Number 1 Alabama escaped Saturday night with a 24-20 win over Texas A&M, despite four turnovers and two missed field goals.
Texas A&M reached the Alabama 2-yard line with three seconds left thanks to an end zone pass interference call on what would have been a game-sealing interception. But Haynes King’s pass to the right pylon was high and wide and incomplete.
King was looking for freshman Evan Stewart, who was on the goal line in one cover. Stewart had made a great catch in double coverage earlier in the drive and had been A&M’s best wide receiver throughout the match.
It was a phone call that failed to enthuse Heisman winner and former Texas A&M star Johnny Manziel.
The Crimson Tide did not have star quarterback Bryce Young on Saturday night. Young missed the game after spraining the AC joint in his right shoulder in Week 5 against Arkansas. He warmed up in full uniform, but did not throw passes during pregame routines. That gave Jalen Milroe the start, who fiddled twice in the first half and also threw an interception.
A&M could have easily dispelled the turmoil had it not been for the same offensive battle that has plagued the Aggies all season. A&M did a good job taking advantage of Alabama’s turnovers – the game was tied 14-14 after A&M turned short fields from Milroe fumbles into touchdowns – but was unable to sustain much other offensive success.
King threw for 253 yards – the most he has thrown against an FBS opponent this season. But he took 46 passing attempts to reach that yardage total, completing just 25 with two touchdowns and one interception. A&M averaged less than five yards per game as it struggled to get anything on the ground. King was also consistently pressured by the Alabama defense line. The Tide had more than a dozen quarterback rushes in the game.
That defensive effort was necessary because of Alabama’s offensive struggles. Milroe was only 12-of-19 and passed 111 yards and Alabama had to do the most damage on the ground. The Tide ran 288 yards to A&M’s 70 while Jahmyr Gibbs ran 21 times for 154 yards and Milroe himself had 83 rushing yards.
The game was very similar to the 2021 match-up between the two teams. A&M won that game with a field goal when time expired after scoring 10 points in the final three minutes of the game. The Aggies got a heroic performance from reserve quarterback turned starter Zach Calzada a season ago, as he was great in the closing minutes of the game.
But even though A&M closed the deal a season ago, it couldn’t do it in 2022, despite Alabama’s troubles. Will Reichard missed two field goals in the second half when 10 of Alabama’s drives didn’t end with points.
Alabama fans certainly hope Young is healthy enough to return what could be an epic Tennessee match-up within a week. The Vols are 6-0 after beating LSU and it will be the first match-up with both teams in the top 10 since 2016. Alabama won that game at Knoxville 49-10 as part of an ongoing 15-game win streak in the series. Nick Saban has never lost to Tennessee during his tenure in Alabama. If Young doesn’t return in a week, that streak could be in serious jeopardy based on how well the Vols play.
Alabama runs back Jahmyr Gibbs escapes Texas A&M defender Demani Richardson at Bryant-Denny Stadium on October 8, 2022 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)