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Zach Calzada had the game of his life as Texas A&M upset No. 1 Alabama on Saturday.
Calzada threw a game-tying TD pass to Ainias Smith with three minutes to go as his left knee got rolled up on by a lineman. He returned to the game for A&M’s next possession despite being helped off the field after the TD pass and led the Aggies down the field for a game-winning drive that culminated in a 28-yard field goal by Seth Small and a 41-38 win.
Calzada entered the game completing 55% of his passes after taking over for Haynes King following a fractured lower left leg suffered in the second game of the season. Saturday night, Calzada was 21-of-31 passing for 285 yards and three TDs and an interception along with a huge scramble on A&M’s final drive.
Here's what his pass to Smith for the game-tying score looked like.
This game is a classic. pic.twitter.com/XMpJelshC7
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) October 10, 2021
Alabama went three-and-out on what could have been a game-winning TD drive and A&M got the ball back with 2:08 to go. It took the Aggies eight plays to go 54 yards with the help of a key pass interference penalty to get into chip shot range for Small.
The A&M win means Jimbo Fisher is the first former Nick Saban assistant to beat the Alabama coach. Former Saban assistants entered Saturday night 0-24 against Saban as head coaches.
A&M led most of the game
While A&M needed 10 points over the final three minutes of the game to get the win, the Aggies led for most of the game. Alabama’s 38-31 lead with five minutes left was its first lead since 7-3 midway through the first quarter.
And that go-ahead TD in the fourth quarter was one that shouldn’t have counted. Alabama rushed up to the line to snap the ball as it realized A&M’s defense was discombobulated and Jameson Williams was totally uncovered. But as Bryce Young hit Williams for a seven-yard TD, an illegal motion penalty should have negated the play.
Watch the video below closely. Alabama left tackle Evan Neal isn’t set at the snap.
WIDE OPEN FOR JAMESON WILLIAMS. ALABAMA TAKES THE LEAD. pic.twitter.com/QoxHys5Lbz
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) October 10, 2021
That was one of the only moments of the night that A&M’s defense wasn’t on the same page. Well-timed blitzes and stunts from defensive coordinator Mike Elko overmatched Alabama’s offensive line at various points and sent Young scrambling.
Jimbo Fisher's quote comes true
Fisher raised eyebrows when he was heard at a donor meeting saying that A&M was “going to beat his ass” when he was asked about Saban’s dominance of the SEC West at Alabama.
After all, it felt like a preposterous statement given that no former Saban assistant had been able to get a win against him. And when Saban was asked about what Fisher said, Saban cracked a smile and wondered if Fisher was talking about the coaches’ golf games.
Well, Fisher now has his signature win to help back up the new $90 million contract extension that A&M recently gave him. But he’s going to need some help from the other teams in the SEC West if the win is going to put A&M in contention for the SEC West.
Thanks to back-to-back losses to Arkansas and Mississippi State in the two weeks before the Alabama game, the Aggies are outside of the division title picture. Had A&M not lost to Mississippi State at home a week ago it would be in a tie at the top of the West along with Alabama and Ole Miss. Instead, it's still a game back of the top two and doesn't have the tiebreaker advantage against the Razorbacks.
Alabama's still in a good position for the SEC and the playoff
While this loss is the first for Alabama since it lost to Auburn in November of 2019 and it will knock Alabama out of the No. 1 spot in the AP Top 25, the Crimson Tide are still firmly in control of their playoff destiny.
An undefeated rest of the regular season and a win over (likely) SEC East champion Georgia in the SEC championship game will get Alabama into the playoff with a 12-1 record and likely make the Crimson Tide a top-two seed. And the SEC West is still Alabama's to lose thanks to last week's win over Ole Miss.
But Saturday's loss showed that Alabama is vulnerable — it was the first time in over 100 games that an unranked team had beaten Alabama. Though regular-season losses are also fairly commonplace for the Crimson Tide under Saban.
The 2021 season is now the 10th season where Alabama has lost a game in the regular season in Saban's tenure. And four of those previous nine seasons resulted in national championships. Don't even start to think about counting out Alabama just yet.