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November 11, 2012TUSCALOOSA | It was there for the taking. When Texas A&M went three-and-out on its first two drives of the third quarter, it left the door ajar for Alabama, down just six points, to seize control of what had once been a 20-point deficit game.
All the Crimson Tide needed was a couple of productive offensive drives, but, as has been the case all season, UA stalled in the opening frame of the second half and the Aggies eventually skated out of Tuscaloosa with a monumental takedown of the No. 1 team in the land.
Much of the season, UA held a double-digit lead beginning the second half, so a slow third quarter wasn't of much consequence. This time it may have been the Tide's undoing.
After holding Johnny Manziel and the Aggies' offense to three-and-out to open the second half, Alabama did likewise. After a 5-yard Eddie Lacy run, AJ McCarron couldn't connect with Michael Williams or Kevin Norwood on consecutive plays, and UA gave the ball right back.
The Crimson Tide totaled 431 total yards, 13 more than the Aggies, but managed only 46 yards on 12 plays in the third quarter. UA's vaunted rushing attack was held to 24 rushing yards in the frame.
Members of the UA offense know that an opportunity was missed.
"We were just trying to find our rhythm," wide receiver Kenny Bell said. "We had a lot of momentum going into halftime, and we came back out and couldn't find our rhythm. We were looking for it, and that's what we were trying to do, but it didn't happen."
Alabama now has 370 points through 10 games, but only 37 in the third quarter, and that includes a 14-point outburst against a statistically bad Arkansas defense. The Crimson Tide averages 10.4 in the first quarter, 13.2 in the second, 9.7 in the fourth, but just 3.7 in the third.
The difference might be found in opponents' halftime adjustments or Alabama's lack of focus after intermission. Either way, the statistics are staggering.
Over its last seven games, Alabama has 13 third-quarter points in 105 minutes and that includes four games where the offense was shut out in the frame (Florida Atlantic 3, Ole Miss 0, Missouri 0, Tennessee 7, Mississippi State 0, LSU 0 and Texas A&M 3).
McCarron, Lacy and T.J. Yeldon did help march UA down to the Texas A&M 11 once in the third quarter, but they ultimately settled for a field goal. A touchdown would have proved the difference.
The third-quarter misfirings aren't going unnoticed by the Tide coaching staff, including Saturday's sputtering.
"We've discussed it. We've talked about it," UA coach Nick Saban said. "We talked about it before this game. I think that we need to always have something that's a little bit different, something that we can go to. People are going to make adjustments at halftime to what you've been doing.
"It was really important that they got the stops that they got because we got a couple of stops on defense to start the second half and really lost the momentum of the game a little bit when we never moved the ball offensively. So that's something that we need to work on and improve. There's no reason for us not to be able to execute better when we come out in the third quarter."
It's a perplexing trend to the leader of the heralded front, All-American Barrett Jones.
"I'm not sure," he said.
Reach Aaron Suttles at Aaron@TideSports.com or at 205-722-0229.