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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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The BattalionMay 4, 2024

3 seconds, 2 yards, 1 dream

Photo by Robert O’Brien

A&M coach Jimbo Fisher prepares to take the field with his team before the start of Texas A&M’s game against the Alabama Crimson Tide on Saturday, Oct. 8, 2022, at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

An hour outside of the SEC headquarters, Texas A&M traveled to Tuscaloosa, Ala., to take on the daunting task of facing 60 minutes of gridiron football against the top-ranked team in the nation, Alabama, a challenge no stranger to A&M.
But this time was different. All week, the signs pointed toward a battle of backup quarterbacks. A&M junior Max Johnson was announced to have broken a bone in his hand, a potentially season-ending injury. On the side of the crimson and white, junior Bryce Young injured his shoulder in the previous week’s defeat of Arkansas in Fayetteville, Ark.
And yet, the Aggies found themselves down just four points, 24-20, after nailing a field goal late in the fourth. Alabama, though, received the ball back with 3:32 left on the clock in the fourth. The Aggies continued to channel the defensive resilience they’d shown all game en route to 10 tackles for loss as a team. They put the Tide into a fourth down, forcing a punt.
With 79 yards to go, one minute and 50 seconds, the Aggies marched down the field. Impressive catches from freshmen, strong runs by sophomores and a crucial pass interference from Alabama put the Aggies on the 2-yard line.
Three seconds. Two yards. One dream.
However, the ball did not connect, and the Aggies lost in an instant thriller, falling short of the magic struck a year ago in Kyle Field.
“[It was] the same play we had scored on earlier,” coach Jimbo Fisher said. “[Alabama] changed the coverage, and they went right back and made the perfect read on it.”
The Tide pressured the Aggies from the start despite Young not taking the field; rather, Katy native and redshirt freshman Jalen Milroe was under center for Alabama to open the game, proving it would be a battle of backups under the flashing lights and night sky of Bryant-Denny Stadium. The legs of Milroe and junior running back Jahmyr Gibbs took the Tide past half field, but a clutch sack from senior linebacker Chris Russell Jr. forced an Alabama punt and the ball back into A&M’s possession.
The two teams traded punts a few more times, ending the first quarter with a combined seven punts and only eight first downs. But the second quarter saw Milroe’s legs cause problems for the Aggies. He scrambled on broken pass plays for 14- and 33-yard gains, putting the Crimson Tide in the red zone for the first time all game. But on a third-and-8 play, Milroe connected with redshirt senior tight end Cameron Latu in the end zone for a 7-0 Alabama lead.
After another punt, sophomore defensive lineman Fadil Diggs sacked Milroe, forcing a fumble that was recovered by sophomore linebacker Edgerrin Cooper at the Alabama 30-yard line. Two first-down passes to freshman wide receiver Chris Marshall put the Aggies inside the 10-yard line, and sophomore receiver Moose Muhammad III put 6 points on the board with a touchdown catch, sealed by an extra-point attempt from sophomore kicker Randy Bond, tying things at 7-7.
Alabama retaliated quickly, though, as Gibbs ran for 37 yards and junior receiver Jermaine Burton caught a 35-yard pass for a score, changing the tides and bringing Alabama to a 14-7 lead. The crimson and white forced another Aggie punt, but Diggs got Milroe in the backfield again, forcing his second fumble of the game, a recovery by junior defensive back Jaylon Jones at midfield.
“[Defensive coordinator DJ] Durkin called the game aggressive, so it just gave us more confidence as a [defensive] line to get out there,” Diggs said, who ended the game with six tackles, two sacks, three tackles for loss, one quarterback hurry and two forced fumbles. “We were in the right place and punching out the ball more this week … Every chance we get, we got to get the ball.”
On the very next play, King connected with freshman receiver Evan Stewart 43 yards downfield on a jump ball that put the Aggies at the 6-yard line. On third-and-goal, freshman tight end Donovan Green slipped behind the defense on a play-action pass, and King hit him in the end zone to bring the score back to a tie at 14-14.
Back in possession, Milroe took a deep shot downfield with a minute to go in the half that was intercepted by sophomore defensive back Jardin Gilbert; however, after being forced into a third-down situation, King got intercepted back, putting Alabama inside the 30-yard line with 0:38 in the half. Alabama kicked a 50-yard field goal for the 17-14 halftime lead for the home team.
Alabama kept the momentum on its side, capitalizing on some A&M mistakes with a half-opening touchdown pass to sophomore receiver Ja’Corey Brooks for 29 yards. An A&M punt put the ball back in Alabama’s hands, but the Aggies’ defense forced another fumble against the Tide. Freshman defensive lineman Walter Nolen hit Alabama junior running back Jase McClellan from behind, coughing the ball up for recovery by freshman defensive lineman Shemar Stewart.
King hit his second deep bomb of the day, catching Muhammad behind the Tide’s defense for a 36-yard circus catch. The Aggies failed to complete the drive, stalling out and taking a 41-yard field goal to shorten Alabama’s lead to 24-17.
Alabama ran an 11-play, 46-yard drive to end the third quarter that resulted in a missed kick, but the Aggies turned the ball back over on a failed fourth-down-conversion attempt at midfield. The Tide marched back into scoring position again but missed a second consecutive field goal to give the Aggies the ball with nine minutes to go.
Despite a late field goal and a 4-point deficit, the Aggies failed to finish the game on top, losing to Alabama for the ninth time in 10 years.

“I’m very proud of how we competed, but it’s no moral victory; there’s no such thing as moral victories,” Fisher said. “But, it does show you what we’re capable of, how we can play and things we can do. We have got to regroup next week, play our tails off to get better and finish these last six games.”

The Aggies will have a bye week to regroup as a unit before traveling to South Carolina to face off with the Gamecocks on Saturday, Oct. 22 at an undetermined time.
“This week of practice is going to be very big for us, and we’re just going to have to get each other better and get ready for South Carolina,” junior offensive lineman Layden Robinson said.

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