TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Blake Sims looked around Alabama's locker room prior to Saturday’s meeting with Texas A&M, and the Crimson Tide quarterback quickly got a good feeling. “I could tell we were ready,” he said. “I said, ‘Man, we’re going to have a good day.’”
Bama wanted to show that it hasn’t lost its luster. That message came through loud and clear in a 59-0 rout of the Aggies.
The Crimson Tide looked like the only team that truly belonged at Bryant-Denny Stadium. In fact, it’s possible Texas A&M’s players were replaced by a Pop Warner roster before kickoff. Either way, the contest in Tuscaloosa was a laugher, and only one team left having silenced its doubters.
The beatdown started early, with Alabama scoring on all seven first-half drives, including six touchdowns. Meanwhile, the Aggies punted on every first-half possession except its final series, which was cut short due to halftime. At the break Bama had compiled 449 yards of offense, with an average of 8.8 per play. A&M had 51 yards at an average of 2.2. The Tide had 22 first downs to the Aggies’ two.
The second half was nothing more than a formality. The final box score will forever haunt College Station, with another disturbing statistic around every corner: Sims accounted for 322 total yards (268 passing, 54 rushing) with four touchdowns. Amari Cooper made eight catches for 114 yards with two scores. The Crimson Tide’s stable of runners combined for 298 rushing yards. Alabama finished with 602 total yards; A&M had 172.
"Everybody came out and played as one unit," linebacker Ryan Anderson said.
The Aggies’ offense didn’t help the situation. Quarterback Kenny Hill failed to move the ball against Bama’s front seven. Texas A&M, which had scored more touchdowns than any team in the SEC prior to Saturday, put up a goose egg.
The Crimson Tide entered Saturday’s matchup with a chip on their shoulder -- well, as much of a chip as a 5-1 SEC squad can have. Their start to the season didn’t convince much of the country, or some in the media, of their worth as a playoff contender. A 23-17 loss at Ole Miss two weeks ago seemed to signal an SEC West power shift. Then Bama barely escaped with a 14-13 win at Arkansas, which had lost 14 consecutive SEC games coming in.
Coach Nick Saban hadn’t been happy with the perception of his program midway through the season. This week he called it “frustrating” to hear criticism of his players after winning a back-and-forth game. On Saturday Saban said this was as close to “Alabama football” as this team has been. The Tide just needed to take care of their own demons.
“I tried to answer that question before, where I just thought there was a lot of anxiety on our team,” Saban said. “A lot of guys worrying about expectations being defined by external factors, rather than, you make you. You make you who you are by what you do. That’s what we’ve been trying to sell to our players.”
Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin had the misfortunate of visiting Tuscaloosa on a week defined by Saban’s slight. The Tide may have made a statement on Saturday no matter whom they played. Their relentless effort didn’t feel like an accident.
Perhaps most importantly, Alabama players said it was fun to play football again. That made a huge difference. “If you’re not having fun,” safety Landon Collins said, “then why are you on the field?”
Maybe Alabama’s reign of dominance isn’t done. Maybe this team is as dangerous as everyone thought it would be. The Tide had yet to claim a signature win before this weekend, but in steamrolling the Aggies they showed the power they still wield in the SEC. Coaches often say the only rankings that matter are the ones at the end of the season. Saturday was a case study in that mantra.
If Alabama’s mojo is back, it will have plenty of chances to prove it. It travels to Tennessee (Oct. 25) and LSU (Nov. 8) before hosting No. 1 Mississippi State on Nov. 15. Of course, there’s also the rematch with Auburn at home on Nov. 29. For now, the Crimson Tide showed on Saturday why no one should forget about them. Saban and his roster looked like the Alabama of old. With plenty of games left to play, it's up to the Tide to keep rolling.
"That's the energy and enthusiasm we've been trying to get our guys to play with," Saban said.