It was the sound bite that drew a smirk from Nick Saban.
One of his old assistants told a touchdown club in May that “We’re going to beat his ass when he’s there, don’t worry.”
Saban’s response, at least the one that drew the most attention, was perfectly suited for the coach of the reigning national champions..
But it was the following words from Saban drew less attention.
“Well, I’m sure there will come a day, you know?”
That day came Saturday night at Kyle Field. That old assistant was Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher.
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And as good chunk of the 106,000-plus poured onto the field after the Aggies won 41-38, it was clear that the chaos of this college football season had engulfed No. 1 Alabama, too.
And Fisher would become the first former member of Saban’s coaching tree to beat the master. It took 25 games. Fisher had been 0-4 against his old LSU boss before Saturday night.
“We can be special here,” Fisher said after the game.
Being special has to start somewhere.
I wrote earlier this week that all roads lead through Alabama in this age of college football. Since Alabama won its first title under Saban in 2009, the Crimson Tide have won six titles. In the other years in which Alabama didn't, the team that won had to beat Alabama at some point along the way with one exception -- Fisher’s Florida State Seminoles.
Earlier this week, Saban called this a “trap” game. At halftime, despite his Tide being behind, he actually smiled during his interview with CBS. Saban smiled? He only reserves that for national titles, right? Not when his team is behind to an unranked team.
A&M had been the better team at the break. The Aggies defense came to play, creating chaos and turnovers, frustrating quarterback Bryce Young and making it look like the Dixie Chicken should stock up on extra beer for post-game.
But this is Alabama under Saban. Even if it’s a trap game, he KNOWS where the traps are. And for most of the second half, he and the Tide avoided tripping them. They piled up yards on offense. They exhausted A&M’s defense. The Crimson Tide defense rendered the Aggie offense practically useless, in part because running back Isaiah Spiller missed most of the second half. That made it easy for Alabama to tee off on quarterback Zach Calzada.
And Alabama did what Alabama has done for years — take the lead.
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So … what happened? It was almost as if the climb back to the top had, for once, exhausted Alabama. Down 14 points at two different times, the Tide had to settle for field goals twice in the second half. As exhausted as the Aggie defense seemed, they did just enough to keep the game within reach.
And then I go back to that quote that Fisher said a couple of weeks ago, the one I referenced in my piece earlier this week.
“How to play the game and how to play winning football at a high level is two different things,” Fisher said.
I thought of that as Calzada threw that gutty 25-yard touchdown pass to Ainias Smith as his left leg was rolled in the pocket with three minutes left.
I thought of that as the Texas A&M defense forced Alabama to go three-and-out on the next drive.
I thought of that as Spiller and Calzada, both banged up but well enough to play, maneuvered the Aggies into field goal range for Seth Small and his 28-yard game-winner.
That’s the high level that Fisher was talking about. That’s the high level we’re used to seeing from Alabama week in and week out. That’s the high level that will, if Aggie fans get their wish, propel A&M to where Alabama is now, or, at least where they were before that loss on Saturday night. And it’s the high level A&M has to get to every week, not just when the No. 1 team in the country is in town.
Another trip to the College Football Playoff this season isn’t out of the question for Alabama. Texas A&M just made it harder for the Crimson Tide to defend its title.
A trip to the College Football Playoff this season is probably out of the question for Texas A&M, which already has two SEC losses. Only one team has reached either the Bowl Championship Series or the College Football Playoff with two losses, and that was LSU in 2007. The Tigers won a national title that year.
But, this is the season of chaos after all. Why not embrace it?
The Aggies certainly did on Saturday night. And, in doing so, Fisher kept his word to that Aggie Touchdown Club in Houston, and perhaps started the Aggies on the path that he was hired to take them.
It's the same one that the guy whose ass was beat has traveled for so long.
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You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.