Jonathan Allen takes flight as Alabama’s defense stops Texas A&M
- Updated: October 22, 2016
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Jonathan Allen slipped past the guard and had a free shot on the quarterback until Texas A&M running back Trayveon Williams stepped in his way. The simple solution for Alabama’s star defensive lineman: take flight.
Allen knew the chop block was coming from the previous play, so when Williams went low, he went high, doing his best Superman impression. It looked like Oklahoma safety Roy Williams against Texas in 2001, except on a much larger scale. Allen -- his feet in the air and his arms outstretched -- landed his nearly 300-pound frame squarely in the chest of Trevor Knight, flattening the veteran quarterback on third down.
"It was a leap of faith," Allen said. "I'm glad it worked out."
During a game in which No. 1-ranked Alabama battered No. 6 Texas A&M into submission, winning 33-14 at home, Allen's takedown of Knight was the game's signature moment. It confirmed everything we already knew to be true of the reigning champion Crimson Tide: They're bigger, stronger and more athletic than every other team in the country.
It didn't matter that Alabama's offense had its up-and-down moments. It didn't matter that its rookie quarterback, Jalen Hurts, showed his youth with a pair of interceptions. When the Tide needed a big play, the defense delivered.
In the third quarter, after letting a 13-point lead shrink to six, outside linebacker Ryan Anderson ripped loose a fumble. Allen scooped it up, shrugged off a tackle and hustled 30 yards for the score. It was Allen's second touchdown of the season and the team's 12th nonoffensive touchdown overall.
Alabama coach Nick Saban called it "the real turning point in the game."
But you can call it the latest in a series of moments that should have Allen in the Heisman Trophy conversation.
No, he's not a name that we've heard in the mix to this point -- not even a whisper. But consider this: He's arguably the best player on the best team in the country, has six sacks despite being a guy who can also play the run and has even found the end zone a few times.
If the award is supposed to go to the best player regardless of position, then why not show the big men in the trenches some love? On a day in which everyone focused on Texas A&M's star defensive end, Myles Garrett, it was Allen who stole the show.
Talk to any number of Alabama players about him. Center Bradley Bozeman saw Allen's soaring sack and said, "I'm not really surprised."
"Jon's a great pass-rusher, man," tight end O.J. Howard said.
"He's a freak," added defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick.
After the game, Allen was as subdued as ever. Remember, this is the guy who became a meme for his response to a reporter saying that teams simply don't win playoff games 38-0. "Alabama does," Allen snapped back following the Cotton Bowl beatdown of Michigan State last season.
If anything, Allen personifies the quiet confidence Saban has instilled in this program.
Knight might have gotten the best of Alabama's defense in the 2014 Sugar Bowl when he was a freshman at Oklahoma, but he wasn't going to get an inch against them a second time around. Allen said he told his teammates prior to the game, "There's no reason for us to get hyped. We know what we have to do. We have to dominate our box and do our job."
And that's exactly what they did.
Allen said it was "annoying" to hear again and again during the last week about what Knight did to Alabama's defense more than two years ago, throwing for more than 300 yards and completing 72 percent of his passes. Allen was only a freshman then but didn't want to hear it. So he and the rest of the front seven got in Knight's face, racked up nine quarterback hurries and limited him to 14-of-31 passing for 164 yards.
"Give those guys credit on their side of the ball," Knight said of Alabama's pass rush. "They played really well. Those are guys that are going to be playing on Sundays."
In fact, Allen might already be in the NFL if he hadn't opted to return for his senior season. Many mock drafts had him as a first- or second-round pick, but he felt he had unfinished business.
On Saturday, he leaped squarely into the forefront of Alabama's defense.
Who knows? Maybe he'll land in the Heisman conversation, too.