Alabama vs. Texas A&M score, takeaways: Aggies win stunner, No. 1 Tide suffer first unranked loss since 2007
The nation's top-ranked team fell hard in Kyle Field to a Texas A&M team ready for everything Alabama threw at it
Texas A&M pulled off the upset of the 2021 college football season -- and one for the history books -- on Saturday night as it took down No. 1 Alabama, 41-38, in front of 106,815 fans, the second-largest crowd in Kyle Field history. The outcome marked Alabama coach Nick Saban's first career loss to one of his former assistants as Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher delivered on his May vow to the Houston Touchdown Club that the Aggies would beat the Crimson Tide under Saban.
A last-second 28-yard field goal by Seth Small cemented the outcome, but it was quarterback Zach Calzada who was Texas A&M's hero. Calzada led the Aggies on their game-winning drive after suffering an apparent injury while throwing the game-tying touchdown on the team's prior possession. The redshirt sophomore turned in what amounted to a legendary performance after his play was heavily scrutinized in his first three starts following an injury to the team's original starting quarterback Haynes King. Calzada completed 21 of 31 passes for 285 yards with three touchdowns and an interception.
The loss is Alabama's first to an unranked opponent since 2007, which was Saban's first season leading the program, and it snapped the program's 100-game winning streak against unranked foes. The Crimson Tide entered as 17.5 point favorites but were in trouble from the jump as Texas A&M opened up a 24-10 halftime lead behind a rejuvenated offensive attack. From there, it was a matter of holding on for dear life and rallying late, as the Aggies scored the final 10 points and improved to 4-2 (1-2 SEC) with the victory.
Calzada put TAMU on his back
When King went down early in Texas A&M's game against Colorado on Sept. 11, the Texas A&M offense changed, and not for the better. Calzada struggled in his first three-plus games as the Aggies' quarterback. Entering the Alabama game, he'd completed just 53.9% of his passes with four interceptions. Of his five touchdown passes, three came against lowly New Mexico.
But Fisher had no alternative. The backup for Calzada is a freshman walk-on who had never taken a college snap. The Aggies had to ride with Calzada, even after starting out league play with listless offensive performances in losses against Arkansas and Mississippi State.
Calzada delivered Saturday in miraculous fashion, both in the first half and then again in the fourth quarter. After completing 16 of his first 17 passes, Calzada hit a cold stretch in the second half as Alabama rallied. At one point, he missed on seven straight attempts during the third and fourth quarters. But when the Aggies needed him most, he came through. Calzada found Ainias Smith for a 25-yard touchdown with 3 minutes remaining to tie the score at 38.
But he was hurt on the play and needed help leaving the field. Fisher followed him into the team's medical tent as the walk-on backup, Blake Bost, warmed up.
After the Texas A&M defense came up with a stop, it was Calzada who came out of the tent Willis Reed-style to lead the Aggies offense onto the field. From there, he passed and scrambled Texas A&M into field goal range for the game-winning kick as time expired.
Alabama's offense needs work
Alabama finished with 522 total yards as the trio of quarterback Bryce Young, running back Brian Robinson Jr. and receiver Jameson Williams each posted big numbers. But when the Crimson Tide needed execution most, they didn't get it. The most glaring example came in their last substantial possession in the waning minutes when the Crimson Tide went three-and-out. Even a single first down and then a punt would have given Texas A&M less clock -- and a longer field.
Another example of Alabama's shaky execution came when the Tide settled for a field goal after facing a first-and-goal from the Aggies' 3-yard line with under 10 minutes to play. Trailing 31-27, it appeared they were about to surge ahead for the first time since the first quarter. Instead, the Tide settled for a field goal without attempting a single running play, despite being within spitting distance of the goal line.
Though it will get lost in the shuffle of a wild finish, two first-half turnovers also crippled Alabama. Young threw an interception in the end zone that ended a scoring chance early in the second quarter. Robinson also fumbled on Alabama's previous possession, which set up a Texas A&M touchdown. Without those miscues, Alabama may have found itself in a totally different ballgame once the fourth quarter arrived.
Give Texas A&M's defense credit
A unit that has been forced to carry the entire Texas A&M team for much of the 2021 season finally got some help on Saturday. But the Aggies defense still deserves some serious credit for keeping Alabama from opening the floodgates. In particular, four sacks of Young put the Tide behind the chains.
