Alabama vs. Texas A&M score, takeaways: No. 1 Tide barely survive Bryce Young's absence to edge Aggies
It was shaky for a while, but Alabama remains undefeated after pushing past Texas A&M
Fighting through an inefficient offense and ill-performing special teams unit, No. 1 Alabama narrowly topped Texas A&M in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, to keep its perfect season alive and avenge last year's road loss to the Aggies. Leading 24-20 late in the fourth quarter, the Crimson Tide defended at the goal line in the game's final seconds as Aggies quarterback Haynes King's pass from the 2-yard line fell incomplete with time ticking off the clock.
King, who filled in for injured QB Max Johnson, took the game all the way to the final whistle by leading Texas A&M on a furious 10-play, 69-yard drive. However, Alabama's defense held on the last play as the Tide survived their biggest scare of the season to this point.
Alabama running back Jahmyr Gibbs was the star of the show, picking up 167 total yards for a team that struggled offensively behind QB Jalen Milroe. Filling in for 2021 Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young, who sat out with a sprained shoulder suffered vs. Arkansas, Milroe completed just 12 of 19 passes for 111 yards with an interception and two fumbles; both fumbles led directly to Texas A&M touchdowns. However, Milroe also ran for 83 key yards on 17 carries and tossed three touchdowns to help spur the Bama offense in key moments.
King ran for his life much of the game as the Tide's front seven was relentless. He was sacked three times and hurried 14 times with Alabama star linebacker Will Anderson Jr., the CBS Sports Preseason Player of the Year, notching eight of those pressures. King ultimately completed just 25 of 46 passes for 253 yards with two touchdowns and a pick.
That kind of defensive performance from the Tide was necessary considering how sloppy they were with the football. In addition to Milroe's miscues, RB Jase McClellan also lost a fumble. In total, the ball hitting the ground three times led to 17 points for the Aggies. Combined with an uneven performance from Bama kicker Will Reichard -- who made a 50-yard field goal just before halftime but missed from 47 yards late in the third quarter and 35 yards midway through the fourth -- the Tide kept the Aggies in the game until the bitter end.
"It was a great win for our team," Saban said on the broadcast after the game. "We had a lot of adversity to overcome, especially with Bryce not being able to play. Jalen made some good plays, but we had no consistency on offense."
Here are the biggest takeaways from Saturday night's SEC on CBS primetime thriller.
Gibbs saved the day
Young's absence likely means that he will not become the second two-time Heisman winner in history. That might be unfair, but it's the reality given the talent that exists in college football. A case can be made for Gibbs, though.
The transfer from Georgia Tech was the focal point of the Alabama offense, and there was nothing that Texas A&M's front seven could do about it. The junior from Dalton, Georgia, averaged 7.3 yards per carry and slashed through the center of the Aggie defense like a hot knife through butter. It was the kind of performance that will raise the antennas of voters who haven't paid much attention to Gibbs this season.
This game was one of the most highly anticipated matchups of the year. For Gibbs to have that kind of performance considering the Tide's offensive limitations is exactly what a running back needs to earn consideration.
Tide headed for trouble
Every team -- even a national title contender like Alabama -- is allowed one mulligan. That was what a Week 2 win over Texas was for the Tide. Saturday's game was the golf version of a shank to the right that hit a tree, bounced off the cart path and somehow landed on the green. Bama walked away with a win, but make no mistake, it's headed into the danger zone. What's more problematic is that it could be doing it with Milroe, who didn't exactly inspire confidence.
Alabama heads to Rocky Top next weekend to take on a Tennessee offense that just dropped 40 on the road at LSU. The Volunteers scored on their first four possessions in Death Valley, just one game after going an entire 60 minutes without punting vs. Florida. It's one thing for Alabama to hand Texas A&M every possible chance to win the game. After all, the Aggies don't exactly have one of the most potent offenses in the country. Tennessee does, and it plays so fast that it can turn a game sideways in a matter of minutes.
Whether it's with Milroe or Young, who might not be 100% even if he does play, the last thing that Alabama needs is to get into a situation on the road where it absolutely has to find the end zone to stay in the game. Unless something miraculous happens between now and Saturday afternoon in Knoxville, Tennessee, that appears to be the case.
King played his heart out
King was named the Aggies starting quarterback in fall camp in each of the last two years, but his career hasn't exactly gone as planned. He suffered a season-ending injury in the first quarter of a Week 2 game last year and was benched after Texas A&M's second game this year for multiple mistakes.
Against Alabama, King played well enough behind a porous offensive line. He was noticeably limping on the final drive of the game but still managed to go 5 of 9 (excluding a spike) for 46 yards without having a timeout in his back pocket. That's the kind of performance that would make Jonathan Moxon of "Varsity Blues" smile. His performance didn't have the same Hollywood ending, but he deserves a ton of credit for leaving it all on the field on the biggest stage of his career.
Explosive plays make a huge difference in college football, and they are the biggest reason Alabama got the win over Texas A&M. The Tide ripped off 13 running plays of 10 or more yards -- including four of 25 or more yards -- which accounted for 212 of their 288 rushing yards. That softened the Aggies defense up enough to give Milroe at least a little room to maneuver in the passing game and helped open some windows for him to toss his three touchdown passes.
Would Alabama have escaped with the win without those plays? Probably not. Offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien deserves a ton of credit for keeping the Aggie defense honest with a multi-dimensional rushing attack that kept the Aggies honest.
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WIDE RIGHT.— Texas A&M Football (@AggieFootball) October 9, 2022
5:19 Q3: No. 1 Alabama 24, Texas A&M 17
Texas A&M cashed Alabama's fourth turnover in for a field goal, but it could have been much more. Haynes King threw a dart over the middle on third-and-7 from the 23-yard line that would have moved the change. It went right through Moose Muhammed III's hands and hit him in the helmet. The Aggies settled for a Randy Bond field goal, but missed out on a golden opportunity to put a ton of pressure on a Crimson Tide team that can't seem to hang on to the ball.
Alabama with its fourth turnover
Alabama is keeping Texas A&M in this game as much as possible. Running back Jase McClellan was hit from behind, fumbled and took possession at their own 42-yard line. It was the fourth turnover of the night for an Alabama team that is playing really sloppy football.
OUR BALL. AGAIN.— Texas A&M Football (@AggieFootball) October 9, 2022
BIG WALT forces the fumble!
Alabama strikes right out of the locker room
13:03 Q3: No. 1 Alabama 24, Texas A&M 14
Texas A&M's Denver Harris dropped a sure-fire interception on the first play of the second half and committed a 15-yard penalty a couple of plays later to help out a Crimson Tide team that needed to get some momentum out of the locker room. Jalen Milroe took advantage when he found Ja'Corey Brooks down the left sideline to make it a 10-point game. Both of Texas A&M's touchdowns have been off Alabama turnovers. We'll see if they can go the distance in what is a critical drive.