Alabama scores 3 TDs on INT returns in 41-23 win over A&M
COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) Alabama kept scoring on passes – all thrown by Texas A&M.
Quarterback Jake Coker was just fine with that.
”Three touchdowns defensively is hard to beat,” he said. ”I will take that any day.”
Derrick Henry ran for a career-high 236 yards and two scores and No. 10 Alabama added a school-record three touchdowns on interception returns to get a 41-23 win over No. 9 Texas A&M on Saturday.
Alabama (6-1, 3-1 SEC) built a 28-6 lead in the second quarter thanks to 55- and 6-yard touchdown runs by Henry and interception returns of 33 and 93 yards.
Christian Kirk returned a punt 68 yards for a score just before halftime and Texas A&M (5-1, 2-1) added another touchdown on a 3-yard reception by Ricky Seals-Jones after a fumble early in the third to cut it to 28-20.
But Alabama kicked two field goals before Minkah Fitzpatrick’s 55-yard interception return for a score – his second of the day – made it 41-23 and sealed the victory.
”We had a lot of guys play a lot of plays. They got hot, they got tired, and we got our second wind and kept playing,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said.
Kyle Allen, who entered the game having thrown 79 passes without an interception, was 20 of 40 for 263 yards with a touchdown and a career-high three interceptions. Freshman Kyler Murray took over for a few possessions and was also picked off.
”You can’t play the way we did tonight by giving away 21 points against a quality football team and expect to win,” Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin said.
The Aggies got within 34-23 with a 36-yard field goal with about eight minutes left. They were driving again after a stop on defense when Fitzpatrick became the first player in Alabama history to return two interceptions for touchdowns in a game.
”Three scores on defense is unprecedented probably and some kind of record,” Saban said. ”Minkah with two is fantastic for the freshman.”
Henry, who extended his school record by scoring in his 12th straight game, had already surpassed his previous career-best of 148 yards rushing with 10 minutes left in the second quarter and he had 178 at halftime.
”You have to say a lot about the offensive line,” Saban said. ”They did a good job of creating holes, and Derrick took advantage of them . Derrick is a workhorse for us.”
Alabama was up by 8 when Adam Griffith made a 32-yard field goal to make it 31-20. Kyler Murray was intercepted on the last play of the third quarter and the Crimson Tide added a field goal on the ensuing drive.
Murray played the last possession of the first half and the first one of the third quarter which resulted in a punt. Cyrus Jones fumbled the return and it was recovered by Donovan Wilson.
Allen returned and connected with Seals-Jones on a 44-yard pass before finding him again for a 3-yard touchdown on the next play to cut the lead to 28-20 early in the third.
Myles Garrett blocked a punt on Alabama’s next possession and it was recovered by the Aggies. But A&M’s offense stalled and they came away empty after a missed 52-yard field goal attempt.
Kirk had his second punt return for a touchdown this season when he took it back 68 yards to cut the lead to 28-13. Kirk became the first A&M player to return two punts for TDs in a season since Aaron Glenn in 1993.
A crowd of 105,733 including former President George H.W. Bush and wife Barbara, Astros star rookie Carlos Correa and former A&M and current Tampa Bay Buccaneers receiver Mike Evans attended the game.
Taylor Bertolet made field goals of 54 and 52 yards in the first half for A&M.
Allen’s high throw was intercepted by Eddie Jackson and he took it 93 yards for a touchdown to make it 28-6. Jackson tight-roped the sideline and zigzagged away from several would-be tacklers for the third-longest interception return in school history.
”Kyle was flushed out of the pocket and trying to get it to us,” Seals-Jones said. ”That’s part of the game. That happens.”
Alabama took a 7-0 lead when Fitzpatrick returned an interception 33 yards for a touchdown on A&M’s second drive.
Henry burst through the line and juked Armani Watts a few yards down the field en route to a 55-yard touchdown run that pushed Alabama’s lead to 14-0 with about 5 1/2 minutes left in the first quarter.
”I focus on the game and trying to win,” Henry said. ”I didn’t care about the yards. I was trying to do all I can do to help us win the game.”