Just when it seemed Texas A&M was dead in the water, its season in ruins, its hopes utterly shattered, THAT GAME emerged. Where it came from, no one knows, but it happened.
By Matt Zemek
Texas A&M 41, Alabama 38. It’s a game this 2021 Texas A&M team will never forget. It’s one of the most remarkable upsets in recent college football memory – not because Alabama is so dominant (this year’s team is one of Nick Saban’s more noticeably flawed groups), but because Texas A&M had played horribly in the first month of the season. Texas A&M barely beat a Colorado team which, we have seen, is absolutely atrocious. A&M lost at home to Mississippi State. Arkansas isn’t a bad team, but the Hogs just allowed 52 points to Ole Miss. Texas A&M scored just 10 points against that very flawed, very ordinary defense. There were no indications A&M was about to play its best game of the season and that Zach Calzada was about to look like a Heisman Trophy candidate. Yet, it happened. Jimbo Fisher outcoached Nick Saban and beat his former boss. The Aggies didn’t flinch when Alabama landed punches in the second half. It’s a remarkable moment.
Now comes the challenge of regrouping and moving on to the next game. The challenges attached to A&M’s visit to Missouri are obvious, but not necessarily easy to follow through on.
1 – Calzada continuation
Is Zach Calzada ready to play against Missouri – and each of A&M’s remaining opponents in 2021 – at the same level he displayed against Alabama? Calzada really grew and progressed as a quarterback. Everything seemed to come together for him. He finally understood what was happening around him. He knew exactly what to do. If this is the quarterback Fisher and the Aggies have against Missouri, they should definitely win. If this is the guy A&M has for the next several weeks, the Aggies will make a decent bowl and salvage their season.
2 – Offensive line excellence
If the offensive line plays the way it did against Alabama, the Aggies will be in great shape. Texas A&M stood up to Alabama’s defensive front and displayed consistent ownership of that game. Obviously, every facet of the Aggies, every component of their roster, must be “Alabama-level” in order to give A&M the best possible chance of winning, but if there’s a non-QB unit which needs to answer the bell at Mizzou, it’s the offensive line, because that is connected to Calzada’s comfort level.
3 – Red-zone defense
A&M scored 41 points, but Alabama would have scored more than 50 if the Aggies’ red-zone defense hadn’t stood tall on several different occasions. Alabama wins games by scoring over 50, not necessarily by holding opponents under 30. The Aggies had to keep Bama under 40 in order to win, and their red-zone stands made the difference. That needs to carry over into this Missouri game. It’s not about what the Tigers do; this game is about A&M carrying that Alabama standard of performance into Columbia.