Courtesy of UA Athletics
Another Alabama game, another fourth quarter of no competition, backup quarterbacks and fans leaving early.
The Crimson Tide staunchly beat the Texas A&M Aggies 52 to 24 through the air and on the ground. COVID-19 precautions only allowed roughly 20,000 fans into Bryant-Denny Stadium, but the fourth quarter looked almost identical to any other year that Alabama was up big on an opponent.
Alabama opened the doors to Bryant-Denny Stadium for the first time in 2020 to about only 20% of its normal amount of fans, but nothing was going to hinder the team Saturday. The Crimson Tide started off its first home game in the hands of Mac Jones who completed 16 of his 20 passes that resulted in 273 yards and two touchdowns in the first half. Jones had an almost flawless first half other than a tipped ball that turned into an interception.
That dominance continued into the second half as Jones continued to throw near-perfect deep balls, almost always finding an open receiver. Jones finished the game with 435 yards and four touchdown passes.
“The experience that he got last year was invaluable,” head coach Nick Saban said about Jones. “We expect Mac to mature in his confidence… I think we need to [run the ball better] but Mac is playing well, that’s what we expect him to do.”
Texas A&M defensive coordinator Mike Elko seemed to make it clear that he wanted the Aggies’ defense to stop all-around senior running back Najee Harris, who only had 43 rushing yards the entire game. Harris did have two touchdowns, but they came after Jones made several completions to receivers senior Devonta Smith and junior Jaylen Waddle.
Even with an effortless performance from Waddle, he was not the MVP from the receiving corps. Instead, the highlight player was sophomore wide receiver John Metchie III who finished his career-high day with five catches, 181 yards and two touchdowns. Metchie had two 60+ yard receptions, one to put Alabama in the lead and another to emphasize how badly the Aggies were defeated.
“We’ve always thought Johnathan was a real threat,” Saban said. “He’s a very capable guy, he’s worked hard. I think this is going to be something to help him build his confidence.”
The Texas A&M offense struggled with communication issues the entire game. In the first half, Jimbo Fisher called all three timeouts because Texas A&M could not get set before the play clock expired.
A&M opened its first second-half drive by pushing into the Red Zone but suffered from multiple dropped passes and misreads from wide receivers. Quarterback Kellen Mond failed to convert on a third-and-long on the Alabama 13, which killed the Aggies’ momentum for the rest of the game.
Alabama cleaned up the penalties and sloppy plays that had plagued the Tide during the previous week versus Missouri. Other than the second drive of the second half for the offense, there weren’t many penalties on either side of the ball. The penalties dogging one drive at about the eight-minute mark were made irrelevant by an 87-yard deep ball from Mac Jones to Jaylen Waddle.
Waddle put on another clinic against Texas A&M finishing with five catches, 142 yards and one touchdown.
The Crimson Tide showed a clear dominance on both sides of the football for all four quarters.
Kellen Mond was not able to complete a ball deep down the field until the end of the game and was almost completely shut down by senior linebacker Dylan Moses. Moses finished the game with 6 tackles and 1 tackle for a loss.
The main reason Mond was virtually ineffective was the iron curtain put up by the Alabama defensive back group. Strong play from redshirt junior Daniel Wright and freshman Malachi Moore gave the Crimson Tide defensive line plenty of time to put pressure on Mond.
That pressure forced him into throwing an interception that resulted in a house call for Wright in the second quarter. Moore played an exceptional game and snagged an interception near the end of the game.
“Malachi is a great player, he goes up against Waddle and Smith every day,” sophomore linebacker Christian Harris said about Moore. “That was his opportunity to make a play, it doesn’t surprise me I was expecting it.”
Outside of the fourth quarter – which became mostly practice runs for both teams – Mond looked rattled and out of sync with the rest of the team. Mond was able to throw his third touchdown pass of the day with seven minutes and 25 seconds left in the fourth over the top of Moses, who seemed to be upset after the play.
“When they went to empty we left Dylan out to dry,” Saban said, noting that the team was not in the right lineup on that touchdown play.
The bright spot for Texas A&M was sophomore running back Ainias Smith who had 152 total yards and 2 touchdown catches. Smith also kept the game competitive in the first quarter with a huge 47-yard reception and picked up some extra yards plus a touchdown in the fourth against Moses. However, Harris said that Smith was not much of a factor in the game and it was mental errors from the defense that allowed him to have such a good day.
“Last year [Smith] played receiver, he’s a real shifty player,” Harris said after the game. “Two of those plays, those were missed assignments, we’ll be sure to get that right next week.”
The flood gates finally opened in the second half for Alabama’s running game. Senior running back Brian Robinson Jr. led the team down the field at the beginning of the fourth quarter to put a stop to any potential Texas A&M comeback. Robinson had a mostly quiet day up until that drive, during which he rushed for 44 yards and set up a field goal from sophomore kicker Will Reichard. Reichard was perfect from kicking, finishing the day with six extra points and one field goal.
The game was all but over in the fourth quarter. Alabama plays the Ole Miss Rebels next Saturday in Oxford.