Zach Calzada hasn't been asked to do much with the passing offense for Texas A&M this season. The quarterback is designed to make the right reads on certain plays and trust his run game.
But in Oxford, Ole Miss came ready. The Rebels knew that Devon Achane and Isaiah Spiller would be trouble. Giving them the football was a concern. Making Calzada pass was a mystery.
Two throws will define Calzada's night in No. 11 A&M's 29-19 loss to No. 15 Ole Miss (8-2, 4-2 SEC). Both were interceptions. Both were in the fourth quarter. Both came under pressure.
That's the type of pressure teams that feel as if they can elevate their status as a College Football Playoff contender can overcome instant.
Calzada and the Aggies crumbled late, allowing the Rebels hopes in the SEC West race to remain alive a tad longer.
Calzada targeted wide receiver Demond Demas on second down inside the Aggies' 20. The ball was a tad overthrown, forcing the freshman to jump and make a play. Coming down, the ball would leave his hands and into Rebels' linebacker Ashanti Cistrunk.
Two plays later, running back Snoop Conner would go untouched for a 13-yard touchdown, extending the Rebels' lead by nine.
On the ensuing drive, Calzada would try to move the ball to midfield by finding wide receiver Ainias Smith. The ball was late leaving his hand, allowing defensive back AJ Finley to jump the route for a 52-yard interception returned for a touchdown.
Ole Miss led by two points with just over nine minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. It led by 15 five offensive plays later.
It's not as if Calzada was the lone problem for the Aggies (7-3, 4-3 SEC) in The Grove. The Rebels offense was efficiently moving the football with a high tempo that kept A&M's defense on its heels.
Matt Corral, a Heisman favorite, moved the ball through the air with ease. He conducted the offense as if it was his symphony and the crowd was his audience ready to give him a standing ovation.
Ole Miss tallied over 400 yards of offense in the first half. Running back Jerrion Ealy tallied 129 rushing yards while Corral found wide receiver Dontario Drummond for a 2-yard touchdown.
And the Rebels were well prepared for the run. Spiller was swallowed behind the line of scrimmage, none worse than the loss in the end zone for a safety before halftime. Calzada watched his receivers drop passes left and right.
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The Aggies only converted once on third down and averaged less than three yards per play.
Fisher likely let the players hear in the locker room before the start of the third quarter. Everything shifted the Aggies way offensively following kickoff from Ole Miss. Kicker Seth Small put A&M on the board with a 30-yard field goal.
One drive later, Achane put A&M back in the game with a 24-yard touchdown run. Everything Aggie fans watched from Ole Miss and the first and second quarter were now moving in favor of the visiting squad.
Then came the first interception. The second likely put a dagger in the hopes of a comeback and in hopes of an SEC West division title barring madness from the Rebels and No. 2 Alabama over the next two weeks.
Achane scored on a 9-yard touchdown following the pick-six. Calzada moved the ball with ease, going 3 of 4 and connecting with Smith twice gains of over 20 yards.
It didn't matter. The damage was done. All that was left for the clock to strike zero.
A&M coach Jimbo Fisher should have much on his mind as the team boards its flight. Did the team throw too late? Was the run game too staggering early to trust a comeback later on?
All good questions. Little answers until watching the film.
In close games like the one in Oxford, one throw can be a difference-maker. On Saturday, it was two from Calzada. Thus ends a four-game winning streak, a chance to take down a top 15 team, and perhaps even more.
Calzada was asked to do much since his victory over then-No. 1 Alabama. When asked on the road, he'll just come up short.
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