Yes, Texas A&M QB Zack Calzada had struggled mightily in his first few games. But as Jimbo Fisher accurately states consistently, the QB gets too much glory when you win and too much blame when you lose. Calzada didn’t get the nickname of The Cuban Missile by mistake, the young man has superior arm talent. When given a clean pocket and time to throw, the whole country watched him destroy the mighty Alabama Crimson Tide.
This year has been a mess, and there is enough blame and unfortunate injury circumstance to go around the locker room, but at the end of the day, nobody cares. For weeks now, there has been growing frustration from the fanbase and ever-increasing criticism from the national media about Jimbo’s recent extension. Let me be clear, his job ain’t done yet, but clearly, the critics need to eat some humble pie and sit quietly in the corner for a while. If ever there was a team that had every reason to come out flat, scared, and feel overmatched, it was the home team wearing maroon on Saturday night. But, from the opening whistle outplayed, out-coached, and stunned the dynasty of Alabama. If pundits can’t see that Jimbo Fisher has changed the talent level, confidence, and the football IQ of this team, they are choosing to be critical with no evidence.
Obviously, the Aggies made a lot of big plays Saturday night, but I will highlight a few that I thought were impactful. The focus is on the Aggies offensive line, aka “The Maroon Goons,” who allowed ZERO SACKS and allowed Zach Calzada to show what he is capable of when given an honest chance. No pointing fingers on the past two weeks, it's been a tough road, but this team grew up in a big way Saturday night.
Throughout the night, Nick Saban sent pressure as expected, but the Maroon Goons picked it up time after time. With the Aggies up 17-10 late in the 2nd quarter and driving, Bama sends two backers to attempt to make Calzada uncomfortable. Isaiah Spiller is going to try and chip (RBs, TEs and WRs did a great job all night of this) but on this play, the OL didn't even need any help. Hat on a hat, good technique, doing the ordinary things the right way, created a clean pocket and time for Calzada to hit SubZer0 for another chunk play to keep the drive going.
The next play, in my opinion, was Calzada’s best pass of the year... an absolute dime to Achane down the sideline on a wheel route. But again, Alabama sends six this time and the OL holds the gate long enough for Zack to make the throw. I can’t speak enough to how impressive the line (with two true freshmen) handled all Bama could throw at it. The line didn't have help on the left side, so yes the pressure gets through, but the LG Blake Trainor gets enough of two Bama defenders to keep the play alive. Good offensive line play is not always about domination, but mere survival for a split second to allow the QB time to get rid of the ball.
At intermission of this film breakdown of the resurgence of the Maroon Goons and the emergence of Zack Calzada, I present our halftime entertainment. As you all recall, the walls started closing in on Aggies everywhere in the third quarter. The Tide seemed to be rolling as they scored a special teams touchdown on the blocked punt. And then magic happened and for once something Barry Switzer said was actually true, SPEED KILLS! Yes, the blocking was beautiful and the Aggies set a great wall for Achane to cut back on, but I am sure you all were like Jalen Preston, Celebrating an Aggie touchdown before Achane even reached midfield. No breakdown here, just enjoy...
This time Alabama tries to drop back and just cover, only attempting pressure with their subpar, 5-star-laden defensive line :) Seriously, that is not a shot at them, but the Aggies reshuffled offensive line handled them so well! Zack had time to let Smith find the soft spot in the zone and settle in for a big play to start a critical drive late in the fourth.
Last, but not least is the play that tied it up at 38-38. Yes, it was scary that Calzada got rolled up on and potentially hurt... but that was a product of the every-play dangers of football, not the offensive line. Alabama brings six defenders on the blitz again, the Maroon Goons get a hat on a hat and Achane delivers a perfect chop block on the LB coming downhill. The result was magical.
When Calzada had time, he threw darts, he stood tall, he didn’t blink. This quarterback didn’t just grow up Saturday night, the big men up front did too. That combination could prove very scary down the stretch of SEC play.