Alabama report card: Special teams collapses, defense picks it up
Much like its win at Georgia two weeks ago, Alabama got off to a fast start on the road against Texas A&M. But the Crimson Tide’s 41-23 win in College Station was no blowout, as Nick Saban’s squad could not quite put away Kevin Sumlin’s Aggies until the final quarter.
Here’s how the Tide graded out:
Derrick Henry (32 carries for 236 yards and two touchdowns) was brilliant, and the offensive line was able to open up plenty of holes.
But quarterback Jake Coker wasn’t able to get much going through the air, and the O-line took a huge hit when Ryan Kelly left the game with a concussion. Kelly’s status is unknown for next Saturday’s game against Tennessee, which is huge; The Crimson Tide’s front five become a liability when he’s off the field.
You’d be hard-pressed to remember a more explosive defensive performance than the one Alabama put forth on Saturday.
The secondary intercepted A&M’s quarterbacks four times, bringing three of those picks back to the house. That latter number was one of several school records set by Minkah Fitzpatrick and Eddie Jackson.
Senior linebacker Reggie Ragland led another strong effort from the front seven, and the “D” appears to be firing on all cylinders as Alabama nears the home stretch.
SPECIAL TEAMS: D-
An embarrassing series of events from the special teams unit kept A&M in the game for longer than it should have been.
The Tide watched a 28-3 lead slip to 28-13 when Aggies star Christian Kirk returned a punt 68 yards for a score. Punter JK Scott was unable to put the right amount of touch on the ball all day, and his slightly-too-deep punt led to Kirk slipping past a gap-unsound coverage unit.
Earlier, Alabama lined up for a 49-yard field goal before suffering a delay-of-game penalty. Scott then pushed a punt into the end zone, resulting in a 12-yard net gain from what would’ve been the original field goal snap. The punt team also allowed a partially-blocked kick while nursing a 28-20 lead.
In the return game, Cyrus Jones coughed up the ball when A&M was still in striking distance.
The only positive takeaway from Saturday: Embattled kicker Adam Griffith hit an important 32-yard field goal.
The special teams appeared completely lost, but Lane Kiffin’s offensive gameplan helped set the tone early, and Kirby Smart’s swarming defense completely overwhelmed Texas A&M.
Aggies quarterbacks Kyle Allen and Kyler Murray were lost for most of the day against Smart’s unit, and that confusion led to overthrows and game-changing decisions.
Oh, and Kiffin successfully saved a timeout by blocking Saban from the officials’ view.
Alabama is clearly one of the country’s most impressive teams, and appears headed for a primetime showdown with LSU on Nov. 7. But the Crimson Tide must survive a big trap game against Tennessee on Saturday before taking Halloween weekend off.