on the same side seems like a great way to open holes for the running backs.  I get paid zero dollars for this blog and Jimbo gets $9 million so I suppose we can defer to him.

Either way, kudos to the five guys on the offensive line on Saturday night.  They went toe to toe against Bama and imposed their will at times.  It was an impressive effort and I hope they can keep it up.

Wide Receivers:

I thought the receivers were outstanding on Saturday night.  Not dominant by any stretch but they were solid.  Ainias Smith lead the way followed by Jalen Wydermyer.  Smith caught 6 balls for 85 yards and two scores.  Wydermyer caught 3 balls for 73 yards and one score.  Calzada actually missed each of these guys for what could have been another touchdown.

On our first possession of the fourth quarter Calzada was forced out of the pocket.  As he was rolling right he spotted Smith who had burned the secondary.  Calzada let a bomb fly and missed Smith by a foot or two.  It was an unbelievably tough pass but had they connected it might have put the game away.  We wound up punting on that possession.

On our last offensive possession Bama sold out for the blitz to try and get us out of field goal range.  Jimbo smartly knew it was coming and sent Wydermyer down the field.  Wydermyer slipped by the defender but Calzada couldn’t get enough on the ball in the face of the blitz for Wydermyer to go get it and score.  We got a pass interference so the result was fine but if Calzada could have connected on that pass it could have been a 7-point win rather than a last second field goal.

I’m not blaming Calzada for that.  I’m just pointing out Smith and Wydermyer had two possible touchdowns we just couldn’t quite connect on due to pressure in the backfield from Bama.  We were close to blowing that game open.

I’ve talked about the running backs as key receivers as well.  They are key contributors to this receiving unit.

As for the rest of the receivers Demas, Preston, and Lane caught five balls.  I’m fine with them not doing more.  Bama has an outstanding secondary.  Jimbo decided to attack it with his two best guys just running down the field.  It was a smart move.  Let the guys that have produced in the past carry the receiving load.  Let other guys essentially be decoys that Bama had to cover.

One thing I’ve also noticed with Calzada as it relates to the receivers is he’s much better throwing balls down the field.  It forces him to put touch on the ball rather than gunning fastballs on a crossing or stop route.  I’ll be curious to see if Jimbo and the receivers figure out a way to run more routes down the field since that’s what Calzada seems to do best.

Great job by this whole unit.

Defense:

Coaching:

Just when I was totally down on Mike Elko for his decisions against Mississippi State he totally went and redeemed himself against the best team in the country.  I’m still a little frustrated though.  If he calls the game he did against Bama against Mississippi State we have one loss and control our destiny to the national championship.  We’re that close.

Maybe he needed the Mississippi State game to wake himself up.  Whatever it was it worked.

I know lots of people still think of Bama as a dominant defense with an evolved offense.  It’s actually the other way around.  Bama is now a dominant offense with an evolved defense.  Don’t get me wrong as they’re still loaded with NFL guys on defense but this whole team has evolved.  For the last few years Bama has had one of the best offenses in the country.

This current version of the Bama offense is loaded with elite receiver speed and an outstanding quarterback.  Of course they still have an outstanding offensive and running game.  I really feel this Bama offense is the best in the country.  I do think they’re still feeling their way a bit and I think we got them at a great time.  This offense is going to torch a lot of teams the rest of this season.

The receivers were turning passes at the line of scrimmage into 4-8 yard gains because they’re so fast.  It’s basically a long hand off.  They are excellent at blocking, catching, and running.  They don’t have the names at receiver they had last season but these guys are still damn good.  It’s probably the best wide receiver unit in the country.  Saban’s just re-loading at receiver these days.

What Mike Elko did to Bryce Young (Bama QB) was the difference in the game.  We got to Young early and that changed the complexion of the game.  He was never truly settled and ready to let the ball fly.  Because of that he forced some passes he couldn’t quite connect on. 

The Bama offense finally synced up and came charging back scoring 21 unanswered points.  As part of that the Aggie defense did an outstanding job converting two 1st and goals to field goals.  That was part of the difference in the game.  That’s a potential 8-point swing if those two possessions result in touchdowns over field goals.

There’s some armchair quarterbacking over if Bama should have run more in those situations but the Aggie defense has been good at stopping short yardage plays.  We did it against Colorado, Arkansas, and even Mississippi State.  I know they’re Bama but I agree with what Bama was trying to do.  They had superior matchups outside but the players just didn’t execute.  It worked on their last touchdown where we didn’t get lined up correctly.  We were clearly focused on the inside.

