Pardon Me For Intercepting You

There were plenty to talk about following Alabama’s 41-23 win over Texas A&M in College Station Saturday, and at the top of the list had to be the interceptions returned by the Crimson Tide for touchdowns.

For the first time in storied Alabama football history, the Crimson Tide returned three interceptions for touchdowns.

Just to move slowly on this issue:

Freshman Minkah Fitzpatrick, who plays the Star (or nickel) position in Bama’s defense, had two interceptions and returned both for touchdowns, 33 yards and 55 yards.

Junior Eddie Jackson, a former cornerback now playing strong safety, also had two interceptions, returning one of them 93 yards for a touchdown.

Fitzpatrick is the only player in Alabama history (via records verified back to 1948) to return two interceptions for scores in the same game.

The Crimson Tide's 207 interception return yards against Texas A&M is an Alabama single-game record, the third-most in SEC history, and the most since Tennessee had 214 vs. South Carolina in 1971.  

Jackson’s 119 return yards on interceptions is the most in a game by an Alabama defender. The previous record high was 98 by Mark McMillian against Chattanooga on Oct. 5, 1991. His 230 on five picks this season are also the UA record for return yards in a season. The previous high was 163 by Hootie Ingram in 1952 on 10 interceptions.

Jackson’s 93-yard pick-six in the second quarter was the third-longest interception return in Alabama history. Jackson has returned interceptions this season for a total of 230 yards, setting a Crimson Tide record for interception return yards in a season. It broke the 63-year-old record set in 1952 by Ingram.

The three scores marked the 39th, 40th and 41st non-offensive touchdowns of the Nick Saban era at Alabama. Since Saban took over in 2007, the Crimson Tide has 19 interception returns, nine punt returns, five kickoff returns, four fumble returns, and four blocked punt returns for touchdowns. Alabama had one non-offensive touchdown in 2014. The Tide had seven non-offensive touchdowns in 2013, including three in the season opener against Virginia Tech, marking the first time the Crimson Tide had done so in a game since Sept. 30, 1995, against Georgia.

There were other notes from Saturday’s game:

The Alabama defense allowed only one touchdown by Texas A&M’s explosive offense on Saturday, Since the start of the 2009 season, no defense has allowed fewer touchdowns than the Crimson Tide. Alabama’s defense has surrendered only 130 touchdowns over the last 87 games. That is 37 fewer than the second most in the nation (LSU with 166) entering Saturday’s action.

Alabama held Texas A&M to 32 rushing yards. Alabama has held all seven opponents in 2015 at least 69 yards below their season rushing averages. The Tide held Wisconsin to 280 yards below its 2014 rushing yards average before holding Middle Tennessee (156 yards), Ole Miss (185 yards), ULM (115 yards), Georgia (69 yards), Arkansas (160 yards) and A&M (32 yards) well below their 2015 averages entering each game. In all, Alabama has held its seven opponents to an average of 161.4 yards per game below their average entering the game.

Senior linebacker Reggie Ragland led Alabama in tackles against the Aggies with 9 (8 solos), along with a quarterback sack and 1 1/2 tackles for loss. The Tide’s captain has a team-leading 59 tackles, including 4 for a loss, to go with 3 pass breakups, 3 quarterback hurries, and 2 forced fumbles. In 5 of the 7 games during the 2015 season, Ragland has led the Alabama defense in stops.

With the win over No. 9 Texas A&M on Saturday and a prior win at No. 8 Georgia on Oct. 3, Alabama owns a 35-13 (.729) mark against the Associated Press top 25, including a 19-7 (.731) record against AP top-10 teams since 2007. This season, the Tide faces off against seven teams in the AP preseason poll, the most ranked opposition of any team in the nation. Alabama finished 5-2 in 2014 against opponents ranked in the AP top 25 after going 3-2 in 2013 and 5-1 in 2012. The Tide held a 4-1 mark vs. top-25 teams in 2011 and went 5-3 against the AP top 25 in 2010.

