TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - In the detail-oriented and "consistency in performance" world of Alabama football coach Nick Saban, the fourth quarter of Saturday's 45-23 home win over Texas A&M certainly qualifies as a nightmare.
With starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa on the sideline after throwing for 387 yards and four touchdowns while staking the top-ranked Crimson Tide to a 45-16 advantage, the final 15 minutes were supposed to be about grinding out the clock to polish off the rout.
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Instead, Alabama ran just nine plays for 43 yards, while the Aggies reeled off 23 for 157, including a 9-yard touchdown run by quarterback Kellen Mond that accounted for the final score in the Southeastern Conference matchup.
"We scored a lot of points, but we really didn't control the game," Saban said afterward. "We didn't control the line of scrimmage. We struggled to run the ball effectively, and that's something we need to work on. We've got to be able to finish the game.
"They should never get the ball back at the end of a game. One of these days, we're going to be in a situation where a team goes two minutes to score to win."
Texas A&M was at Alabama's 18-yard line for the game's final play, when the Crimson Tide prevented a 45-30 final by pressuring Aggies backup quarterback Nick Starkel and forcing him to throw incomplete.
Alabama backup quarterback Jalen Hurts played the fourth quarter, but several Crimson Tide starters on both sides of the ball remained in the contest. Seven fourth-quarter rushes by the Crimson Tide produced 25 yards, with Alabama finishing with a tepid 109 yards on 28 carries.
The numbers Tua Tagovailoa and Alabama are putting up right now are just stupid https://t.co/YpbJKrkRgi— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) September 23, 2018
Damien Harris and Najee Harris combined on 15 carries for 95 yards, an average of 6.3 per carry, so it's not as if Alabama's ground game didn't have its moments.
"I think people know that we can run the ball," Damien Harris said. "Our offense is based around getting playmakers the ball, and whoever has the hot hand is who we're going to feed. We've got so many playmakers on the field that it's kind of hard to get everybody the ball.
"At the end of the day, there is only one football."
Tagovailoa has the hottest hand in college football right now, having completed 58 of 80 passes (72.5 percent) for 1,033 yards with 12 touchdowns and no interceptions. His 230.5 efficiency rating leads the nation, with West Virginia's Will Grier (215.8) second.
Texas A&M (2-2, 0-1) was ranked 22nd before falling out of the Top 25 on Sunday. Alabama (4-0, 2-0) continues to be ranked No. 1 in both major polls entering this Saturday's nonconference mismatch against Louisiana-Lafayette. The Crimson Tide opened Sunday as 49-point favorites against the Ragin' Cajuns.
With that win over Jimbo Fisher, Nick Saban is now 13-0 against his former assistants. pic.twitter.com/kSjv3ECr9K— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) September 22, 2018
"Our team has gone through four weeks where we've basically done what we're supposed to do, and I think we need a couple of days off here," Saban said. "We won't practice Monday. We will just watch the film, try to get some guys healthy and try to get some guys back where we can go through the next four games.
"I think this does the players a lot of good when it comes to recovery and healing up."
After this week, Alabama plays at Arkansas, against Missouri and at Tennessee before an open date and then a game at LSU on Nov. 3.
Are the players happy to have today off?
"I guess it's OK, but we're still going to be watching film," junior cornerback Trevon Diggs said. "We're still going to be getting treatment, so I don't know that I would really call it a day off. I guess it's a physical day off but not a mental one."
This article is written by David Paschall from Chattanooga Times Free Press, Tenn. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.