Rushing offense D
Alabama had its second lowest rushing total of the season and lowest in an SEC game against a Texas A&M defense most people expected the Tide to be able to run against. Alabama gained just 122 yards and had an average of 3.9 yards per carry. Leading rusher Eddie Lacy did have 92 yards rushing, but only five of those yards came in the fourth quarter, and T.J. Yeldon had a big fourth-quarter fumble. Perhaps most telling, with Alabama at the Texas A&M 6-yard line in the final two minutes, the Tide ran three passing plays and just one rushing play. The result was an interception.
Rushing defense C
Alabama gave up some huge rushing plays to Aggies quarterback Johnny Manziel in the first quarter, but improved as the game went on. Manziel had 74 rushing yards in the first quarter and the Aggies had 95 rushing yards as a team in the opening period. But the Tide slowed the rushing attack from there, and A&M finished with 165 rushing yards. However, those rushing deficiencies in the first quarter allowed the Aggies to jump out to a 20-0 lead that Alabama could never recover from.
Passing offense C
Quarterback AJ McCarron made some big plays down the field, but he also threw his first two interceptions of the season, including the one at the goal line in the final two minutes. McCarron had just 108 passing yards through three quarters before throwing for 201 in the fourth quarter alone thanks to some long passing plays. But McCarron couldn’t pull a rabbit out of the hat two weeks in a row, and instead of throwing the winning touchdown pass, threw the crushing interception.
Passing defense D
Nick Saban said at halftime that the Alabama defense was going to have to prevent Johnny Manziel from running and force him to throw the ball. But Manziel rose to that challenge, completing 24 of 31 passes for 253 yards and two touchdowns. His two biggest completions came on back-to-back plays after TJ Yeldon’s fumble. He hit Ryan Swope for a 42-yard gain to the Alabama 24-yard line and then found Malcome Kennedy for a touchdown on the next play. Alabama’s defense needed to rise to the occasion at that point and stop Manziel, but it couldn’t.
Special teams A
Alabama’s special teams were the bright spot for the Tide. Punter Cody Mandell had an outstanding game, punting four times for a 56.5 yard average. Kickoff specialist Cade Foster recorded two touchbacks and field goal kicker Jeremy Shelley stayed perfect on both extra points and field goals this season, making a 28-yard kick in the third quarter.
It was always going to be tough for Alabama to come back after such an emotional victory in Baton Rouge last week. But it was shocking to see Texas A&M run up and down the field in the first quarter and jump out to a 20-0 lead. It was the first time Alabama had trailed by three touchdowns since the 2009 Sugar Bowl against Utah. Alabama didn’t look ready to play early in the game, and Texas A&M made the Tide pay for it.
Alabama thought it had dodged its biggest pothole on the road to the national championship with its last-minute victory over LSU last week. Perhaps the players thought the road would be much easier after that game. Or perhaps they were still physically and emotionally beat up by the Tigers. But whatever the reason, they were slapped big time by Texas A&M in the first quarter. Even though the Tide recovered and came within a few yards of pulling out a victory, their slow start turned out to be their undoing.