Postgame analysis of Alabama's win at Texas A&M:
THREE THINGS WORTH TALKING ABOUT
On a third-and-six from the A&M 16-yard line — 8:55 remaining in the half — Tua Tagovailoa had wideout Jerry Jeudy open in the middle of the Aggies' coverage.
Both of Texas A&M’s inside linebackers dropped to their curls, and as Jeudy ran his route, a 10-, to 12-yard dig, as any intelligent receiver would, he identified the soft spot in the coverage and sat in the hole that the Aggie backers left open, breaking off his route.
However, Tagovailoa threw the ball where he thought Jeudy would be, and the ball landed incomplete, skipping across the grass of Kyle Field into the end zone where Jeudy should have and would have been if he would have finished the route.
It was a simple football miscommunication prompted by high football IQ’s on each players' part: Tagovailoa leading his receiver into the next window of the zone — assuming Jeudy completes his schedule route — and Jeudy cutting his route off short to sit in a softer spot of the coverage.
Both decisions, if the two were on the same page or one of them, would have netted a completion and possibly more.
OK, cool. But what followed was interesting: the two had a cute little tiff like a couple whose tension over the past couple of weeks have boiled over just a bit.
Not to stir the pot, or assume that there is any tension between Tua and Jeudy, but did you all see how many targets Jeudy had in first half Saturday? Three.
Or what about the fact that he hasn’t had 100 yards receiving since the second game of the year? Or that he recorded 18 catches over the course of the first two weeks of the season compared the 24 he has caught in the last four.
Again, this is by no means an assumption that there’s trouble in paradise between arguably the best quarterback-receiver tandem in the country, but this is an acknowledgement of the fact that Jeudy has not been receiving the touches or targets he deserves.
Why that is, who knows? Could be the coverage he commands. Could be the amount of talent at the position and the luxury the Tide has to spread the ball around. Could be nothing at all.
He finished with eight targets on the night, but only reeled in four catches for 50 yards and no scores.
Alabama’s run defense stands tall
Texas A&M’s first drive of the game looked like this: 15 plays, 75 yards, 8:03 time of possession.
That was the longest sustained drive, time of possession-speaking, that any team has put together on Alabama all year. Of the 75 yards on the drive, 42 yards came on the ground.
TAMU ran right into the teeth of Alabama’s defense with physicality and intentionally, running 10 times on the first drive alone. They even concluded the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run (quarterback sneak) by Kellen Mond.
That drive looked like it was going to be the tone of the game for A&M: run at an Alabama defense that’s middle of the pack in the SEC in rushing defense and force a young linebacking core to get downhill and be decisive.
Well, that stalled. The Aggies finished with 125 yards rushing on the night. And if it wasn’t for runs of 22 and 36 yards by Mond in the fourth quarter, Texas A&M wouldn’t have broken 100 yards on the night, especially considering that TAMU running backs were held to 35 yards on 12 carries.
Special teams still a mixed bag
If you want a microcosm of what Alabama special teams has been this year, then look no further than a blocked punt for a touchdown-converted extra point sequence in the early fourth quarter Saturday.
Alabama’s Ale Kaho blocked Braden Mann’s punt and after rolling backward roughly 12 yards, Alabama’s Tyrell Shavers picked it up at the 2-yard line and took it in for a score. The ensuing extra point? It was good, bouncing off the right upright.
That was the second time on the afternoon that Alabama kicker Joseph Bulovas knocked one in off the right upright, just barely good. Oh, he also had an extra point blocked, and the kicking game as a whole remains shakey, despite Bulovas going 2-for-2 on field goal attempts with a long of 35.
Besides a funky kicking game that has been suspect all year, Alabama excelled on special teams. Jaylen Waddle shined in his return home, returning four punts for 128 yards.
Henry Ruggs III joined the festivities, but in the kickoff return game, tallying 131 return yards and setting up Alabama with great field position all night.
In the kick return game as a whole, combining punt and kickoff returns, the Crimson Tide tallied 10 return yards on 311 returns. It was an explosive outing for Alabama returners Saturday, missing one thing. A touchdown.
Ultimately, week in and week out, when it comes to Alabama special teams it’s simple: you take what you can get.
Rushing offense — D: When your passing offense is that good, do you really need to run the ball? Alabama is trying to answer that. The Tide had just 62 yards rushing through three quarters. An FYI: Alabama has one sub-100 rushing game this year … and just one in the last five years. Without a final-quarter surge, with the game out of hand, it would have been two.
Rushing defense — B+: Of course, the Aggies finished with more than zero yards, and Alabama should always strive for such perfection, right?
Passing offense — A-: Yawn, ho-hum, whatever. Just another day at the office for Tua Tagovailoa and such. When you’re that good, it takes something special for a really high grade. Hence, Alabama catches a minus.
Passing defense — B: No interceptions. No interceptions? Trevon Diggs had one, but he cheated on the play. Diggs’ holding penalty gave Texas A&M a first down on what became a touchdown drive.
Special teams — B: Alabama’s pain in having an extra point blocked is soothed by blocking a punt itself. For the second time this season, the Tide scored a touchdown on a blocked punt. The return game was impressive, but getting an extra point blocked is an automatic deduction.
Coaching — C: Alabama’s Nick Saban is now 18-0 against teams coached by his former assistants, including 3-0 against A&M’s Jimbo Fisher. Just two of those 18 have been decided by single digits, both against Georgia’s Kirby Smart.
Overall — C+: Again, what’s expected of top-ranked Alabama exceeds a normal grading scale. A 19-point win on the road against a Top 25 team doesn’t move the needle that much. Alabama’s success has created a tough crowd.