COLLEGE STATION -- It's easy to sit and wonder during warmups about Zach Calzada's upside. Especially after looking lost much of last week before finally leading Texas A&M past Colorado out at the end.
What version would the No. 7 Aggies be getting behind center against New Mexico? Would it be the Calzada of three-and-outs or the one that finishes drives?
Jimbo Fisher said Calzada and redshirt freshman Haynes King were locked in a heated battle for QB1. It's now easy for fans to see why.
"Zach did a solid job," Fisher said. "He made some big plays."
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Texas A&M's 34-0 victory over New Mexico felt decided in the first quarter. Maybe even after the first drive. All those concerns coming in melted away quick.
This version of Calzada was confident in the pocket. He needed just two passes to connect with running back Devon Achane for a 26-yard touchdown and give A&M the lead.
The next drive, Calzada showed off his arm strength with a deep ball to wide receiver Demond Demas. The 70-yard touchdown was Demas' first in a Texas A&M uniform.
"Little more confidence," offensive lineman Kenyon Green said of Calzada. "Louder, more demanding on the field. That's good, you know, we going to need that throughout the season."
There's a benefit of working with a first-team offense will do. Since late August, it's been King taking the reps with receivers like Ainias Smith and Chase Lane. He's been the one finding Jalen Wydermyer as the check down against the Aggies' pass rush in practice.
Calzada prepared as the backup when the Aggies traveled to Denver. He wasn't expecting to be on the field in the first quarter, but King's broken leg changed everything.
A&M escaped Colorado. They controlled New Mexico.
This isn't to say the Calzada still doesn't need work before facing No. 20 Arkansas in AT&T Stadium. Take for instance in the third quarter, when Calzada missed a wide-open Wydermyer on what could have been a touchdown. Instead, the Aggies settled for a 44-yard field goal from Seth Small.
The next drive, a similar story. Calzada was under pressure and instead of throwing it out of bounds, he tried to force a ball to Moose Muhammad. New Mexico's Tavian Combs jumped the route for an interception.
Calzada made up for the interception with a perfectly executed 7-yard touchdown pass to Muhammad. So there's much to consider a positive entering SEC play.
Even if he felt first-start jitters, Calzada finished with 275 passing yards and three touchdowns. And he's got another week to get ready for the resurgent Razorbacks.
"Sometimes when you play real good, you keep thinking everything is a home run. Just hit the baseball," Fisher said. "Just hit it hard or make the right decision is what I keep saying."
Calzada made enough right decisions Saturday. His performance against the Lobos gives hope the Aggies remain a real threat in the SEC.
Well, this performance and the defense's continued domination. After locking down Colorado in the second half, the Aggies allowed 122 total yards and just five first downs. New Mexico QB Terry Wilson finished 10 of 23 passing for just 33 yards.
A&M also recorded four sacks, and Edgerrin Cooper's fourth quarter interception marked the fifth straight game with a takeaway.
"It's the start of us rising as a whole," defensive lineman DeMarvin Leal said. "It was a complete game and we're all on the same page. We started the game fast, finished it strong."
Even if the Lobos weren't a "tuneup," they aren't in the same stratosphere as Arkansas.
Games from here are out matter and half-baked performances won't get it done.
"This SEC West, it don't get no better," Fisher said. "This is as good as ball as there is and you better strap it on and you better like and you better be ready for it."
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