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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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Taking on Tuscaloosa

Photo by Robert O’Brien

Graduate student linebacker Aaron Hansford attempts to block a pass thrown by Alabama quarterback Bryce Young.

The rematch the entire college football fanbase has been waiting for has is finally here. 

Unranked Texas A&M heads to Tuscaloosa, Ala., this weekend to take on the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide on its home turf one year after defeating them last season at Kyle Field at 7 p.m. on Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium. This marks the 15th meeting in the teams history with the Crimson Tide holding a 11-3 lead in the new rivalry. 

Before last season, the Aggies had an eight-game losing streak dating back to 2013. The Crimson Tide has dominated the team, outscoring them 353-173 over those last eight losses. Last season changed the tide after the maroon and white were able to secure a 41-38 win when  former kicker Seth Small made the game-winning field goal. 

Heading into this matchup, the Aggies are coming off a tough 42-24 loss to Mississippi State and the chance of A&M leading the SEC West this season is now slim to none. Meanwhile, the Crimson Tide has been taking care of business and are coming into this game with a perfect 5-0 record, its most recent win being Arkansas with a 49-26 score. 

“They’re an outstanding team,” A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher said. “Of course Nick [Saban]’s a tremendous coach. He’s got great players, they’re coached well, playing well, doing everything there and got to go on the road and play again. So like I said, you’ve got to move on …  We’ve got to work this week and make the adjustments and make the corrections and get better.”

With the loss to the Bulldogs last week and a slow performance in a win at the Southwest Classic against Arkansas, there isn’t too much momentum for the Aggies going into this game, but the team can still draw off experience, Fisher said. 

“You live off your experiences, but at the time, we went out the next week and had tremendous practices and prepared well and went and played well,” Fisher said. “Those are the things I keep going back to right now. You’ve got to go prepare well in practice. To have an opportunity to go play a team like Alabama, to have a chance to play well against them, you have to practice well. We’ve done that before, but hopefully we’ll do it again this week.”

One of the most important things to note going into the widely talked about game is junior quarterback Max Johnson could possibly not make an appearance after exiting against Mississippi State last Saturday. However, former sophomore QB1 Haynes King has handled his demotion well and will be ready to play if needed, Fisher said. 

“He’s been excellent,” Fisher said. “He stepped right in the middle of a drive and took us down. Him and Max [Johnson] work hand in hand every day. They sit together, go over plays, go over concepts, talk about ideas.”

Going up against a quarterback like Heisman-winner Bryce Young means the defense must put more priority on the pass rush after allowing the Bulldogs’ junior quarterback Will Rogers to put up 329 yards and three touchdowns. 

“I think we just need to win our one-on-ones in the pass rush and just come off harder,” sophomore defensive lineman Fadil Diggs said. “We just haven’t been winning our one-on-ones. We need to execute better in the schemes we’re running and just have got to provide more pressure on the quarterback.”

On A&M’s side of things, the offensive line has been a huge focus for the team — as the past five weeks haven’t produced the best results — and going up against the ninth-best rushing defense could cause problems. However, there has been a jump in improvement, Fisher said. 

“You go back and watch, we ran the football very well,” Fisher said “We were averaging almost nine yards per carry on the first three series of the game running the football. And, we had two pick-ups inside that we come off a twist where they didn’t come on pass pro, and that’s where the sacks come from. But running the football, I thought we were excellent. And for the most part, most I mean, we had a couple of screw ups in there on the twist game … but they did progress.”

The Aggie defense will have its work cut out against them at Alabama and it’s critical that A&M force more turnovers and put points on the board because of them, junior defensive back Antonio Johnson said. 

“We knew going into that game that we needed to get turnovers, and we had a few opportunities that we didn’t capitalize on,” Johnson said. “I feel like those could have been a turning point of the game. That’s in the past now. So next game, we’ve just got to win those opportunities.” 

With all of the hype surrounding this game, A&M will enter a relatively hostile stadium with Alabama fans hungry to get revenge after last year’s upset. 

“It’s loud,” Diggs said. “It’s loud in every stadium, and playing in Kyle Field will actually help us with that a lot. We just need to communicate and get our signals in better, because like you said, it’s a crazy atmosphere. So, we just need to get our signals in and communicate up front and in the back end.”

Despite all of the history between the Aggies and Crimson Tide, the most important thing is making sure the entire team is on the same page and can continue SEC play with a win, Johnson said. 

“Right now, it’s all about just making sure everybody’s in the right headspace going into this game,” Johnson said. “I feel this is a good teaching point for the team. We were in the same spot last year. You know, it’s all about just finishing the season. Each week, just go out, work hard each day, practice hard and go into the game with the mindset to just play for each other.” 

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