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Tua Tagovailoa Has Career Day as Alabama Takes Down Texas A&M 45-23

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistSeptember 22, 2018

Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (13) throws a pass against Texas A&M during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
Butch Dill/Associated Press

No. 1 Alabama continues to roll in the 2018 season, moving 4-0 with a 45-23 win over No. 22 Texas A&M.

Tua Tagovailoa had 387 passing yards with five total touchdowns Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, helping the Crimson Tide come through in its first game against a ranked opponent so far this season.

Kellen Mond had two touchdowns but also threw two interceptions as the Aggies fell to 2-2 on the year with losses to the top two teams in the Amway Coaches Poll.

    

Alabama Defense Aces Toughest Test of Season

The first three games were little more than a joke for Alabama as the squad outscored opponents 170-28. Louisville was the only team to score double digits against this defense, and even that was thanks to a late touchdown to cut the score 51-14 in the home opener.

This was game was a real challenge, featuring a mobile quarterback and game-changing skill players that combined to score 26 points against the talented and more experienced Clemson defense in Week 2.

Alabama took it seriously and sent a message on the second play of the game with an interception:

CBS Sports @CBSSports

.@AlabamaFTBL is off to an Alabama start. Mack Wilson with the interception! https://t.co/wxlSZQFeeR

Patrick Surtain II was responsible for the second pick of the day when he seemed to just run the receiver's route:

SEConCBS @SEConCBS

Freshman Patrick Surtain II looking like his dad out there for @AlabamaFTBL. https://t.co/byME7kk9Xf

Sanjay Kirpalani @SanjayKirpalani

Patrick Surtain Jr. is the most college ready CB I've seen in my time covering recruiting. that last INT showed why. size, speed, ball skills and football intelligence. simply the total package.

Beyond the turnovers, the Crimson Tide were able to keep pressure on Kellen Mond all day, as Aaron Suttles of the Athletic noted:

Aaron Suttles @AaronSuttles

Alabama defense today: 7 sacks 10 quarterback hurries

Perhaps most impressively, Texas A&M running back Trayveon Williams was held to just 31 yards on eight carries.

It was far from a perfect game from this defense, as Mond was able to get loose for big games on the ground several times. The coaching staff also won't be too thrilled about the 23 points allowed.

Still, the Aggies had 13 possessions and seven of them ended in punts or turnovers. Considering the damage this offense will do on other teams in the SEC, Alabama should be satisfied with its defensive performance Saturday.

     

Tua Tagovailoa Cements Himself as Heisman Trophy Favorite

It's still September, but few players in college football have been as good as Tua Tagovailoa through four games.

Alabama has had its share of game managers at quarterback who win games thanks to a great defense and run game. However, the sophomore has shown he can make things happen on his own, separating himself from others at this program, as Geoff Schwartz of SiriusXM NFL argued:

Geoff Schwartz @geoffschwartz

Saban has won all these championships and he’s not had a QB remotely close to the talent of Tua. I don’t know how anyone will beat Bama this season if Tua stays healthy.

The quarterback made excellent throws throughout the game, whether he had a clean pocket or forced to throw on the run:

CBS Sports @CBSSports

...well that was FAST. Tua Tagovailoa connects with DeVonta Smith for @AlabamaFTBL! https://t.co/vlt3rQSeeU

CBS Sports @CBSSports

It's not even halftime and @AlabamaFTBL's Tua Tagovailoa already has 3 total touchdowns. https://t.co/FwE0AqN3cq

The Crimson Tide only got 106 rushing yards from its running backs, most of which coming in the fourth quarter, keeping the pressure on Tagovailoa to produce every drive. He more than lived up to the challenge by finishing 22-of-30 for 387 yards through the air.

This also earned him quite a bit of praise in the form of comparisons:

John Middlekauff @JohnMiddlekauff

Tua is basically the Joe Montana of college football. Ain’t no one beating Bama #RollTide

Daniel Jeremiah @MoveTheSticks

Tua is so smooth. Looks like Steve Young out there.

Considering he is still just four starts into his college career, it might be important to temper expectations. However, everything we have seen so far shows us that Tagovailoa is the real deal and this type of production will continue throughout the year.

On a team that currently looks unstoppable, this could lead to a Heisman Trophy at the end of the season.

       

Second Loss Doesn't Bury Texas A&M's Season

In most cases, a 2-2 start to a college football season isn't great for a team with high expectations. However, it's much better when you consider the losses came against Clemson and Alabama with both defeats being closer than many anticipated.

Even in the loss, there was a lot to like about the Aggies' performance Saturday.

The biggest reason for excitement was the play of Mond, who gave the Alabama defense plenty of trouble.

He led the team on a 99-yard touchdown drive in the first quarter that certainly made Nick Saban nervous, especially with a pair of big plays:

SEConCBS @SEConCBS

.@AggieFootball's Kellen Mond has WHEELS https://t.co/h8bRTRCcoC

CBS Sports @CBSSports

Kellen Mond & @AggieFootball RESPONDS. https://t.co/MWbhTaH0kc

The sophomore made more plays with his legs, finishing with 98 rushing yards and a touchdown.

Matt Hinton was impressed by what Mond showed in the loss:

Matt Hinton @MattRHinton

No QB has grown more from 2017 to '18 than Kellen Mond. Not even close.

Although the 16-of-33 passing left a lot to be desired, he was also forcing throws in order to keep up in a high-scoring battle.

Meanwhile, the many negatives that came from the loss—no run game and poor tackling on defense—should look a lot better in the next three games before the next matchup against a ranked team.

Road games against Mississippi State and Auburn plus a home game against LSU makes this schedule a tough one for Texas A&M, but there is enough talent to remain competitive in the SEC and nationally.

     

What's Next?

Things will get easier for both teams after this high-profile battle. Texas A&M will return home for another conference matchup against Arkansas while Alabama should have an easy time hosting Louisiana-Lafayette next Saturday.

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