Could you have blamed any Aggie anywhere – on the field or in the Twitterverse – for being down on Zach Calzada?
For much of Saturday in the Mile High environs of Denver, things were mighty rocky. Calzada, filling in for injured Haynes King, looked about as ready to play as Texas in the SEC.
(Yes, that was awesome.)
And for someone who’s been on campus since 2019 and supposedly battled King for the starting job throughout the offseason, Calzada was a fish out of water from the moment he stepped on the Empower Field.
But with the game hanging in the balance – and perhaps the hopes of the season – the Georgia native found his sea legs. And arm.
“He was positive, we all kept a positive vibe,” Isaiah Spiller said. “Nobody was pointing fingers because we don’t do that.”
If anything, Spiller and the Aggies can point to the final two drives as evidence going forward that Calzada can possibly do the job. It’s a mighty one, as No. 5 Texas A&M has its sight set on a playoff berth and a possible, well, you know what.
That might have all been lost had Colorado upset the Aggies on a day of upsets. It certainly was there for the Buffaloes’ taking. Holding a 7-3 going into the fourth quarter, CU had its former Big 12 mates (and Calzada) on the ropes.
Consider what the Aggies had done behind the 6-foot-4 slinger with a cannon right arm up until that point. In Calzada’s first eight possessions after replacing King, the Aggies punted seven times.
Only one of those drives managed to travel more than 20 yards. Calzada was slow to get plays called, jittery in the pocket, locked in on receivers and wild. He repeatedly tried to fire the ball into small or nonexistent windows without making any progressions to find open receivers.
Not that sort of thing a quarterback guru like Jimbo Fisher wants to see.
“Sometimes you get thrown in there, things get going too fast,” Fisher said. “I mean, he has guys open and he missed them. I call it flash read. I've been there, man. I played quarterback. It’s what I call flash reading. You see it, but you’re going through it too quick.”
The fourth quarter was different, though not exactly a work of art. Calzada did will the Aggies through two drives that showed he – and his teammates – hadn’t given up.
The first march ended with Calzada making a mad dash to the end zone, a scramble that electrified the A&M sideline – and the maroon Twitterverse – as the Aggies momentarily took the lead.
The thing was, he lost the ball a split second before going over the goal line. Lead, and ball, back to CU.
The A&M defense – Calzada’s best friend all afternoon – made another stop and gave him another chance. Using Spiller and Devon Achane along the way, Calzada steered another long trip to the cusp of victory.
“He realized he had to do it,” Fisher said. “And there’s something to that when you realize you’ve got to do it. You're able to put two drives together and scramble, make throws and plays when you had to.
“That throw he made to Spiller was a great play at the end, a great throw in a scramble to a third receiver on that route. That was the No. 3 receiver.”
That also wasn’t a throw Calzada made for the first three quarters. He bought time and showed a deft touch dropping the ball right in Spiller’s breadbasket. The moment slowed down and Calzada stepped into it.
“We all just wanted to win,” Spiller said. “Zach still showed that. Zach got comfortable towards me in the game. Zach’s going to be really good for us down the line.”
With the status of King uncertain – that boot doesn’t look too promising – down the line may be now. Calzada is surrounded by talent, which should ease the burden.
“His job is for the guys around him to take care of him while he grows in what he has to do,” Fisher said.
Calzada may still not be ready to challenge Arkansas, much less Alabama. Heck, New Mexico’s defense could be a challenge come Saturday.
If this is Calzada’s time, there’s no time to be down.
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