AJ McCarron and his offensive line woke up after a slow start, but it wasn't enough as the Tide fell 29-24 to Texas A&M.
Just one day after Alabama’s shocking 29-24 loss at the hands of Texas A&M, the fallout from one of the biggest upsets of the season is just beginning.
Nick Saban’s club turned in a second consecutive performance that was filled with uncharacteristic play when compared to the team’s resume through the first two months of the season.
The Aggies' no-huddle offense dictated the pace of the game and effectively neutralized Alabama’s depth advantage on both sides of the ball.
The offense committed three turnovers—with two coming in the fourth quarter—and the defense gave up more than 400 yards of total offense for the second consecutive outing.
There were a few bright spots for the Tide, but most of their lineup were victims of playing catch up after falling behind 20-0 in the first quarter.
How did Alabama’s starters fare individually against the Aggies?
Find out in this breakdown featuring grades for all 22 starters in the loss to Texas A&M.
A.J. McCarron has never been a quarterback whose effectiveness is measured strictly by his statistical output.
For example, the fact that he went 21-of-34 for 309 yards against the Aggies does not illustrate what turned out to be a mostly frustrating afternoon.
McCarron missed open receivers throughout the game, and he never appeared to get into a rhythm after a slow start that saw the offense net one first down, a pair of three-and-outs and an interception on its first three drives.
While he did eventually settle down and make some big plays late in the game, the Aggies defense got the better of McCarron on the Tide’s final possession with a game-sealing interception.
A.J. McCarron: C
In what may be considered a theme that sums up the performance of the offense as a unit, the running backs were effective in spurts and disappeared in others.
Starter Eddie Lacy—who notched 16 carries for 92 yards and a touchdown—consistently ran hard and was an integral part of helping the Tide climb back into the game in the second quarter.
Freshman T.J. Yeldon found the going a bit tougher, and his fourth-quarter fumble was part of a wild sequence of momentum shifts that ultimately led to A&M securing a 29-17 lead two plays following his miscue.
However, considering Lacy’s success and the fact that the Aggies had been worn down by the likes of LSU and Florida in the fourth quarter of its previous defeats this season, you have to wonder whether the running backs were given enough at-bats in crunch time.
Eddie Lacy: B+
Alabama’s tight ends have been seldom used this season in the passing game, and that trend continued against the Aggies.
Senior Michael Williams made the most of his only reception, snaring a McCarron pass and rumbling for a 20-yard gain early in the second quarter that helped the Tide put up its first touchdown of the game two plays later.
With Alabama’s struggles in the ground game, Williams and the Tide's group of H-backs were also rendered ineffective as blockers.
Michael Williams: C+
Without a healthy Amari Cooper last week against LSU, the Tide’s pass-catching unit looked more like last season’s vertically-challenged group.
Getting their stud freshman back made a huge difference as Cooper hauled in six receptions for 136 yards—including a 54-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter that pulled the Tide within five points with a little more than six minutes to play.
After being shut out throughout the first three periods, Kenny Bell snared three passes for 73 yards in the fourth quarter to give Alabama a much-needed second option.
However, the other two receivers who started opposite Cooper—Christion Jones and Kevin Norwood—combined to record just four receptions for 28 yards.
Overall, while the receivers had a decent day, Cooper was the only target that produced a game-changing play when his number was called.
Amari Cooper: A
Christion Jones: C
Kevin Norwood: C
One of the biggest surprises in Alabama’s loss to Texas A&M was how the Aggies’ defensive line was able to hold its own against the Tide’s star-studded offensive line.
In fact, led by defensive tackles Kirby Ennis and Spencer Nealy—each of whom caused trouble for All-American center Barrett Jones—the Aggies were able to limit the Tide to just 122 yards rushing.
Alabama’s line was able to settle in and play well for most of the final three periods, allowing only two sacks (that lost only four yards combined) and helping the offense roll up 431 yards of total offense.
Perhaps the most disappointing part of the game was that the Tide failed to trust their powerful line with the game on the line and needing just six yards to complete another epic comeback.
Cyrus Kouandijo: B
Chance Warmack: B
Barrett Jones: C
Anthony Steen: B
D.J. Fluker: B
Faced with easily its toughest task of the season in trying to defend against Aggies’ dynamic freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel, the Tide’s three-man front struggled mightily in the first quarter trying to slow him down.
In particular, the line failed early on in its goal of keeping Manziel contained in the pocket as he sprinted for 73 yards on just four carries in the first 15 minutes.
Alabama’s line rebounded from its disastrous start and held Manziel to just 19 yards rushing after the first quarter and accounted for three of the Tide’s four sacks on the day.
Aside from Manziel, Alabama limited Texas A&M running backs Ben Malena and Christine Michael to less than three yards per carry on 26 attempts.
Ed Stinson: C
Jesse Williams: B
Damion Square: B
The challenge of facing the Aggies up-tempo spread attack is that it neutralizes Alabama’s ability to play in its base 3-4 scheme that relies heavily on its middle level to wreak havoc.
Alabama took Nico Johnson out of the starting lineup in favor of an extra defensive back.
Much like the rest of the team, the first quarter proved to be a baptism by fire of sorts for the linebackers.
Much like the LSU game, blitzes rarely were effective and the linebackers failed to apply pressure or make plays in coverage on third down.
The lone bright spot for the unit was the play of C.J. Mosley—who was simply all over the field and racked up 14 tackles and a sack against the Aggies.
C.J. Mosley: B+
Trey DePriest: C
Adrian Hubbard: C
Leading into the game against the Aggies, the play of the secondary was easily the biggest area of concern for Tide supporters.
Those fears would not take long to materialize, as Manziel torched them by throwing for 253 yards and a pair of touchdowns without an interception.
Manziel was able to pick on safeties Ha’Ha Clinton-Dix and Robert Lester (and backup Vinnie Sunseri) by isolating them in coverage against his receivers.
While corners Dee Milliner—who was beaten on the Aggies final touchdown pass to Malcome Kenned—and Deion Belue did not fare much better, the play of backup John Fulton was an encouraging development for a unit searching for consistency.
Fulton repeatedly displayed sound technique and was able to win most of his individual battles with Aggies receiver Mike Evans.
Dee Milliner: C-
Deion Belue: C
John Fulton: A
Ha’Ha Clinton-Dix: C-
Robert Lester: C