It’s fun and easy to make fun of Bill O’Brien who’s the former Texans head coach and now Bama offensive coordinator.  I don’t have an issue with his play calling in those situations.  I think he learned in the Florida game to keep his foot down on the gas and it almost worked.

Either way I thought Mike Elko had an amazing game plan despite the points we gave up.  In the end we made the stop we had to and our offense did enough to get the win as time expired.  I have no idea what happens if that game goes to overtime but I’m glad we didn’t find out.  Take the win and storm the field with the $100,000 fine.

By the way – I’m back on paying Mike Elko $5 million a season to stay and coach our defense.  We all make mistakes from time to time…

Defensive Line:

As expected, these guys were the heart and soul of the defense.  Tyree Johnson had a breakout game recording two sacks and being in the backfield pretty much all night long.  Michael Clemons was his usual self on the outside tying up the Bama tackles and getting a sack.  Demarvin Leal spent most of his night lined up inside just wreaking havoc.  Jayden Peevy was solid lined up next to Leal most of the night.  McKinnley Jackson and Isaiah Raikes did a good job rotating in an out.

I know we gave up 38 points but this unit set the tone for the whole night letting Bryce Young know he couldn’t get comfortable.  They also dictated to Bill O’Brien Bama was going to battle for running yards and weren’t going to have time to go deep.

Alabama won’t face a better defensive line until they play Georgia.  This unit is elite SEC caliber.  Jimbo and his assistants have just done an outstanding job recruiting and developing SEC caliber defensive linemen.

Without these guys we’re not knocking on the door of being able to challenge Alabama every season.  Elite SEC teams win in the trenches.  These guys are a major reason why we’re able to do so.

Linebackers:

Our linebackers are still the weakest link of this defense but they’re not bad.  They’re simply out of position from time to time.  I wouldn’t say we truly miss Buddy Johnson but I do think this defense would be much improved with him in the middle.

The good thing about our linebackers is they’re physically talented.  They’re not getting beat physically.  They’re just not in the correct position at times due to not diagnosing the play properly.

They did fine on Saturday night considering who they are.  They missed a few assignments here and there which really allowed Bama to roll up some yards on the ground.

However, they were REALLY solid on pass pressure and helped change the complexion of the game in that regard.  This is their strength because our defensive line is so good at consuming the offensive line.  These guys get to benefit from one of the best defensive lines in the SEC getting turned loose to chase the quarterback.

I hold out hope they continue to develop overall but I think Elko learned a valuable lesson in the Mississippi State game.  These guys are best when they’re allowed to be disruptive.  They’re going to make mistakes from time to time but it’s also best if Elko puts them in a position to be disruptive.  Even just the threat of being disruptive helps this unit in a big way.

Hopefully we continue to see these guys inched up on the line of scrimmage as it’s their best element.

Secondary:

These guys are the second-best unit on the defense and it showed on Saturday night.  They gave up 369 yards of receiving but they didn’t break.  Bama had two completions over 30 yards on Saturday night.  If you remember Bama games in the past couple of years they’d have a couple long touchdown passes over 50 yards.  That didn’t happen on Saturday night.  Most of that was thanks to the guys up front but this secondary played bend but don’t break defense remarkably well.

They did a really solid job of harassing the Bama receivers all night long which lead to some timely incompletions.  You’re not going to shut down the Bama receivers so at minimum they need to know they’re going to work for completions and there’s going to be contact when they catch the ball.

Individually I thought Jaylon Jones looked good.  He’s by far our best cover corner.  He’s physical enough though to make receivers work for completions.

Antonio Johnson looked great.  Demani Richardson had one of the plays of the game with his interception in the end zone.  That interception was all him.  He was in great position to defend the receiver but most importantly he recognized the route and was able to cut underneath to make a play on the ball.  That’s being prepared.

I don’t know if Leon O’Neal played the best game of his life but it was up there.  I don’t recall him making any major mistakes.  He did an outstanding job tackling all night and blitzed beautifully sacking Bryce Young once.  He was also in a great spot to pick up the ball on a 3rd and 1 when Bama’s running back didn’t get the hand off.  He seemed to have himself in the right spot all night long and executed well.  This guy has really matured and I’m very proud of him.

This unit is going to make mistakes from time to time and give up plays.  They’re also a unit that’s going to make big plays.  I think Elko also learned from the Mississippi State game this unit is better off attempting to make some plays here and there.  These guys can play football.  It’s okay to take some chances rather than sit on our heels.