Alabama is 23-2 in regular season games (does not include bowl games) away from Bryant-Denny Stadium since the start of the 2011 season. The Crimson Tide is 3-0 this season with wins over No. 20 Wisconsin in Arlington, at eighth-ranked Georgia, and Saturday’s win at No. 9 Texas A&M. Alabama was 5-1 in 2014, 4-1 in 2013, 6-0 in 2012 and 5-0 in 2011. Alabama is 3-0 all time in games at Texas A&M (1988 and 2013 were previous College Station games).

Alabama leads the series with Texas A&M by a 6-2 margin, dating back to the first meeting in the 1942 Cotton Bowl (following the 1941 season). The first two meetings between the Crimson Tide and Aggies were in Cotton Bowl games. Alabama won the first meeting, 29-21, in the 1942 Cotton Bowl. The Aggies won the 1968 Cotton Bowl, 20-16, to even the series. Alabama then swept a home-and-home series, winning 23-10 in Birmingham in 1985 and 30-10 in College Station in 1988. In 2012, Texas A&M came out blazing and used an early lead to win the game, 29-24. Alabama returned the favor a year later in College Station, winning 49-42. The Crimson Tide pitched a 59-0 shutout in Tuscaloosa in 2014, the largest win over a ranked opponent in Alabama history.

Saban has faced off with Texas A&M four times, all of the matchups coming while at Alabama. He owns a 3-1 record overall and has won the last three meetings after falling in his initial contest against the Aggies during the 2012 season. Saban has coaches two games in College Station, surviving a late surge by the Aggies for the 49-42 win at Kyle Field in 2013, plus the 41-23 win on Saturday.

Saban owns a 58-29-1 (.665) mark in road games across his four career stops, including a 30-6 (.833) mark while at Alabama. Saban has notched four perfect road seasons (2008, 2009, 2011, 2012) and has lost more than one game on the road in only two seasons (2007, 2010). Including Saturday’s win at Texas A&M (41-23), Saban is currently riding a five-game winning streak, rebounding from an early season loss in Oxford to Ole Miss last season to come back and defeat Arkansas (14-13), Tennessee (34-20) and LSU (20-13 OT) on the way to winning the SEC Western Division and eventually the Crimson Tide’s 24th SEC championship in program history.

Alabama led Texas A&M, 28-13, at halftime and the Tide improved to 89-6 (.937) when leading at halftime under Saban. Alabama has led at the half in five of its seven games this year, trailing only to Ole Miss and Arkansas at the midway point.

With Fitzpatrick’s first quarter interception return for a touchdown, Alabama has scored in the first half of its last 110 games, the longest streak in the nation. The last time UA failed to score in the first half was on Sept. 29, 2007, when Alabama and Florida State headed into halftime in a scoreless tie. The Seminoles won that game, 21-14.

Alabama has now scored in 190 consecutive games – the longest streak in program history.

Alabama rushed for 258 yards in the win at Texas A&M. With the win, the Tide is 73-4 since the start of the 2008 season when rushing for at least 140 yards. The only losses were at Auburn in 2013, Ole Miss and Ohio State in 2014, and Ole Miss in 2015.

With his 55-yard run for a score in the first quarter, Derrick Henry recorded his 12th straight game with a touchdown. The 12-game streak is the longest active streak in the nation. The streak is also the longest in Alabama history, with the previous high being 10 by Terry Davis across the 1971 and 1972 seasons.

Henry’s career-best 236-yard performance against A&M pushed him past the century mark for the ninth time in his career, and the fourth 100+ performance this season. He went for 148 at Georgia on Oct. 3, 127 against Ole Miss and 147 yards with three touchdowns against Wisconsin to open the 2015 campaign. Henry had a 141-yard performance against Missouri in the SEC Championship Game last season. He also went for 111 on 20 carries with a score against Florida and 113 on 17 carries with a touchdown against West Virginia in 2014. As a freshman, Henry produced a Sugar Bowl game against Oklahoma that saw the first-year back go for 100 yards on eight attempts with a touchdown, while also collecting 111 yards on six carries with a score against Arkansas.

Henry entered Saturday tied for fifth nationally in rushing touchdowns with 10 and added two scores against A&M.

Alabama captains were linebacker Reggie Ragland, center Ryan Kelly, and defensive lineman A’Shawn Robinson.

Attendance was 105,733, the ninth-largest crowd to watch a Crimson Tide game.

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