Alabama also dominated the time of possession in the second half, which forced the Aggies' defense to spend a lot of time on the field. On the end, they had the stamina to make plays when it mattered most. Statistically, this defense isn't quiet on its 2020 level, but it showed Saturday that it's still an excellent unit.
IT'S GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOD!!!!!!!!!!!— Texas A&M Football (@AggieFootball) October 10, 2021
The Crimson Tide don't get anything going offensively and will have to punt it back to Texas A&M with plenty of time and two timeouts on the Aggies' side. Calzada seems like he's OK, so here we go. 38-38. Aggies with a chance to win it or take the lead.
With Haynes King (QB1) out potentially for the year, the next QB for A&M is true freshman walk-on Blake Bost, who has never taken a collegiate snap. Wow.
Texas A&M ties it up
The Aggies tie it up with 3:00 to go on a 25-yard TD from Calzada to Ainias Smith. Wow, what an answer from the Aggies. Calzada was hit as he let it go and is down getting attention from the trainers. What a throw.
A huge targeting call on Alabama is going to give Texas A&M the football in Alabama category if it holds up on review. That might make up for the apparent missed call on Alabama's TD where the left tackle appeared to not yet be set. BUT, it doesn't hold up. Call overturned. No targeting.
Alabama takes the lead
The Crimson Tide have their first lead since the first quarter as Young finds Jameson Williams for a 7-yard score with 5 minutes remaining. What a gutty, clutch drive by Bryce Young. And Williams has been huge as well. He was wide, wide, wide open. Two-point conversion makes it 38-31. Your move, Aggies.
Man, Bama has been in a ton of third downs tonight, and it just picked up another thrid-and-6, this one to Jameson Williams that takes the Tide to the A&M 38 with under 6 minuets to go.
Young finds JoJo Earle for 19 yards on third-and-6 after A&M burned a timeout. That will bring the Tide near midfield. Huge, huge play there.
Alabama's decision to take the FG looks wise as the Crimson Tide force a three-and-out and will get the football back with just under eight minutes remaining. Aggies are clinging to a 31-30 lead but are very much on their heels. Calzada has gone from hot too cold. Crowd wanted DPI on his third-down pass attempt to Ainias Smith, but it doesn't come.
Alabama takes a FG
That quick screen to Metchie should be routine operating procedure for Alabama. They have some playmakers and need to simplify how they get the football into their hands. That quick screen and Texas A&M's second "disconcerting signals" penalty of the game should have set Alabama up for a go-ahead score. However, the A&M defense stands firm and the Tide take the points to make it 31-30 with 8:53 remaining. There's just an element of precision missing from the Bama offense tonight.
That's the number of total yards in the second half for Texas A&M. Give the Crimson Tide and defensive coordinator Pete Golding some credit for bottling up an A&M offensive attack that was hitting on all cylinders in the first half. Not sure how much gas the Aggies' defense has left in the tank here as Alabama drives and seeks its first lead since it was 7-3.
A&M's offense stuck in neutral
Texas A&M's only first down on that series came from a pass interference penalty. Calzada missed on all four of his pass attempts, though there were a couple of near-misses on potential big-gainers there. Alabama takes over at its own 32 trailing 31-27 with 13:06 left.
Points for Bama
Will Reichard's 26-yarder cuts the Alabama deficit to 31-27 on the second play of the fourth quarter. Third down completion to Metchie came up just short of the sticks. Huge bend but don't break moment for A&M there. Bet they won't kick to Achane.
Headed to the fourth
Texas A&M is clinging to a 31-24 lead after three quarters. Alabama faces a third-and-long in A&M territory to begin the fourth quarter. The Aggies were lifeless offensively in the third quarter and won't win this game if they don't score again. Feels like they are holding on for dear life. Any way you look at it, this fourth quarter should be wildly entertaining.
Aggies going nowhere
Texas A&M has had the football twice in the third quarter and has gone nowhere both times. Calzada took a shot downfield but narrowly overshot his man on 2nd-and-16. Alabama is getting the football back with plenty of time still left in the third quarter. Calzada's incompletions on that drive were just his second and third of the game. 31-24 A&M.
Isaiah Spiller is sidelined at least for now with a bruised tailbone, per the CBS broadcast. Devon Achane can handle the load at RB, but having Spiller available to spell him is huge. that'll be something to monitor down the stretch. Both have been effective in the run game tonight and critical for this rejuvenated offensive attack.