COLLEGE STATION, Texas >> Alabama is back on top and Tua Tagovailoa and the Tide look to stay there for a while.
Tagovailoa threw four touchdowns to smash a school career record, and No. 1 Alabama’s offense kept rolling along behind his powerful left arm with a 47-28 victory over No. 24 Texas A&M today.
Tagovailoa, a Saint Louis graduate, threw his first interception of the season but his first touchdown of the game made him Alabama’s career passing touchdowns leader, passing A.J. McCarron. The junior now has 81 for his career and leads the nation with 27 on the season.
He shrugged off the school record to focus on the importance of getting a win in Alabama’s first game as No. 1 this season, and doing it against the Tide’s first ranked opponent in front of a stadium record crowd of 106,479.
“You just revert back to your training. I’ve experienced playing at a place like Tennessee, then going to LSU, Ole Miss … Everyone wants to beat Alabama,” Tagovailoa said. “We’re not done yet. As a team we have to continue to grow.”
Alabama (6-0, 3-0 Southeastern Conference) trailed briefly when Texas A&M scored a touchdown on its first possession.
Tagovailoa took over from there. He led four consecutive scoring drives, which included three touchdown passes that came on third down. The only blemish was the interception thrown in the Texas A&M end zone late in the second quarter that could have put away the game.
Tagovailoa spread the scoring around, with all of his TD strikes going to different receivers. His two longest of the day were a 47-yarder to DeVonta Smith in the first quarter and a pinpoint 33-yarder to Henry Ruggs III in the third.
“I feel I have a relationship with everyone, a good connection with everyone,” Tagovailoa said.
Alabama didn’t punt until there was less than 2 minutes left in the third quarter. Najee Harris rushed for 114 yards. Jaylen Waddle scored Alabama’s first touchdown on a 31-yard catch-and-run when he shook four defenders, and he also had a big day on punt returns with four for 128 yards.
Ever the perfectionist, Alabama coach Nick Saban still found some things to pick over.
He didn’t like the consecutive personal foul penalties that set up a Texas A&M scoring drive, and a rash of late penalties, which included Smith getting ejected in the final minute for throwing a punch. Texas A&M had kept the game within two scores into the fourth quarter.
“We really could have broken the game open early,” Saban said. “Didn’t finish the game with class.”
Kellen Mond passed for 264 yards and two touchdowns and ran for a score for the Aggies (3-3, 1-2).
Alabama: The Tide’s young defense recorded five sacks but was prone to giving up some big plays that kept the Aggies hanging around. Tagovailoa’s fourth touchdown pass made it 34-13, but a penalty negated an interception before blown coverage allowed a wide-open touchdown pass. But with Tagovailoa running the offense as he’s doing, it didn’t matter.
Texas A&M: A brutal schedule keeps beating up the Aggies. Texas A&M lost its second game to a top-ranked opponent this season. The Aggies fell to then-No. 1 Clemson on Sept. 7. Texas A&M is one of just five schools to face the No. 1 team twice in a season since the poll began in 1936, having also done it in 1970. “We have to push through it. Against good people, you can’t almost get there. You got to be all the way, executing on every play,” Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher said.
Waddle had a big day because the Aggies thought they could cover Braden Mann’s booming punts. They were wrong.
Mann averaged 49 yards per kick with a long of 57 and Waddle kept bringing them back the other way to set up the Tide with great field position. Alabama’s scoring drives started on average at the Texas A&M 48.
“Look, people don’t kick the ball to us very much,” Saban said. “These guys have a great punter and everybody asked me about a great punter. My comment was a great punter is good for us because we’ll get some returns on it. And we got some. He kicked it far and we returned it far. That’s the way it goes.”
Alabama also blocked a punt and recovered it for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Alabama likely stays on top. The offense looks like it could win a shootout every week.
Texas A&M likely drops out of the rankings and with three losses already, it could be a while before they return.
Saban is 18-0 when coaching against his former assistants and is 3-0 against Fisher, who was Saban’s offensive coordinator when LSU won the national championship.
Alabama hosts Tennessee on Oct. 19.
Texas A&M travels to Mississippi on Oct. 19.