Special Teams:

Fortunately and unfortunately I have to write about special teams.

The Punt Block:

This was 100% on coaching.  We completely screwed up because we gave this to Bama.  I haven’t been paying attention all season but in this game we used two “personal protectors.”  Those are the guys lined up between the line and punter.  They’re supposed to be a secondary/last line of defense for the punter.  I’ve seen most teams use three guys but we used two on Saturday night.  I don’t know if that’s how we’ve been doing it all year but Bama created an opportunity because of it.

Bama set this up in classic Nick Saban fashion.  On the previous punt they overloaded one side but didn’t send everyone.  They were just checking numbers.  On the next punt they overloaded the same side.  When A&M didn’t react like the previous punt they sent everyone and overwhelmed the “personal protectors.”  Nice job by Saban and his crew but a TERRIBLE job by Jimbo and his crew.  Someone should have noticed it on the previous punt and reacted accordingly.

That could have been in a HUGE momentum swing but it wasn’t because…

The Kickoff Return:

I personally think this was the play of the game.  Bama had just swung some momentum their way.  They were still down a touchdown but the Aggie offense was not doing much.  That punt block sure felt like one of those plays where the momentum was about to swing big time.  Some people believe a blocked punt is the most demoralizing play in football.  I don’t know if I’d say that but it’s up there.

However, Devon Achane made that play moot for the most part.  He hadn’t returned a kick all night long but the ensuing kick off fell a little short of the goal line so he decided to take it.  He caught it in stride, took a few more strides, saw a hole, hit the hole, and was gone.  It was beautiful.

The dude is so damn fast.  25 yards after the catch he still had some traffic to get out of but everyone in the stadium knew he was gone.  Nobody could catch him.  This is Alabama who’s special teams players can start at pretty much every program in the country.  They have plenty of speed.

The don’t have Devon Achane speed though.  Before he got to midfield this dude had run away from the Bama kick off team.  All he did was field the ball cleanly and head up field.  It’s not like he did a bunch of cuts and jukes to suck everyone in.  He simply ran straight and before midfield he cleared everyone coasting the last 10 yards into the end zone.  He’s so fast he let up the last 10 yards because nobody could catch him.  That’s unreal.

He’s got really great vision which helps a ton but damn the dude can fly.  He’s a true homerun threat.  Having to defend guys like Devon Achane is demoralizing because sometimes you just can’t do it.

Looking Forward:

Is this the Florida game from last season?  Do the Aggies rip off 7 straight wins and finish in the Top 10?  I have no idea but it sure feels like it.  The Aggies that played on Saturday night can beat every team left on their schedule.  That’s pretty obvious considering Bama is the best team in the country.  That doesn’t mean it’ll happen though.

We need to see if this offensive line and quarterback that showed up for 3 quarters can do the same the rest of the way.  I think they can.  I think we’re going to see a lot of what we saw after the Florida game last year.  Establish the run and hit some passes from time to time.  I think that will do wonders for Calzada or King if/when he comes back.  I’m not talking about a quarterback controversy.  Just acknowledging King may still come back this season as no one seems to really know. 

It was originally expected Kind would be out 4-6 weeks but Jimbo mentioned before the game he may not be back this season.  At this point I hope it doesn’t matter.  We can win 7 in a row no matter who’s under center.

We have two of the best running backs in the country and they need to be the focus of this offense.  I think Jimbo will go back to this without question.  Especially if we can get some consistency in who’s playing on the offensive line.

We need to get through Missouri and South Carolina first before worrying about November.  Strangely Auburn worries me more than Ole Miss or LSU right now.  That’s not to say Ole Miss or LSU will be easy games but I think we match up with those teams really well right now.

I do think we’re going to look back at the Mississippi State game and wonder what could have been.  Oh well.  Welcome to Aggie Football.  Give me 11 wins and a Top 10 finish so we can focus on next year.  There’s always next year…

We.  Beat.  Bama.

In other news I have a batch of Make Aggie Football Great Again hats in stock.  They’re $25 including shipping.  I believe this is going to be the last batch.  I truly think we’re going 7-0 with a Top 10 finish.  When that happens there we won’t be any need or hope to Make Aggie Football Great Again.  Jimbo will have us on solid footing and we’ll be where we need to be.  We’ll remember 2020 and 2021 as the early foundation of a great run in Aggie Football.

If you want one shoot me an email at chewyredding@yahoo.com.

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