This was not the game that would turn this team into a contender in 2015. But it was not the game that will break it either. It featured some truly historically awful numbers as well as some very encouraging ones that basically split into a dichotomy of offense (turnovers) vs. defense (adjustments).
1. Punt return touchdowns by Christian Kirk. This was the spark that the team desperately needed; the swift kick in the rear as we'd been floundering all day. It got the crowd right back into the game at the end of the first half.
2. Punt return touchdowns on the season for Christian Kirk. As far as we can tell through a cursory look at the Internet, he's the first Aggie to get multiple punt return touchdowns in a season since Aaron Glenn in 1993.
3. Pick-sixes thrown by Kyle Allen. This is so awful that it's nearly phenomenal. They were not balls that were tipped by receivers. They were bad throws.
4. Interceptions thrown by the team overall.
6. Sacks given up. Allen was not getting rid of the ball for some reason.
20. Points allowed to Alabama's offense.
21. Points allowed to Alabama's defense.
32. Rushing yards for the Aggies.
207. Interception return yards by Alabama.
316. Total offensive yards for Texas A&M. Our entire offense only outgained three interception return plays by 109 yard.
Looking at these numbers again in the light of the day makes it even more remarkable that we were actually even in this game late into the second half, and we owe that completely to defense and special teams. Derrick Henry gashed the defense for 236 yards. The vast majority of the damage was over by the first quarter, though.
Derrick Henry had 17 carries for 58 yards in the second half.
— Lucas Jackson (@CoolHand_Lucas) October 18, 2015
Unlike in years past, the defense adjusted, and adjusted well. As indicated before, the defense gave up fewer points than the three pick sixes thrown. The play of the defense is why this year's team is light years beyond last year's, essentially the difference between 59-0 and 41-23. Defense, you get your own mini By The Numbers.
1. Punt block by Myles Garrett. He just used is speed and freakishness to get a great block off the edge with his off-hand. Unfortunately, the offense was unable to capitalize.
2. Safeties with 10 tackles. Watts and Evans Yeah, this sounds horrible and Gary Danielson loves to point out how awful it is for defensive backs to make tackles but the truth is we're just fortunate they are making tackles. It's much better than whiffing or getting run over like recent years.
4. Players who had a pair of tackles for loss. Mack, Garrett, Henderson, and Moore all made two tackles behind the line.
5. Tackles by Donovan Wilson. Once again, he was in the middle of everything. Had a half TFL, a pass breakup, and recovered the fumble on the punt return. He's now had a hand in seven turnovers this year: 2 interceptions, 3 forced fumbles, and 2 fumble recoveries.
12. Sam Moeller had a forced fumble. It would prove to be the only turnover we forced.
13. Players involved in a tackle for loss. Good hustle!
15. Tackles for loss. Yep, there's a theme here but it's worth emphasizing. This was the hidden gem in the numbers that kept getting brought up. Sure, part of it was Kiffin getting "cute" but we've improved enough to where we can finally capitalize on "cute".
396. Total yards allowed to Alabama. Nearly 200 of those came in the first quarter alone.
The dichotomy of the two sides of the ball is the central story of this game: for maybe the first time in the Sumlin era the offense actively lost it for us. The defense outperformed the offense and we lost. Something was not clicking, and combined with the bad QB play that put us in a spot where the defense had to turn in a stellar performance just to keep us in the game, and it still wasn't enough. The offense needs to get their house in order before facing a pissed-off and cornered Ole Miss team next week, because as good as the defense is compared to last year, it's not enough to win a game on its own against a team that good.