TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — When Alabama couldn’t shake Texas A&M in a battle of unbeaten, Top 10 teams, it was Jonathan Allen’s scoop-and-score defensive touchdown that effectively brushed aside the latest would-be challenger.
A star defensive end, Allen returned a fumble 30 yards for a touchdown in the final seconds of the third quarter to help Alabama beat the sixth-ranked Aggies 33-14 Saturday and continue a non-offensive scoring streak that’s as impressive as those 20 consecutive wins.
The Crimson Tide (8-0, 5-0 Southeastern Conference) moved on as the powerhouse league’s last unbeaten team, getting yet another in a long string of defensive scores. Allen scooped up the ball after Ryan Anderson knocked it loose from Keith Ford to finally build a cushion over the Aggies (6-1, 4-1), who led 14-13 well into the third.
“You know you don’t think about it,” Allen said. “It’s all reaction. We just train ourselves to pick up all loose balls in practices and it’s good to see it happening in the game.”
It’s happening again and again.
The score was 20-14 when Allen extended Alabama’s streak to 10 games with a score on defense or special teams, pushing the season’s total to 12. Allen now has scored twice on fumble returns.
“I think that was the real turning point in the game, because it changed the momentum of the game,” Tide coach Nick Saban said. “Those plays are always huge in games, but that one was especially huge.”
The Tide, however, sustained a big loss when safety Eddie Jackson was injured in the fourth quarter and didn’t come back after a punt return. Saban said Jackson, a senior and team leader, is out for the season with a broken leg.
Alabama’s freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts then galloped 37 yards for another score, stepping out of a defender’s grasp and making a nifty move to get past another. The Tide was rolling again, a powerful encore to easy wins over ranked Tennessee and Arkansas teams.
The Aggies seemed poised to put up the biggest fight, with a defense that kept the pressure on Hurts and a handful of big runs by quarterback Trevor Knight. Then Allen and Anderson changed that in an instant. Costly penalties hurt the Aggies, too, including a roughing the passer penalty to keep Alabama’s go-ahead touchdown drive going earlier in the third.
“You really have five minutes in the game that determined what happened,” Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin said. “We extended the drive with the roughing the passer, then we extended the drive again, I think it was an offsides. So you back that up with a fumble returned for a touchdown in a game like this, against a team like that, that can’t happen.”
Alabama racked up five sacks of Knight, who had engineered Oklahoma’s Sugar Bowl upset of Alabama as a redshirt freshman with a 348-yard, four-touchdown performance. He passed for 164 and ran for 24 in the semi-rematch.
Hurts passed for 166 yards and rushed for 93 more, throwing for a pair of touchdowns while getting intercepted twice. Damien Harris rushed 17 times for 126 yards.
Texas A&M: The Aggies led deeper into the game than any other ‘Bama opponent, the 6:33 mark of the third quarter. Knight made some plays with his running but was also given little time to hit receivers downfield by Allen & Co. Knight threw a pick on the first play after the defense intercepted Hurts in Alabama territory. The SEC’s top running team was held to 114 yards.
Alabama: Dominated the stat sheet (303 yards to 150) in the first half but settled for two short field goals and Adam Griffith missed a third. It was enough to keep it in doubt. The defense gave up back-to-back long TD drives late in the second quarter and to open the third, but delivered big plays when it had to.
Alabama was already a near-unanimous No. 1 , but this could cause the lone holdout voter to reconsider. Texas A&M shouldn’t veer too far out of the Top 10 despite the lopsided final score.
Alabama has an open date before visiting No. 25 LSU.
Texas A&M gets a break from SEC games against New Mexico State.