Beyond the Boxscore

Smug Nick Saban completely outcoached by Kevin Sumlin: Arrogance topples Alabama, lifts Texas A&M

Smug Nick Saban completely outcoached by Kevin Sumlin: Arrogance topples Alabama, lifts Texas A&M

Texas A&M Alabama Manziel
Texas A&M and Johnny Manziel (center) are having an SEC debut season for the ages. Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images
Nick Saban mad
Alabama coach Nick Saban is usually brilliant. But against Texas A&M, he was just smug — and beaten.
Kevin Sumlin Texas A&M
Kevin Sumlin . . . yeah, he can coach more than a little.
Texas A&M Alabama Manziel
Nick Saban mad
Kevin Sumlin Texas A&M

The contempt and condescension practically drips from Nick Saban at halftime. The haughty, arrogant and yes, often brilliant, Alabama coach cannot help himself.

Saban clearly didn't respect Texas A&M University and Kevin Sumlin's up-tempo football offense heading into the schools' first-ever SEC meeting. He'd practically branded Sumlin's offensive philosophy a pox on college football back in October. And even after seeing that offense put up more points in the first quarter (20) than anyone else scored against his team in an entire game this season, Saban remains unbowed.

His No. 1 juggernaut has cut the lead to 20-14 at halftime, the Aggies and Johnny Manziel weren't able to do anything in the second quarter . . . and well, that's how Nick Saban knows it's supposed to be. Surely, his team is on its way to exerting its superior will.

 Down goes No. 1! And up, up. up goes the Texas A&M program — in ways it never could have if the Aggies had remained in the Big 12. 

So Saban lets CBS sideline reporter Tracy Wolfson — and anyone else in America lucky enough to be listening to his wisdom — know the real score.

"We expect that kind of start because that's how they start against everybody," Saban almost screams, pulling off the neat trick of being both dismissive and jabbing (see the not-so-subtle reference to Texas A&M's inability to hold second half leads for the last year-and-a-half).

Oh Nick . . . 

Texas A&M 29, No. 1 Alabama 24. With the clock reading 00:00. With everyone back in College Station partying like it was . . . well, like it was 2012. For there's arguably never been a more remarkable coaching job and season than what Sumlin and the Aggies have pulled off in their first SEC season.

This is a season that Texas A&M grads will be talking about in 30 years.

The Aggies beat Alabama in Tuscaloosa. They beat one of Nick Saban's better Crimson Tide teams in front of 102,000 Alabama maniacs all wishing them great bodily harm. Down goes No. 1! And up, up, up goes the Texas A&M program — in ways it never could have if the Aggies had remained in the Big 12.

Back after LSU barely escaped College Station with a win, I wrote that Texas A&M had clearly shown it would be an SEC power of the future, noting how Sumlin's team was already playing as physical as any team in the best conference in the land. Many laughed at the notion of an Aggies' age of renaissance building, but the signs were all over the place if one only bothered to look.

But no one could have expected it to happen this quick.

 This is a season that Texas A&M grads will be talking about in 30 years. 

Saban sure didn't. The man who has changed college football like no other over the last decade is left staring at another seismic shift. For once the game's moving a little under Nick Saban's feet and he sure doesn't like it.

After the game, Alabama's coach is reduced to campaigning like a desperate Mitt Romney at the midnight hour in Ohio, reminding everyone that two of his three national championship teams (in case you may have forgotten how many he's won) lost a game those title seasons.

We can still do it! Really, we can . . .

That very well may be true in this bizarre BCS, but on this sun-kissed afternoon in Alabama, Nick Saban is completely outcoached for the first time in a very long time.

A Gameplanned Upset

Texas A&M (now a nice 8-2, 5-2 in SEC Year One) toppled Alabama because Sumlin and Texas A&M offensive coordinator Kliff Kinsbury came up with a great attack plan, some perfectly scripted early drives. Alabama's defense played the entire first quarter with all the steadiness of a drunk man teetering across a busy street.

It's time for coaches like Saban to drop the arrogance toward early success too. What, halftime adjustments are the only true display of coaching prowess? Please, out-coaching your counterpart with a well-designed early scheme counts just as much.

 For once the game's moving a little under Nick Saban's feet and he sure doesn't like it. 

On Saturday, it counted most.

The Aggies didn't just win because of their first quarter success though. They didn't just hold on. No, Texas A&M took down No. 1 because its defense never let Alabama's offense seize the game — or even get halfway comfortable.

Saban clearly felt AJ McCarron and Co. were on their way to a nice roll at halftime. But Alabama only scored 10 points in the second half.

In truth, Texas A&M made the bigger plays in both the first and second half. Manziel was brilliant, practically when the Crimson Tide thought they had him bottled up, but it wasn't all Johnny Football. Did you see that catch Ryan Swope made in the fourth quarter, the one he held onto despite an Alabama player almost taking off his head?

Swope has battled concussions throughout his college career and he's taking the kind of beatings the diminutive Wayne Chrebet used to take as a Jet before "player safety" ever became a buzz phrase in football. Yet, he's still extending himself for the football, still doing whatever it takes to make a play.

Once again, Sumlin's Aggies are as tough as the biggest, baddest bully on the college football block. Sumlin's defense makes Alabama shaky, forces turnovers, never lets the No. 1 team in the country get comfortable on its own field.

"No moment is too big," Sumlin says in his TV-shown postgame press conference. Sumlin is specifically talking about Manziel in the clip. But he just as easily could be talking about any of the Aggies who played in this upset that Texas A&M lore will never forget.

He just as easily could be talking about himself for that matter.

The better coach on Saturday won. And that has to shock Nick Saban most of all.