Road Game

Just a short drive down SH 21 offers big-time college football

Posted 10/15/19

(Editor’s note: This is the third of an occasional series about day trips possible from Madison County. The company that owns the Meteor has credentials for Texas A&M University football games, and generously invited reporter Campbell Atkins to come to a game.)

For most of the stories I’ve written on day trips from Madison County, I’ve experienced things just as any other visitor. For a football game at Texas A&M University, I had press credentials. Also, an unobstructed, climate-controlled view. And free snacks.

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

E-mail
Password
Log in

Road Game

Just a short drive down SH 21 offers big-time college football

Posted

(Editor’s note: This is the third of an occasional series about day trips possible from Madison County. The company that owns the Meteor has credentials for Texas A&M University football games, and generously invited reporter Campbell Atkins to come to a game.)

For most of the stories I’ve written on day trips from Madison County, I’ve experienced things just as any other visitor. For a football game at Texas A&M University, I had press credentials. Also, an unobstructed, climate-controlled view. And free snacks.

So, your mileage may vary.

Saturday’s A&M game brought the top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide and a special buzz to Kyle Field and College Station as the Aggies looked to dethrone the SEC’s finest for the first time in seven years.

The Meteor had an opportunity to cover the matchup from the press box, giving us a bird’s eye view of the mass chaos below. As promised on the notes left at your designated working station, the box significantly rumbles and sways during the playing of the Aggie War Hymn.

Saturday marked my third trip to Kyle Field after working games against Auburn and Northwestern State in the past. Auburn brings a certain amount of hype in their own right (the Tigers defeated A&M 42-27 in that 2017 matchup), but there’s just something about ‘Bama.

I admit that watching over 100,000 people do just about anything would likely be captivating, but the aerial view of the Aggie faithful swaying from left-to-right in unison is nothing short of astonishing. That will never get old.

The usual tailgating festivities and pregame anticipation were understandably heightened for the matchup as the 12th Man hoped to reprise the glory of Johnny Manziel’s 29-24 upset victory over the top-ranked Tide in 2012.

A hot start got the stadium rocking from side-to-side (literally), but the Aggies were ultimately unable to withstand Alabama’s force. A&M did manage to take advantage of some early mistakes, including quarterback Tua Tagovailoa’s first interception of the season. This kept things interesting entering the second half.

Tua threw four touchdown passes in a 47-point offensive and special teams outburst for the Tide.

“We really could have broken the game open early,” said Alabama head coach Nick Saban. “This is a tough place to play and it is a great win for us, especially in this division.”

Tua tossed three touchdowns on third-down plays in the first half despite the fact that the offense was kept on the sidelines for the majority of the opening quarter. He capitalized on ideal field position throughout the day and connected with Jaylen Waddle, Devonta Smith and Najee Harris for early Alabama scores.

Alabama compiled more than 300 yards on special teams and recorded a blocked punt that went for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. Jaylen Waddle set up the Aggies with great field position via a kick or punt return on three occasions.

“People do not kick the ball to us very much,” said Saban. “A great punter is good for us because we will get to return some balls. He kicked it far and we returned it far.”

Tua’s lone blemish came when the Tide had a chance to all but close out the game late in the first half. Alabama had just recovered a fumble to set their offense up on the Aggie 26-yard line.

His third down pass was intercepted by Demani Richardson in the end zone to keep it a two-possession game. It also allowed the Aggies to cut the deficit to 11 at halftime with a 31-yard field goal by Seth Small as time expired.

Alabama was able to build a three-possession lead midway through the third quarter when Tua found Henry Ruggs III in the corner of the end zone to go up 34-13.

All told, Tua threw for 293 yards and was well assisted on the ground. Alabama’s Najee Harris recorded 114 yards on 20 carries while Brian Robinson Jr. added another 50 on 10 carries.

Texas A&M responded with an 82-yard scoring drive to get back within 14 in the third quarter and even found momentum when they were able to stop the Alabama offense on the ensuing possession. But a Kendrick Rogers unsportsmanlike conduct penalty ultimately killed the drive and led to a long Waddle punt return inside the Aggie 35.

Robinson Jr. then capped off the drive with a two-yard touchdown run to put the Tide up three scores once again and end any Aggie hopes of a comeback.

A&M could not have gotten off to a better start on the afternoon. They used over eight minutes of the opening quarter to march 75 yards for the game’s first score. Kellen Mond ultimately finished off the drive with three straight rushes, including a score from one yard out.

“The players did not get frustrated, they just made the adjustments we needed to make,” said Saban.

A&M rushed for 42 yards on the opening possession, with much of it coming from Isaiah Spiller as well as Mond. But Spiller finished with just 27 yards on 10 carries in the loss. All told, Mond led the team in rushing by far with 90 yards on 16 carries and a touchdown. He also threw for a pair of touchdowns.

“I felt for one time in a while that we fought for the entire game,” said Mond. “That is something we did not really do prior to this. As a whole, we need to play a little more consistent. But I definitely think we are on the right track.”

With a number of losses to big time opponents in recent years, some speculate that Kyle Field is losing its longstanding reputation as one of the hardest environments to play in at the college level.

But it is difficult to judge a team for losing games to schools like Alabama this year or Clemson in 2018, even if they occur at home. It is also worth noting that the Aggies would have had a strong chance to defeat the top-ranked Tigers last season if it has not been for a questionable call at the end of the game.

I can report from firsthand experience that the fans at Kyle Field have not lost anything at all in terms of passion and, of course, noise. I have only been to a handful of SEC venues, but College Station brings a special atmosphere and unparalleled feel on game day.

Comments